What Debates Remind Us About Miscommunication

I don’t often open a blog post with a disclaimer, but I feel the need to this time: I honor your right to your political views and I have no interest in changing or influencing those views. What I want to do is use the national stage to show you how we leaders really communicate—whether they know it or not.

The ten men in the prime time Republican debate each has his detractors and supporters. Each has his own personal style. The key is whether that style supports or becomes their message.

Fifteen minutes into the debate, I polled the people I was watching with and asked their opinion of the candidates. Here’s a snapshot of comments:

Rick Santorum:

  • Plastic
  • Frozen


Marco Rubio:

  • Comfortable
  • Boyish
  • Decisive

Jeb Bush:

  • Wearing his father’s suit
  • Using his brother’s body language

Ben Carson:

  • Likable smile
  • Stiff body language. Didn’t look comfortable

Donald Trump:

  • The hair could embarrass the country on the world stage
  • Wide open and putting it all out there
  • Squinty and pouty
  • Says crazy stuff but really believes in what he says

Ted Cruz:

  • Looks like a basset hound
  • Overly theatrical tone

Chris Christie:

  • Rumpled and disheveled
  • Comfortable in his own skin
  • Aggressive

Scott Walker:

  • Robotic body language
  • Whiny, preaching tone

Mike Huckabee:

  • Oldest looking candidate
  • Angry tone

Rand Paul:

  • Five o’clock shadow, pasty skin
  • Did he forget to comb his hair?
  • Mad scientist

John Kasich:

  • Twitchy
  • Avuncular

Rick Perry:

  • Wonky glasses
  • More grown up than four years ago

Rick Santorum Debate

Fox news debate, two people looking at eachother

I’m not picking on any of the candidates, just reflecting the perceptions they were creating among some watching. Again, politics aside, here’s the powerful insight: The people watching the debates spent twice as much time looking for evidence to support their initial perception of each candidate.

First perception isn’t everything, but it is the starting point. As a leader, as a communicator if you start your communication way off track with your body language, your appearance, and or your tone of voice, then you will spend far more time trying to get your real message, your intended message, back on track, then you could have spent working on your body language, appearance, and tone of voice in the first place.

Know what your message is.

Focus on delivering that message before you open your mouth.

Once you have that nailed, then start focusing on what you want to say.


One thought on “What Debates Remind Us About Miscommunication

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