Over the last few articles we have looked at how politicians can use their body language and gestures to manipulate an audience. In this article we will look at the words they use to sneak things past your conscious awareness.
If you have not seen the last three articles you can find them here:
Jim Murphy a Case Study in Behavioural Responses
I had lots of response to all of those articles and there were a couple of interesting ones about Jim Murphy. So if you have not seen that article (How to Spot a Politician Lying to You) have a quick look now. Several people noticed Jim Murphy also shifts from one foot to the other when he isn’t confident. And one person suggested that Jim Murphy had been shaking his head because a lot of the words he was using were negative.
That was such a good point because it allows me to unpack a little more information. Here is my response:
I didn’t want to over complicate the article and you are quite right. It has a lot to do with it. What I think is happening in his mind is he is seeing defeat and then trying to wipe it away.
That is a wildly different way of representing the situation than seeing victory in the first instance.
Imagine an athlete that is seeing themselves lose and then consciously wiping that away to see themselves winning vs. an athlete that just sees themselves winning and possibly then sizing up the competition.
I think there is a lot happening in Jim Murphy that is signalling defeat. And that is also having an impact in the way that he is campaigning, debating and well pretty much everything that he is currently doing.
Words Have Power Too
If you ever find anyone quoting the old myth about words account for only 7% of the meaning in a conversation just smile pleasantly and in a calm, gentle voice call them the nastiest most vile names you can think of. And continue swearing and being abusive but make sure you keep a soft tone of voice and a pleasant demeanour. Just keep that up until they realise that they are totally and completely wrong about those numbers.
That number comes from an experiment from Albert Mehrabian and is badly and wildly misquoted. It is beyond the scope of this article to explain the whole case around the experiment and the significance of the numbers. But you can read about it here on the Albert Mehrabian Wikipedia page.
Here is a short clip from the Lancaster Persuasion Lecture Deconstructed of me explaining how we process language. Once you have this idea it becomes imdiately obvious how we cannot help put force images into the heads of the people we are talking to. Have a look as it will make the next bit make more sense.
Meanwhile Back at the Point
I had a number of emails about how politicians respond to questions. The general pattern is
- Build Rapport (agree with the questioner, use their name, show understanding of the question)
- Use some element of the question to bridge to what you want to talk about
- Talk about the the topic as if it is part of the answer to the question
And if you have read the Persuasion Skills Black Book you will notice that the X/Y redefine super pattern fills this general criteria. But I would also add at an extra point to ask a question back that moves the conversation along the line of the new topic. Obviously if you are in a presentation or speech that question would have to be rhetorical.
A Few Variations and a Politicians’ Answers
Let’s just say the politician is asked a question that they don’t want to answer (for these examples we will just use tax) but they do want to talk about employment. Now that you know about how we force internal representations on each other all the time consider the internal representations this politician forces oh their audience with these answers to a simple and direct question, “What is your response to having to raise taxes to cover the increase in public spending?”
- That is a great question John and to give you a full answer we need to talk about the growth in employment. So let me tell you about that…
- I’m so glad you asked me about raising taxes Jane. The answer is centred on how we look at the growth of employment in this country…
- John, I agree tax is something in the minds of the other parties and that is because they are trying to deflect away from the rise in employment that we have created by….
- Thank you Jane for bringing up the point and the issue isn’t just about raising taxes it is about how we are managing to get so many more people back into full employment. So far we have done…
- Tax is something that comes up in every election and you will find the best way of discussing our policy on tax is to take in the wider context of the growth of employment that we have established….
As for a final example in a different context. As a trainer often I am faced with people asking questions that were not really relevant to the point I was making and I didn’t want the issue confused. My favourite, most used response was;
That is a great question and it is very close to a question that I am always asked <insert the question you want to ask> When you ask that question <notice that I have now suggested the person asking the question is now asking the question I have forced on them> I would have to say <insert the answer you want to give them> Now that makes sense, DOESN’T IT <making eye contact with the rest of the audience and nodding vigorously>
So a little bit of homework for you. Have a look through the political debate videos from the previous articles and see how many politician answers you can find. Trust me there are lots that are just little variations from what you have just seen.
An Exercise for a Specific Individual
For that person that emailed me about the clothes that they were wearing in the debate. Yes, thank you for the observation and it absolutely makes sense that what they wear will have an impact on how they are perceived. Other things that will have a great impact on how they come across include their words and body language. Just as an interesting exercise take two of the debaters that have different styles of clothing and check how differently they use politicians answers and what impact that has on how you perceive them.
Imagine Having Those Conversational Skills
Some trainers really big up this conversational hypnosis and covert persuasion skills thing. Really you can develop a foundation level of skill within hours of learning some base concepts and how to use them. And a few minutes a day practice will quickly get you to a point where you can drop people into a trance, fill their heads with good things and bring them back again.
One word of caution though…whilst some people do some really bad stuff with this type of material it makes sense to only use your powers for good. My general motto is use this material, have fun with it so long as you always attempt to leave people in a better place than you found them.
Trust me I am not suggesting this for any altruistic, new aged love and light principle. The pragmatic part of me says you can con, lie and cheat as much as you like but you will be found out…and at that point you lose friends, customers and clients. If you are always working for win / win situations then people just love you for it. Trust me, to my shame I have tried it both ways many times and using this stuff in a bad way has always come back and bitten me on the arse.
If you are okay with having fun, doing some good and helping the people around you then a quick way of getting a whole bunch of skills quickly and easily is the Lancaster Persuasion Lecture Deconstructed. You can click through and find out more about it here:
Since this article was published one of the students on my advanced persuasion Facebook group deconstructed my favourite training response from above even further. He did such a good job I though it would be an idea to post his deconstruction here on this page. So here it is:
I encourage people to deconstruct and analyse patterns in this manner. It gives you the opportunity to understand how the pattern is made up, think about how you would change it for your own use in various situations and the action of thinking about it on this levels trains your unconscious mind to become familiar with how to use it.
This is why courses like the Lancaster Persuasion Lecture Deconstructed is such a powerful course. You not only get the content of the course you also get an inside track on how I am using all those skills with the audience to teach them those skills. Click through and find out more about the course on the FAQ page right here: