Fighting Fire with Fire: Can true charisma extinguish false populism?
So the Donald Trump era has ended. Not with a bang or a whimper, but an angry snarl and a graceless "concession-without conceding" tweet. And if the President’s chief [ more » ]
What are the hidden forces driving us to make life choices, and what are the mechanisms we then use to justify these choices in the eyes of others?
In his famous essay ‘Psychological Theory of Types,’ the Swiss pioneer CG Jung describes the differing reactions of five men who encounter a brook or stream that must be crossed without a bridge.
One man jumps over the stream for the sheer joy of it; the second leaps because there is simply no other way to get across; the third does so because he sees the exercise as character-forming. The fourth rejects the challenge outright, while the fifth develops compelling reasons for not needing to reach the other side.
It was from exactly this spectrum of possible reactions, that Jung said he first began plotting the cleavage points of experience that would allow him to go on to map the human psyche. Simple observation of possible behaviours guided development of his theories.
The first split Jung noted between the five jumpers was that while some were given to inwardly-facing forethought or hesitation, others were propelled by unreflective, outward-facing self-confidence. Once Jung had separated these attitudes into what he called Introverts and Extraverts, he moved on to what he named the Judging Functions (Thinking vs. Feeling) and the Perceiving Functions (Intuition vs. Sensation).
The eight possible mental processes resulting from interaction of these attitudes and functions first identified by Jung, form the bedrock on which all psychological type theory and the entire psychometric testing industry rest right up to this very day.
Thanks to Jung, for decades we have had an effective way to map how people behave according to their psychological types. Around his insights a huge global industry has grown up in executive selection, human resources and type matching. Newer models, such as the five factor model (FFM), have fine-tuned Jung’s ideas, while the lexical approach uses word-clusters in self-assessment tests to assess personality traits.
So it’s useful to review Jung’s own story of how of how he first stumbled upon the truths set down in his 1921 study Psychological Types (Volume 6 of Jung’s collected works).
What’s clear from the lecture translated in 1933 by Cary F Baynes, was that Jung carved his theory out from what he called “the chaos of arbitrary opinions” common among early mental health practitioners, by focusing on empirical observation. And he was adamant that rather than being obscure, his types must make use of “current ideas in daily speech, perfectly comprehensible to anyone.”
Jungian thought may now be an abstruse and highly academic study, but almost a century ago it began with empirical observation of categories no layman would find incomprehensible. So, by going “back to basics,” Jung laid bare some fundamental truths about the drivers of human behaviour.
Until now, however, we have not yet had a comparable system for specifically mapping one key area of human behaviour – communication. Although communication is arguably the most pervasive of all human activities, we are only now starting to classify the ways that people communicate their needs, and the types of projection they use to influence others.
We may map what people do and how they act – but since Aristotle’s Art of Rhetoric we haven’t really updated the tools we use to measure speech effectiveness. When individuals unexpectedly mobilise public opinion on sensitive issues we’re quick to brand them as demagogues, although we don’t know exactly where their power comes from.
Yet Carl Jung’s experience with psychological type theory points the way toward developing a fresh set of definitions that would form what we might name a new “Psychological Types Theory of Communication.”
Let’s suppose that, instead of describing how the five men in Jung’s original brook-jumping challenge each chose to act differently, the great psychologist had instead interviewed each of the five men about their choices, and then reported back on which appeared to him the most persuasive course of action.
Effective projection of choices, and not variety of behaviour, is now the yardstick. Instead of plotting probable behaviour types among different people, Jung would now bemeasuring effective feedback: which behaviour types were presented in ways that generated greatest influence.
This exercise is very different from Psychological Types, butone that could lead to a classification system useful across the range of human activities that make up an estimated one third of global GDP, also known as the opinion-formation, persuasion, advertising and leadership industries.
In the brook example defining behavioural types, Jung’s primary point of cleavage was between those who jump-first-and-think-afterwards (extraverts), and those who think-first-and-jump-afterwards (introverts).
Now, viewed from the perspective of persuasion, how might a good psychologist define two very different approaches to telling the same story (about why it was quite right to jump – or not to jump – the brook)? It’s not the story itself, but the way it’s told, that may be effective at gaining believers.
Out of respect for Jung, we’ll ask the expert psychologist to limit himself to “current ideas in daily speech, perfectly comprehensible to anyone.” But, as we’ve all done this exercise tens of thousands of times ourselves, do we need an expert?
Let’s work this out for ourselves. Think about the people you know and some of the more memorable talks you’ve had with them.
First, try and visualise somebody who proved to be really effective at convincing you they were right about something, or an occasion where you changed your mind about something important to you.
Perhaps it was a discussion in a bar or at a party, or listening to a more formal debate. Now think about your own reaction to this person’s tone of voice and body-language: Perhaps they raised they finger or their voice, stared you down or left you speechless. At a certain point, you abandoned your resistance and decided to trust them. In communication terms this is the Persuasion Function.
Now, think of a very different, almost effortless occasion when you’re spending time with a person who understands your side of the story. There’s nothing to argue about and an easy rapport has built up between you. This person knows and respects your concerns, making it easy to trust in return. Rather than raise a finger, he or she is more likely to put an arm around your shoulder, and almost without being aware of what was previously so important, you changed your mind. In communication terms this is the Empathy Function.
Now imagine a horizontal axis running between these poles of Empathy and Persuasion. Think again about the people you know, and where their behaviour might sit along this axis. Most effective communication is a composite of Empathy and Persuasion.
For a communication model seeking to measure the psychological elements making up any individual’s power of projection, this spectrum plays a comparable role to the Judging Function in the classical model of Psychological Types. Empathy is more akin to Feeling, while Persuasion is more like Thinking.
Of course, the encounters you’ve visualised will vary hugely. You might be recalling a one-on-one circumstance where your change of heart (whether propelled by persuasion or empathy) is an intimate and personal affair. Conversely, you might envisage a great public event where although the speaker (or singer or actor) isn’t directly known to you, nevertheless you feel touched personally by his or her message which seems perfectly tailored for your needs.
There is a second fundamental split between the more intimate communication style aimed at the individual or Small Groups, and a more public style of delivery designed to mobilise people in Large Groups. Our communications model posits a vertical axis running between Large Group and Small Group projection styles, as a second measure of any individual’s power of projection.
In Jung’s Psychological Type system there are two Perceiving Functions. Sensation suggests we are better fitted to process incoming sensory data, while Intuition implies greater sensitivity to our unconscious reactions. In communications terms we posit that the Large Group-Small Group axis could exercise a similar function.
And, just as Jung’s original classification produced eight possible mental processes, so the new mapping generates nine communications types or ‘avatars,’ each with its own distinctive style.
A century ago, Jung’s ideas about the hidden forces driving us to make choices, were based on empirical observation, commonsense ideas and daily speech. So today, discovery of the mechanisms we use to justify such choices, follows the classical insights of Psychological Type theory. We seek the goal of mapping, measuring and managing communications effectiveness.
That, in a nutshell, is Communicate Charisma. This is a methodology that combines a word-test or lexical self-assessment with a classification system analysing individual communications efficacy, resulting in clear visual plots.
What’s been described above is the conceptual basis to the Projection Profile of Communicate Charisma’s model showing individual communications competency. This two-dimensional Profile – together a more complex, seven-dimensional Essence Profile – generates insights for the self-development of leaders, managers and all those seeking responsible influence.
A century ago CG Jung’s methodology helped humanity to jump the river of psychological typing. Now it can be used to guide those who wish leap a second river, unlocking communications effectiveness and the power to change minds.
You can find out more at www.communicatecharisma.com