Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Kevin Rudd and the unmitigated nuances of Colloquialism

... In the world of Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) we find a well documented strategy to enhance interactions between individuals and their audience ... To Kevin Rudd it may just come naturally ...

We read with interest the articles and comments recently made in relation to Kevin Rudd’s use of colloquial language. Having raised a response from the political likes of Tony Abbott and Peter Costello - who says he’s confused about Rudd - in addition to journalists such as The Australians David Burchell, and Andrew Fraser, and the Herald Sun’s Bolt to name a few. The views are not quite unanimous, that Rudd’s idiomatic flourishes underscore a weakness of character though it must be said, not one that will automatically cost him voters. On the contrary, Rudd’s many personas - although that’s another story, and linguistic superfluities, whether adverted or otherwise, may be a brilliant method for courting the horde.

To be sure, I am not certain which of the many guises presented to date, correspond to the bona fide Kevin Rudd. Depending on the issue or circumstance, he can be on any given day either a seasoned and articulate bureaucrat - though in this mode his language is oft baffling recall Tony Wright’s article in The Age, Memo Kev: Drop the Rudd-speak, 'Buggered if I know' will do fine -a champion of the working class, a dictator – recall the RAAF flight spat – a genuine new age chamaeleon? At the ideological level it’s even more perplexing, a Christian Socialist in 2006, to an economic and fiscal conservative in 2007, to Social Democrat in early 2009, but that's another, albeit related story.

Personally, I do not believe that Rudd’s linguistics form part of an engineered behavioral communication stratagem to build electoral rapport. In the world of Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) we find a well documented strategy to enhance interactions between individuals and their audience. Known as “Matching and mirroring” it’s a process whereby one copies the intended audience in terms of body language, movement, voice, pace and gesture. It’s based on the simple notion that people (voters) like and relate to people (politicians) who are, just like them.

In NLP speak, matching and mirroring takes place at the behavioral level and involves:

  • Physiology: Posture, position, movement and gesture
  • Voice: Tone, speech, volume, pitch, modulation and rhythm
  • Language: Key words which in Rudd’s case include Colloquial phraseology
  • Values and common interests: As conveyed by the above

To Kevin Rudd it may just come naturally. Shaun Carney of the Melbourne Age provides further hints on Kevin Rudd suggesting that he:

“spent his childhood as a poor kid on a backblocks share farm. He and his wife might be worth $50 million, and he has all the appurtenances of fame and power now, but none of that can change where he came from. And isn't it just possible that the world in which he was raised was one where "fair shake of the sauce bottle" might have been used?”
He concludes,
Rather than faking it last week, maybe Rudd let down his guard and a little bit of his long-lost self surfaced for a moment.

This would suggest that Rudd's use of a colloquialism is instinctive and just one element of his broad persona. Whether he does it consciously or instinctively is interesting in itself, either way, it remains an effective method of building rapport even though he appears somewhat wooden and contrived. Though in fairness the latter may have more to do with our own expectations of conduct; a predictable demeanor we deem befitting in the political world. When suited, notice our Prime Minister will even go as far as breaking rules by resorting to gutter language, here we recall his, “Economic Shitstorm” remark in March.

For the opposition this poses an added challenge for Kevin Rudd, is highly adept in building congruence both within and beyond, one that is consistent with the Governments chosen outcomes and he’s resulting behavior including the ocker language, may just follow naturally.

No comments: