Using emotional insight
for personal development and professional success

Archive for the ‘critique’ Category

Al Franken, the emotionally intelligent politician

Friday, September 4th, 2009

I'm often frustrated by the poor communication skills of politicians, how they fail to take account of the concept of emotional intelligence when speaking to the public.  I was therefore extremely pleased to come across this clip of the American Senator Al Franken.  When confronted with a hostile and critical crowd he deals with them with humour, sense and clarity.

Al Franken isn't well known in the UK, but he's not what you'd call a 'conventional' politician.  He originally became famous as a writer and performer on Saturday Night Live before becoming a film actor and author.  Perhaps it's this background that means that when speaking he doesn't suffer from 'the politician disease' – he doesn't patronise, doesn't instantly become defensive and doesn't harangue the people who disagree with him.

The emotionally intelligent behavior he demonstrates includes:

  • Not beginning by disagreeing – if you start by saying 'you're wrong' the person you are talking to will either shut down or just argue back.  Instead Mr Franken starts by acknowledging that the opinion of the people he is talking to is valid, and appears interested in it.
  • He takes responsibility – he says "I'm going to vote the way I want to vote."  He doesn't say he's talking about a party line, he doesn't turn to someone else's authority, he doesn't claim to acting based on popular opinion.  'This is what I think so this is what I'll do' is a very powerful stance to take.
  • He engages with the people he's talking – he looks at many of the people around him, not at the camera, his body language is open and positive, he uses the tone of voice of a conversation not of a speech, and he listens to what people say to him.
  • He admits that he doesn't know everything, but uses facts and examples to support what he does say.
  • He has integrity – in my opinion none of the above comes out of the fact that he's learned how to 'work a crowd' I think it all works, and has such a positive effect, because it's genuine.  He really is interested in talking to these people and in helping change their minds.  If your intent is right, and you have the self assurance to follow through on it openly, everything else falls into place naturally.

Example of Bad EI in campaigns

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

Having dealt with the good I should really deal with the bad.  Just to be clear this is nothing against this particular organisation or its aims, merely this particular campaign and the set of ads that go with it.

I can't stand these adverts.  I recently described them as the campaigning equivalent of mugging someone, but on considering it further it's actually rather more like the campaigning equivalent of an extortion racket – give us money and you won't have to feel guilty every time we put this advert on the TV.  The sole purpose of this advert is to make you feel bad, really bad, and then make you give money to stop yourself feeling bad.  There is no further context, there is no further message, there is no further suggestion for action – the message is simply this: 'Bad things are happening, give us money'.

The adverts don't tell you what they are going to do with your money, or how your money is going to be spent, or how your money will help stop the suffering, or whether the stories you are seeing are real, or what the organisation does, or how the organisation could have stopped the suffering if they had more money, or what you could do instead if you don't have any money, or what you could do as well as giving money.

They simply say: children suffer, give us money.

This is bad campaigning and bad emotional intelligence.  Making people feel terrible, pulling at their heart strings and then requesting money, is just plane bad.

Example of Good EI in campaigns

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

One question that came up at the end of my talk at the NCVO last night was 'What are good and bad examples of campaigns from an EI point of view?'  One thing I hope to do hear is talk about vaious campaigns and communications from an EI perspecctive, and this seems a good place to start.

The campaign that came to mind as example of a good use of EI was the 'Change for life' campaign, particularly the 'me size meals'.  You can see the advert here (sorry, I can't embed it).

Why I think this is so positive is that it expresses a need for change without at any point coming across as critical.  If you're trying to get someone to listen to you it's generally a bad idea if you call them stupid, thoughtless or selfish (and you'd be surprised by the number of campaigns that do do this).  This advert starts very clearly with a positive "Because my Mum loves me…"  That's a nice way to start – no one is going to be offended by the idea that they love their kid.  But it follows up with a clear message – too much food is bad, and a better outcome is to have smaller portions.

It's a nice, clear, simple way of getting a message across without offending anyone – you love your kid, it's easy to feed them too much, but it might cause problems.  It doesn't suggest you're bad for doing it, in fact it may come from love, but if you just think about it a little more you can realise that acting differently will get a better result.

This is good EI because it takes account of the emotional impact of the message – rather than using pure facts and figures, or trying to create fear or guilt, it gently conveys a clear message.

I'll have a go at what I think is an example of non-emotionally intelligent campaigning later…