Sunday, 27 November 2016

THE LUTHER’S EFFECT; Why People Respond to a Particular Message and Reject Another.

What Communication style makes the best impact in a particular situation.
Ishola Ayodele

On August 28, 1963 from the steps of Lincoln Memorial, Martin Luther King Jr made a wonderful speech titled ‘I have a dream’ in which he called for an end to racism in the United States and also called for civil and economic rights.

Some staggering facts about the speech

I. Over 250,000 people came to the venue to hear Martin Luther King jr delivered this speech without TV or Radio announcement, there was no social media then.

II. No other gathering has achieved that feat.

III. 26% of the attendees were whites.

IV. That speech united Americans, what government effort with their huge resources couldn’t do.

V. That speech made Martin Luther King Jr to be list among the great men who shaped modern America like Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln.

What is so special about Martin Luther King’s speech?

Functionalism is a school of thought in the field of Psychology which was pioneered by Dr. Williams James of Harvard University, John Dewey, Harvey Carr and John Angell. The functionalists believe that “we act because we feel”.

This point of view has been corroborated by the Recurring Theorem in Psychology which states that “A large proportion of our conscious activities are control by our unconscious activities”.

This has also been supported by Neurologists by observing how the brain functions under the FMRI machine. They have discovered that there is a part of the limbic system of the brain called Amygdala. The Amygdala assists in the development of memories, especially those related to emotional events and emergences.

This was what helped Martin Luther King Jr to motivate 250,000 people to attend his speech. He simply communicated his idea in an emotional way to people who shared his idea and these people communicated to other people who shared the same idea and it goes on like that.

As communicators, in order for us to effectively target our message so that it will make the desired impact we must understand the audience and the best communication style to approach them. As practitioners we must not only know our turf we must also know our stuff.

There are four main communication preference styles, as outlined in the communication Preference Styles Survey (CPSS), a diagnostic tool, developed by Ian C. Woodward, INSEAD Senior Affiliate Professor of Organizational Behaviour, to compare individual communication style preferences.

These styles are reflected in the language and words we use, the topics we choose to talk about, the nonverbal signals we give and the voice tone we project, as well as our overall approach to connecting with other people.

These communication styles include:

1) Rational Communicators

They come across as logical, factual and direct. They have a preference for analytical thinking and concentrate on key information that allows them to get straight to the point. Logic is their forte, and often empathy gets lost in the process.

2) Structured Communicators

They are organized, meticulous and detail-oriented. Their goal is to understand the world by concentrating on details and factual information. Big picture, abstract thinking is often more difficult for these communicators.

3) Expressive Communicators

These people display a people-oriented and emotive approach to communication. They are interested in humans and relationships and express this by being warm or passionate or emotional. Expression is their forte, while applying logic and structure does not come as natural.

4) Visual Communicators

They like to express their ideas in an animated, lively way, building on ideas, metaphors and images, preferring to concentrate on the “big picture” than the details. Intuition is their forte while facts and deep analysis is much less emphasized.

For a clearer understanding let us use the just concluded election in America as a case study. We shall try to analyse Mrs. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump communication style through the communication Preference Styles Survey (CPSS).

As is probably evident, Clinton has a strong preference towards Styles 1 and 2, while Trump’s way of communicating leaves little doubt about his preference towards Styles 3 and 4.

The logical straight shooter

When watching Mrs. Clinton during the second presidential debate, we see her initial reaction to the first question is to respond with a personal question in turn, thus modeling the behaviour of her husband, Bill Clinton, during his town-hall style presidential debate with George H. W. Bush in 1992. Bill Clinton’s personal and empathic question immediately created a human connection with the then-questioner and through his whole audience, starkly exposing the difference between his warm approach and Bush’s apparent lack of empathy.

However, Hillary is not Bill, and immediate empathic connection is not her forte. Her weapons lie elsewhere. She has a reputation for having a sharp head and a cool heart. After her first, personal remark to the questioner, she immediately starts to deliver a well-prepared, smoothly analytical response. Facts and details pour out of her with ease, and are, characteristically for the Style 1 and 2 “logically comprehensive communicator”, structured by order, logic and sequence. Her language is clear, and she connects the facts with the concrete, the “how-to”.

The downside of her communication style is that she might remind people of the strict school teacher who knew it all and used to humiliate them in class. This impression is reinforced by her clear, calm, modulated voice, as well as her behaviour during Trump’s turn to speak, as she diligently takes notes while he speaks. Her head held high, as if in disdain, and her sometimes pinched mouth further contribute to this perception.

This is a great disadvantage in a race for the White House where many voters cast their ballot based on nothing more rational or factual than “how they feel” about the candidate.

Passion and action

Trump, on the other hand, is the master of strong emotions, delivered with little logical underpinning or structure. His passionate rhetoric, and his imaginative, energetic, highly descriptive and unbridled emotional language create a sense of excitement and dynamism in his listeners, and give him the image of “a man of action”, in contrast with Clinton, who is seen as “the woman of words”.

Trump’s expressive facial and body language make him come across as more energized than Clinton’s poker face. Trump excels at creating engagement and interpersonal relationships, and elicits strong passions from people to whom facts and figures matter little.

However, the weak side to Trump’s communication style is also apparent: He jumps from one topic to another, and rarely if ever answers the original question, even when repeatedly brought back to it by the interviewer. He is undoubtedly able to touch and even rouse people (in a positive or negative way, depending on the point of view you take) but comes across as unprepared, unpredictable and lacking substance and depth.

Lesson here for communicators.

1. When communicating to propel an action speaking only to people’s heads does not create the passionate commitment as touching their hearts does. Thus, we must find a way to connect our reasonable message to the audience’s emotion. Strike at the Amygdala.

 2. When communicating to educate then hit more of the head. Give facts, statistics and logical reasoning that the audience can relate to not ambiguous facts and statistics. And also avoid giving too much information to prevent information overload.

3. A good communicator will always combine both effectively and efficiently.

Please share your thoughts with me by clicking on the post a comment box below.

Ishola Ayodele is a Public Relations practitioner and a member of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations.

He offers the following services to Large Corporations, SMEs and Individuals.

Result Oriented Communication,
Effective Crisis Communication,
Effectual Political Communication,
Reputation and Image management,
And Impactful Presentation Coaching.
He can be reached on
twitter @ishopr and via

No comments:

Post a Comment