By Nick Morgan
Jossey Bass, 2009
I normally do not review books on management or business communication, preferring instead the comfort of economic and finance concepts. However, as an educator and a dweller of the most open and media-driven society in history, learning about charisma, authenticity, and powerful communication seemed a due task.
Author Nick Morgan has been writing and teaching on the subject of effective communication for over two decades and his new book intrigued me. I must admit, I approached the book with the same skepticism I had during my days in business school communication classes. My starting belief was that the physical and mental “tricks” suggested to communicate effectively seemed superfluous at best—at worst, outright suspicious. In other words, if mom did not already teach you how to behave properly in public, you have little room for improvement. Over the years, I slowly changed my mind, and Morgan’s book reinforced my idea that the arduous path to public authenticity is indeed paved with exercises, conscious efforts to manage behavior, and pure training—well beyond mom’s early efforts.
Morgan identifies four steps:
- being open
- being connected
- being passionate
These require mastering the verbal and non-verbal conversation; the alignment of the two—one conscious, one subconscious—allows for authenticity to surface naturally, he writes. I found this process to be the most compelling part of the book and a real step forward in building an effective framework for public speaking.
Also useful was Morgan’s discussion of the use of stories as effective tools of communication. Human beings, according to certain theories, develop their minds by learning simple stories, and we seem to retain a liking for them all of our lives. Morgan states that in Western culture we have five basic stories: the quest, the love story, the revenge story, the rag-to-riches story, and stranger in a strange land. Effective and charismatic communication will leverage any of these five elemental themes to build connectivity with the audience.
One last point of interest was Morgan’s articulation of what advertisers and marketing experts have believed since the inception of the consumer era: decision making is mostly an emotional and, therefore, non-verbal process. Morgan argues that most reasoning about decision making is ex post justification of a decision already made on emotional ground. If this is indeed true, the need to put persuasion, empathy, and alignment of verbal and non-verbal communication at the core of a strategy is a must.