In July of 2004 a completely unknown candidate took the podium at the Democratic National Convention in Boston. Throughout his speech he used his compelling personal story to involve the audience and bind their stories with his, communicating an overarching and epic narrative to link every member of the vast audience together in one idea: unity. Finding common ground, he used this to bridge all the gaps between speaker and audience, and delivered the speech with the utmost sincerity.
“A belief that we are connected as one people. If there's a child on the south side of Chicago who can't read, that matters to me, even if it's not my child. If there's a senior citizen somewhere who can't pay for her prescription and has to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it's not my grandmother…”
With wide eyes and mouths ajar the crowd is whipped into an electrifying frenzy. That unknown candidate now serves as the president of the United States, and this is the speech that propelled Barack Obama on that course.
How did he do it?
To be assertive is to stand up for your personal values as well as those of others. Expressing thoughts, feelings and beliefs in direct, honest and influential ways. Being assertive is often conflated with aggression, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Assertiveness can be seen as the perfect balance between being passive and being aggressive.
In any speech, interview or presentation where you are speaking to a group of people, your body language and how you speak matters greatly. Some researchers say 90 percent of communication is non-verbal, others a more modest 60 percent. However if either of these are true, this would encourage a shift in your preparation focus away from spending weeks or even months writing and re-writing your speech, to practicing your performance in order to win your audience.
This is the reason for Assertive Speaking being introduced to OISE’s course timetable. Imagine Obama delivering that same speech to the same audience, but with a different delivery: tentative, mumbling, nervous, flat, not knowing what to do with his hands. The United States would have a different president.
Being assertive is a core communication skill. It enhances a student’s presence and credibility and enables the student to establish themselves as a professional; someone who creates opportunities, solves problems and resolves conflicts.
Which specific skills are practised?
Emotional intelligence enabling emotional management
These workshops are a daily feature on the Tutorial™, Quatorial™ and Bristol Curriculum courses for students and professionals. Through these we aim to qualify learners to function confidently and to have a strong voice in our ever-changing and increasingly globalised environment. Barack Obama is in good company as one of the case studies of influential international personalities on the new Future Diplomat programme for young learners of ages 14-17, set in the regal Eysham Hall in Oxfordshire.