USER’S GUIDE - You Are the Message - Roger Ailes, Jon Kraushar

You Are the Message - Roger Ailes, Jon Kraushar (1995)




✵ We make a quick assessment of other people within seven seconds of first meeting them. What sort of instant impression do you make on others?

✵ Food, shelter, and clothing have always been listed as the prime essentials of the human survival kit. Communication belongs in that grouping.

✵ Good communication starts with good conversation. It is an art comprising listening, reacting, enthusiasm, empathy, and a mutual understanding of thought.

✵ Communication is a process of shared comprehension.

✵ The common denominator to success is the understanding and efficient application of the basic principles of communication.

✵ Implicit or openly stated in every job description is the requirement to be an effective communicator.

✵ The ten most common problems in communication are:

1. Initial rapport is not established with listeners.

2. Body movements are stiff or wooden.

3. Material is presented intellectually, not involving the audience emotionally.

4. Speaker seems uncomfortable due to fear of failure.

5. Eye contact and facial expression are poorly utilized.

6. Humor is lacking.

7. Speaker’s intentions are not made clear due to improper preparation.

8. Silence is not used for impact.

9. Energy is low, resulting in inappropriate pitch pattern, speech rate, and volume.

10. Language and material are boring.

Questions/Exercises for Discussion and Reflection

✵ Practice reading people’s nonverbal communication by: (1) watching television with the sound turned off; (2) from a distance, observing people talking on public telephones; (3) discreetly studying the interactions of people seated near you at other tables in a restaurant. How many different emotions can you identify by watching their facial expressions? Whether they are talking or listening, what do you interpret about them from their body language? Try to guess the nature of their relationship to those they engage in conversation.

✵ On a small index card, write down the list of the ten most common communication problems. Bring the list to a business meeting, speech, class, or local government meeting. How many of the problems do you detect in anyone who is speaking? Based on the principles of this book, what advice would you give the speaker to remedy his or her communication problems?



✵ Television has set the style of a modern communicator—relaxed, informal, crisp, quick, and entertaining.

✵ Television’s fast pace has made us an impatient society. Make your point quickly and be interesting.

✵ Using mental images enlivens communication. If you can see a picture in your mind and describe it, others will stay tuned in. See it and say it.

✵ In the television age, we are all broadcasters. Each person is his own message, whatever medium he chooses.

Questions/Exercises for Discussion and Reflection

✵ Develop your ability to use colorful language by comparing one thing to another, using the term “like a …” For instance, the poet Carl Sandburg said, “Life is like an onion: you peel it off one layer at a time, and sometimes you weep.” If you were to make a comparison using the phrase “Life is like a ——,” how would you fill in the blank? Think of something memorable that happened to you and complete the thought “That experience was like a ——.” Or, recall a strong emotional reaction you had and apply it to finish the thought “It made me feel like a ——.” Have fun with this—be a little outrageous, exaggerate, or use “poetic license” in your word choices. However, try to avoid using clichés. See if you can use language in a fresh way. You’ll enjoy doing this more if you ask a friend to brainstorm with you about how to fill in the blanks, or if you turn it into a party game involving a group of people.



✵ Take an inventory and list personal assets that help you communicate—physical appearance, energy, rate of speech, pitch and tone of voice, animation and gestures, humor, and so forth.

✵ There is no established fault-free “communication posture.” You have to be yourself at your best without any drastic changes in personality. Nobody can play you as well as you can.

✵ Once you have reached a successful level of communication, you do not change or adapt your essential self to different audiences or different media.

✵ All communication is a dialogue, whether it be with one person or a thousand and one.

✵ A good communicator takes responsibility for the flow of communication, whether speaking or listening. Don’t rely on people to accommodate themselves to you. You are in charge of every communication situation you’re in.

✵ Audiences tend to respond to visual signals over verbal signals sent out by the speaker. If the speaker is somber and uncomfortable, his message becomes negative, too.

✵ If you must read a speech, make it conversational. Look at the audience whenever you can. Don’t make sentences too long. Pace your reading so that your eyes are up at the end of a sentence, and never rush the speech. You want to be an interesting speaker, not just a good reader.

✵ You are the message. Bring personality and enthusiasm to your speech. This will enhance the message.

Questions/Exercises for Discussion and Reflection

✵ How would you describe the “composite” you? How would you describe the “composite message” sent by your favorite entertainer, coworker, friend, or relative? What can you learn about broadening your composite message from studying the composite messages of people you admire?

✵ Test your powers of observation and description by walking into a room, looking around for seven seconds, then closing your eyes and telling someone else everything you can recall about the room—colors, textures, inanimate objects, the expressions on people’s faces, such as warm, friendly, hostile, etc. Developing your ability to quickly absorb what’s going on around you will enable you to communicate better under many different circumstances.

