How Julia Gillard’s defensivesness prompted journalist attack

 In Learning from Luminaries, Politicians

I gave Julia Gillard a 6/10 for her performance in her press conference last week, regarding her time at Slater & Gordon.

At the conference Gillard tongue-lashed and lectured journalists. Her performance was spirited and was better than her leadership spill press conference earlier in 2012 ( I gave her a 4/10 for that performance). Please see my post: http://www.kellyspeech.com.au/2012/03/slippery-rudd-wooden-gillard/#more-1254

Still, and overall, Gillard came across as defensive in the conference last week. (This is not to downplay the extreme attacks on her from some members of media, or the intense pressure she might be feeling).

Underpinning Gillard’s defensiveness were elements of irritation, of anger and of being a victim. Her facial expression was hard and severe.

Here are examples of her anger and irritation:

– “I’m answering your questions now, if you’ve got questions – put ‘em.”

– “I’ve been on my feet now for what, I can’t quite recall, 50 minutes? Something like that . . .taking every question that the journalist elite of this country has got for me. If that doesn’t end the matter, then with respect, I don’t know what would.”

The conference went on for over an hour. It continued for so long because of Gillard’s defensiveness. When a person puts up a defensive stance, it prompts the ‘attackers’ (the journalists) to keep attacking. Watching the conference you could sense the journalists thinking to themselves, ‘If we can just keep probing and asking questions in different ways, we’ll find a weak spot in her defence, and she’ll crack’.

If Gillard had been less defensive the journalists wouldn’t has persisted with their questions.

The lessons here for your under-pressure Q&A speaking situations are these: Avoid defensiveness. Display no anger or irritation. Don’t lecture people.

Rather (and this may require a substantial amount of effort and will-power) be even and open in your feeling tone. Project dignity.

Dignity is hard to attack.

By displaying these positive attitudes and behaviours your questioners won’t be prompted to attack you. They’ll get a sense that an attack will not be profitable.

The ‘how to apply’ for this post: In your next under-pressure Q&A speaking situation, display dignity, be open and even in feeling tone and avoid defensiveness.

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