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The Tuesday class meets every two weeks from January 26 to April 26, and the Wednesday class meets every two weeks from January 20 to April 20.

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Lauren's Blog

Thoughts, insights and ramblings on communication, public speaking, and what makes our work and businesses tick


Equivocation in the wake of Charlottesville

Equivocation in the wake of Charlottesville

It’s called “equivocation.”

What Trump was doing in those two press conferences since Charlottesville – the rhetoric he’s using is called equivocation.

Equivocation is a logical fallacy that uses vague language to hide meaning or to avoid committing to a point of view or stance. You see it used frequently in politics when a politician is trying to appeal to everybody, or – more frequently (and most certainly in this case) – afraid of upsetting a significant number of their supporters.

It also allows the equivocator to avoid counterarguments, to dance around hard questions like “was it terrorism” without giving a committed response.

Let’s look at just a couple of examples from the August 15th press conference*:

“There was terrible violence. On many sides. On many sides.”  Equivocation.

“You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. And nobody wants to say that, but I’ll say it right now.” Equivocation.

“So, this week it’s Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder is it George Washington next week and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after?” More equivocation, with a side of slippery slope fallacy thrown in for good measure.

Equivocation waters down statements made about a specific issue. By talking about violent acts coming from the counter-protesters in the same breath as those coming from the alt-right, it lets him avoid the real subject: that the rally and its resulting violence were driven by the organized actions of white supremacists.

Some of his equivocations centered on who was perpetrating the violence. Others were attempts to create uncertainty about the real point of the rally, namely the comments regarding the statue of Robert E. Lee. Recognize statements like these for what they are: misdirections and clumsy red herrings thrown out to lure our attention away from what really matters.

Trump’s brand of equivocation also seeks to absolve or diminish the actions of one group by pointing the finger at someone else and chanting, school-boyish, “see, but they’re doing it too!” It’s like a five-year-old tattling “Bently hit me!” after he first pushed Bently over and kicked sand in the kid’s face.

Trump and his mouthpieces will attempt to hide these equivocations by saying that he’s just telling the truth, looking at facts, or – to steal the tagline of one of Trump’s preferred sources of infotainment – presenting the “fair and balanced” view.

You don’t need to equivocate to look at both sides of a story, to tell the truth, or to look at facts. You don’t need to absolve one group of inappropriate or harmful actions to condemn another. With situations like this, it’s important to keep the focus where it belongs, clearly, plainly, and with absolute sincerity.** And in this case, with the abundance of videos evidence of what was going on at this event, it is very clear where our focus should be.

Within politics, equivocation is the tactic of cowards and deceivers. It’s the slippery way out, the easy road when a leader’s beliefs, fears, or position makes the hard path too intimidating to stomach. Sometimes it’s a difficult tactic to spot. In this situation, however, it stood at a podium and brayed angrily for all the world to see.

So see it, and recognize it for what it is.

 

*Click here to read a full transcript of the press conference.

**That was a big strike against Trump’s August 14th statement. His distinct personal style and habit of saying whatever pops into his head (along with the pride he takes in his undisciplined speeches) makes it painfully obvious when he’s reading something prepared for him by his staffers…and even more obvious when he doesn’t really buy what he’s reading.

News, Developments, and Upcoming Talks/Events

  • See me in action at Nerd Nite November 26 at the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton, AB! How To Lose Friends and Manipulate People: The Fine Art of Bamboozlement (title may change depending on my caprice). Click here for ticket information and to learn more about Nerd Nite.
  • Currently in development - my online digital course "Masterpiece Presentations: Your step-by-step method for creating high-impact presentations"


Category Archives: Business behaviour

How Corporate Sponsorship Can Teach Us Better Communication

Lauren MCing the Western Sponsorship Congress
Lauren MCing the Western Sponsorship Congress (a bit blurry, but you get the idea!)

 

I had the pleasure of being Master of Ceremonies at the Western Sponsorship Congress on November 23 & 24th. MCing is delightful – it really is heaps of fun helping delegates at an event relax, connect, and engage with the program and with each other. It also positions me to meet the interesting, smart people attending and participating in the event.

But MCing the WSC had an additional advantage – I was able to sit in on some outstanding sessions with great takeaways about the sponsorship side of corporate partnerships and communication.

Even though the context was corporate sponsorship, the ideas that many speakers touched on reflect principles of communication and speaking that apply across different industries. I’m keen to share them with you. Here were my top takeaways from the Western Sponsorship Congress:

Honesty, integrity, and authenticity can (and should) be achieved in communication even when pursuing personal or business advancement goals.

Just because you are connecting with someone in order to achieve a goal like brand recognition, better sales, or some form of personal gain doesn’t mean that the communication and connection can’t be real and full of integrity. Many of us are deeply cynical consumers – if a person or business might gain from interacting with us, there’s a knee-jerk reaction that assumes their message or efforts are somehow phony.
This is a win-lose mentality, one where we see everyone as being out to get us. But it’s a mentality that is fostered in a culture where every second bit of information is an advertisement and two thirds of your social media feed features someone presenting a dishonestly polished version of their life. This breeds cynicism in communication, and it’s up to the communicator to overcome that.

While the corporate presenters at the WSC were very up front that their sponsorship campaigns were done with an eye on the ROI, they focused even more attention on the other reasons for their sponsorship activities – creating a positive corporate culture, engaging their employees in meaningful and restorative activities, making a real difference to a group of people or a cause or a social good. Showing their heart and putting those messages out to the public help them rally attention to the causes they sponsor and, of course, gives their brand a positive image at the same time. This is win-win. Authentic communication (showing your sense of humour, highlighting the people behind your business, sharing the causes you support and the actual impact your support had) helps you get across the heart of your message. Integrity allows you to be up front and objective of the economic gains you or your business will make from the interaction. These two things together create an atmosphere of honesty that drastically helps overcome any cynicism in the person you are communicating with.

The people, associations, organizations, and causes you align with communicate something about your own values and beliefs. Choose carefully and don’t align with things that contradict what you do or stand for.

This is very much related to the point above, but it’s more cautionary. When you decide to chum around with someone, or toe a certain party line, or support a certain cause, it needs to be in alignment with what you do and who you are. If there is a disconnect, people will pick up on it. Sometimes they might just shrug and say ‘you do what you gotta do.’ Sometimes the disconnect can be compartmentalized, isolated, and explained or justified – lawyers have to do this a lot. But sometimes the disconnect is just too glaring to be ignored. When this happens, your authenticity, honesty, and integrity will be questioned and cynicism about your motivations will be fostered. For an outstanding example of this, check out one of Dr. Yoni Freedhoff’s posts about some of the sponsors of a medical conference on obesity. If you pull that kind of crap, people will question everything you have to say.

It’s all about your audience.

This is a communication principal near and dear to my heart. Your audience’s interests are number one in their mind. You need to communicate about the things they care about. If you are trying to persuade someone to take action, don’t tell them how much you’ll benefit from their participation in your business or your cause. Instead, tell them what they’ll get out of it. How they’ll gain, how they’ll feel, what they’ll experience. Weave yourself into your audience’s story, and describe the outcomes they can expect. Yes, it’s important to show your heart and soul, to let people know why you feel a certain way or believe in a certain thing, but once you give them a glimpse of you, you need to turn the attention on to them. That’s where connection really happens – when we see a bit of ourselves in what a person is saying.

There was more covered during the congress, for sure, and I covered many pages with notes. But these are the things that came up again and again in multiple presentations. I may not be a part of the sponsorship industry, but I still learned a lot from it and am glad to share some of it with you. And it goes to show that every group, industry, event, or situation can contain lessons about how we communicate and connect with one another.

Some people are just really hard to talk to…

Some people are just really hard to talk to…

    Despite all best efforts, some people are simply difficult to communicate with.  You’ve probably met this person; no matter how hard you try, they seem to miss chunks of conversations.  No matter how clear the note, they still twist the message.  No matter how explicit the instructions, they still manage to screw them up.  It doesn’t seem… Continue Reading

Spending more time worrying about your speech than working on it?
Sign up for my newsletter and get a free download for strategies and techniques to vanquish your nervousness! Plus, you'll get my latest articles and announcements I only send by email.
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