We've all stuck our foot in our mouth, saying something that just did not come across well. For most people, this results in little more than a healthy dose of embarrassment; This was not the case for Lt. Governor Andre Bauer of South Carolina.
At a recent town hall meeting, Bauer said his grandmother, who did not have much of a formal education, passed on her wisdom, to him, regarding the feeding of stray animals, when he was but a young boy. After telling him that he should not give food to stray pets, she asked Bauer "You know why?" When Bauer told of the answer given by his grandmother, to those in attendance of the town hall meeting he said "Because they breed." He added "You're facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a human ample food supply."
So, what's the problem? The problem, for Bauer, is that he was referencing people who take public assistance, comparing them to stray animals.
Where people stand on the matter of public assistance matters not. Even though part of the nation agreements with Bauer's position that our assistance programs are abounded, his poor choice of words did little to cause anyone to think of him as an eloquent communicator.
Bauer's confusion as a communicator seems to be part of the problem. In a phone interview after the town hall meeting, Bauer said he regretted the remarks "because now it's being used as an analogy, not a metaphor." Perhaps it would serve Bauer well know the difference between the two.
An analogy is a similarity like features of two things, on which a comparison is based. Conversely, a metaphor is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between two unlike things that actually have something in common.
In short, an analogy is when you say "X is LIKE Y" A Metaphor is when you say "X IS Y"
An example of an analogy would be "getting that kid dressed in the morning is LIKE trying to catch a greased pig"
An example of a metaphor would be "Time IS money"
Bauer ruined his chances for having it called an analogy or a metaphor when he explicitly said "" You're facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a human ample food supply. "Here, he makes it clear that he is placing human Be in the same category as animals.
Analogies and metaphors can be one of the most powerful vehicles around, and I use them all of the time in the therapeutic work and coaching, however, let's cut right to the chase; What one question could Bauer have asked himself when preparing his talk that could have allowed him to get his message across in a much more effective way?
The question that I'm about to reveal to you came to me a few years ago from Kevin Hogan, author of "The Psychology of Persuasion". It has been a powerful tool; One that I have used in planning successful presentations, for The Pentagon, Boeing, Honda, and several other well known companies. So what is the question?
"What do I want my audience / listeners to think, feel or do as a result of what I'm going to say, or because of this story I'm about to tell?"
Hogan told me "When you get in the habit of asking that question, you'll find yourself telling different stories and communicating more clearly" Several hundred hours of presenting in front of audiences has more than confirmed it for me.
Had Bauer have taken the time to ask this question, chances are good that he would have realized the backlash his statements would create, and, more importantly, what phrasing or story he could have used to communicate more exquisitely.
Do we have people who abuse public assistance in this country? Of course we do. Are there changes that could have been made to the system that would better serve those who need assistance, and limit those who abuse welfare? Most likely. However, as a representative of South Carolina, someone who is held to a higher standard by virtue of his position, Bauer dropped the ball with his ill planned speech.
Obviously, you do not have to ask the "magic" question of every utterance. However, when the stakes are high, and potential long term consequences-for better or worse-hang in the balance, asking "" What do I want my audience / listeners to think, feel or do as a result of what I'm going To say or because of this story I'm about to tell? "Will save you a lot of grief, and facilitate the achievement of most any communication goal.
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