✵ Make a list of everyone you have contact with on a given day. How would each person score on the “guest meter”? What kind of a guest might they be at a party or on a television talk show? How do you rate as a guest? What might others (or you) do to become more interesting, likable, and informed?

✵ Think of a time when you should have spoken up but either didn’t or, when it was already too late, tried to speak. How might you have communicated better in that circumstance?

✵ Read aloud from a speech or an article while standing in front of a mirror. How much eye contact can you manage, using the techniques in this book?



✵ Many public speaking courses are based on outdated approaches. Today we use our senses to observe and develop the process of communication. It’s visual and intuitive. It’s watching, feeling, sensing, hearing. It’s the new age of communication.

✵ A forced emotion convinces no one. An emotion triggered by a thought and resulting in natural expression is the beginning of mutual acceptance of ideas.

✵ Smiling originates first in the brain, then on the face.

✵ Fifteen minutes of practice a day in voice improvement not only adds quality to the voice but also improves pronunciation, articulation, and inflection.

✵ “Tape and ape” the best pros, not to mimic but to develop range and vocal variety.

✵ If you care about your subject, your listeners also will care.

✵ In every communications situation—one-on-one or in a group—ask yourself: What am I feeling here? If you sense that people are not tuned in to you, don’t waste your time pushing out ideas.

✵ We all have the capability to “read” and sense what’s happening with others. This ability is every bit as accurate as the eyes and ears. It can be your edge in negotiations.

✵ Other people’s perception of you is their reality. You must be aware of their assessment in order to effect good communication.

✵ In the dinosaur age of communications, you “projected” first and observed your audience later, if at all. In the new age, you observe what’s going on first and project afterward.

Questions/Exercises for Discussion and Reflection

✵ If you have access to a video camera and have a friend willing to interview you, record a discussion where the camera focuses on you while your friend asks you about your hobbies, your interests, or a range of issues drawn from whatever section of the newspaper you most enjoy reading. Watch the playback of the interview. How expressive were you in your verbal and nonverbal communication? If you didn’t know the person on the screen, would you still have enjoyed watching the interview?

✵ Tape-record your end of a telephone conversation. How does your voice sound? Is your pitch too high? What adjustments are advisable to make your voice more attractive? Using the suggestions in this book, work on your volume, pitch, inflection, emphasis, or other vocal characteristics. Then, compare how you sound when you record yourself again speaking on the telephone.

✵ Reread the list of tips for opening a speech or making remarks before any group. Try implementing at least one of the suggestions for quickly getting the audience’s attention.

✵ Each time you casually greet someone by asking “How are you?” reflect for a moment what you “absorbed” about the other person, based on his or her response.



✵ People are inefficient listeners. Tests indicate that after listening to a ten-minute oral presentation, the average listener retains half of what was said. Within forty-eight hours, that drops another 50 percent to 25 percent retention level. By the end of a week, the retention level drops to 10 percent or less.

✵ As you develop your listening habits, listen for intent as well as content. If something sounds out of sync, ask for clarification.

✵ Human communication goes through three phases: speaking (transmission), analyzing (information processing), and listening (reception). Listen without overanalyzing; listen without interrupting the speaker, or you may short-circuit the listening process.

✵ Most of us talk more than we need to. If most of the time you talk more than you listen, you’re probably failing in your communication.

Questions/Exercises for Discussion and Reflection

✵ To identify how good you are as a listener, apply the “I. D.” test. “I” is for “interruption” and “D” is for “distraction.” When you’re listening, how often do you interrupt others or get distracted? Try to minimize both of these blocks to better understanding.



Be prepared: (1) Your listeners must have confidence that you know what you’re talking about; (2) your listeners should feel that you know more about the subject than they do; (3) it must be apparent that you spent time preparing your subject and analyzing your audience; (4) there must be a purpose to your message—to inform, to entertain, to inspire, or all three; and (5) you may be facing a hostile or skeptical audience. (Before a hostile audience, you will need to show understanding of all sides of an issue; before supportive audiences, you will need to reaffirm shared values.)

✵ See chapter for checklist of tips for preparing and delivering a speech.

✵ Others take their cues from you. So try to relax. Keep things in perspective. Don’t overreact.

✵ Maintain your sense of humor. Take your work seriously but not yourself or human foibles.

✵ Avoid arrogance, lecturing others, and similarly disagreeable behavior. Focus more on empathizing than criticizing.

Make others comfortable.

Be committed: If you know what you’re saying, know why you are saying it, and care about what you are saying, you will say it well.

✵ Know when you have to be good and when someone else’s opinion of you counts; be yourself but at your best; always believe in what you’re saying.

Be interesting: The Brotherhood of Boredom has had its day in communication. It will be tolerated less and less in boardrooms and meeting halls.

✵ You can add substance to communication and still project a style of delivery that is impressive to your listeners. Don’t be limited by the traditional scope of your subject. Think of analogies from other fields that can enliven your material and help the audience remember your key points.

✵ At least 30 percent of all your reading should be outside your own field. This will broaden your perspective and knowledge.

Questions/Exercises for Discussion and Reflection

✵ Next time you speak before a group, ask a friend in the audience to take notes on a single sheet of paper divided horizontally into four parts, with each section headed by one of the four essentials of a great communicator. Ask your friend to write comments on how you fulfill each of the four essentials.



✵ The “magic bullet” of personal communication is the quality of being likable.

✵ The “like factor” in politics can swing elections. In business, it can build relationships among employees on all levels.

✵ Likability is difficult to define or to teach, but the basic positives that reside in the likable person are (1) optimism, (2) concern about the welfare of other people, (3) ability to see the opportunity in every difficulty, (4) ability to handle stress, (5) ability to laugh easily, especially at himself, and (6) ability to perform at his best in crises and at his humblest in prosperity.

✵ To be a master communicator, one must add likability to the four essentials of being prepared, comfortable, committed, and interesting.

Questions/Exercises for Discussion and Reflection

✵ On which “likable” measures are you strongest? Weakest? What adjustments to your behavior or attitude could make you more likable? Discuss this with someone you respect and trust.



✵ Emotion is the double-edged sword of communication. It is a constructive and powerful force of persuasion when genuine and positive, but mistrusted when negative and insincere.

✵ You reveal yourself to your audience through visible and expressed emotions. Your audience then knows who you are and why you’re there.

✵ People want to see a speaker’s range of emotions expressed with commitment and colored with nuances of humor, sincerity, energy, and enthusiasm.

✵ To an audience, there are head issues and heart issues. A good communicator increases his likability by varying cold facts with warm, genuine emotion. Facts provide information; emotion provides interpretation.

✵ Successful managers of the future will be “bilingual,” that is, comfortable with and adept at using the cultural styles of both men and women.

✵ A basic formula for professional success includes (1) integrity, (2) talent, and (3) good communication skills.

Questions/Exercises for Discussion and Reflection

✵ For you, what are three “head” issues and three “heart” issues? Try discussing these issues with other people (particularly if they disagree with you). Listen for and observe the emotion that comes out during the discussion. Is the emotion you express appropriate for the points you want to make, and are others displaying their emotions to advantage? Another way to study emotion is to watch a television talk show that features hosts and guests debating controversial social and political issues. How do you feel about the emotion projected by each speaker?



✵ Charismatic personalities never doubt their ability to add value to a situation, whether that value comes from the prestige of their presence, the quality of their knowledge and experience, the projection of their optimism and enthusiasm, or their distinct personality and style.

✵ Charisma is the ability to cause others to respond to you, as opposed to your responding to others. It is personal confidence, as opposed to the confidence imparted by a job title or other trappings of power.

✵ Those who control the atmosphere are risk takers with an aura of unpredictability—in essence, fearlessness without arrogance.

✵ Winners are thermostats—they set the right temperature. Losers are thermometers—they go up and down according to the climate others set.

✵ A charisma quotient measures self-confidence, leadership qualities, definable goals, control of one’s life, and the attributes of being comfortable and making others feel comfortable.

✵ A successful communicator is prepared to go into any kind of communication process and change the flow of thought.

This is control of the atmosphere through assertion of skill, personality, knowledge, and belief, and through the energy of enthusiasm.

✵ In all successful first meetings a comfort level is quickly established. During this sizing-up process, lines of communication are established which insure a comfortable process of conversation.

✵ Good speakers control space (how and where they move and gesture). They also control time (rate of speech, length of remarks, pauses, silence).

✵ People who control the atmosphere don’t act threatened, frightened, or superior. They treat everybody with the same comfort level and goodwill.

✵ A high control-of-the-atmosphere quotient reflects total control of time, space, eye contact, voice, state of mind, attitude, flow of dialogue, absorb-project balance, and personal feelings.

Questions/Exercises for Discussion and Reflection

Attend a meeting in your town of any civic group (Parent-Teacher Association or school board, government body, court session, local club, fellowship committee at a house of worship, etc.). Who among the participants communicate with confidence and control, regardless of their title or status? What do you notice about the way they carry and express themselves? If you have the opportunity, speak up about an issue that concerns you. