Look like a winner

Yesterday I had the privilege to attend an informative talk about effective communication by my friend and colleague Kevin Leahy, aka Knowledge Advocate. One point among many in Kevin’s talk: the content of a communication doesn’t matter as much as we think it does. Kevin, an attorney, said that post-trial conversations with jurors finds that they often recall little about what was said, but much about how they felt about witnesses, based quite a bit on their perception of body language. Coincidentally this morning I find an article about research, conducted by MIT political scientists, that shows how the appearances of politicians strongly influence voters, that people around the world have similar ideas about what a good politician looks like. [Link to the paper “Looking Like a Winner”  (pdf)] 

Sounds like you can take this to the bank: how you LOOK is important, and your BODY LANGUAGE is also important. What you think and what you say? Not such a big deal.

Another point, reading between the lines of the MIT Study: you’re better off if how you look is congruent with people’s perception of your role – there are definite stereotypes. If you don’t look like a politician but you have political ambitions, it’s better to work behind the scenes. (I think politicians already know this).

Author: Jon Lebkowsky

Co-wrangler of Plutopia News Network, cohost Radio Free Plutopia. Podcaster, writer, dharma observer, enzyme. Former editor/publisher, FringeWare Review; associate editor at bOING bOING and Factsheet Five; writer at Mondo 2000, 21C, Wired, Whole Earth Review, Austin Chronicle; sub-editor at Millennium Whole Earth Catalog; blogger at Worldchanging. Digital culture maven, podcaster, writer, dharma observer, enzyme. On The WELL, Cohost of VC (virtual communities), Media, and Civil War (.ind) conferences.

4 thoughts on “Look like a winner”

  1. Interesting thoughts Jon. Thanks for posting. It’s a bit disturbing to think that what you say isn’t as important as what you look like. Disturbing, but really not all that surprising in today’s society.

    I’m wondering how this translate to the online world. Content vs. Design? It seems that content is what allows people to find us online, the appearance, design and ease of use is what usually persuades them to spend some time, but ultimately it’s the quality content that keeps them interested and hopefully coming back for more. Sorry to go off on a social media type tangent, but you know how it is. :)

  2. Interesting relating this to content vs design. My experience tells me that content trumps design, generally, on the web. Any studies on this point?

  3. Another study says that jurors make up their minds which side they “like better” in the first 45 min. of trial. My 30 yrs of trial work is uhhh, “congruent with that”. I’m ALWAYS the “nicest guy in the courtroom”. If you can’t parse the est. 10K microcues/second now thought to be its bandwidth, DON’T try practicing law or negotiating for a living. Reading every book written by the early pioneers like Ray Birdwhistell, Nierenberg & Calero’s “The Art of Negotiating”, and E. T. Hall and taking every psych course near that for my 2nd Undergrad major was CRUCIAL to successes in the Courtroom! And in Settlement! Just by arriving early and getting MY choice of counsel-table, I once forced an oppo lawyer to try his case with his BACK to the Jury! He lost. Unspoken comms are EVERYTHING- which is why all bankers/lawyers/medics dress congruently. And so do soldiers.

    Jon, is this Verizon-Google deal REALLY threatening Net-neutrality?
    MoveOn.org says so… and is petitioning! see
    Aug 5 –

    Thanks, Old Friend! You know who I am, but pls. help me preserve my professional anonymity. The email is correct, the name? – nope!
    But I have over 5M unique hits now on my 37-handmade-vid SueTube chan, name= Crashman2. The Crashman name also now comes back at least twice in Firstpage-results Googlesearches these days. I have NO time for social media, but I hope the weather is good for your drive.
    When i got BoingBoinged (by someone I did not know), I got over 300 emails/day for a while… GRRR! A mini-Slashdotting, I suppose. It all started with my hardcore Ballardianism See:

  4. Thanks, and great to hear from you! Re Google and Verizon, not knowing what they’ve discussed, it’s hard to say what they have in mind. My experience with Google over the years has been that they persistently favor Freedom to Connect, which is our preferred term. As you know, a true net neutrality isn’t necessarily desirable. Packets do get prioritized, as a matter of course, for technical reasons.

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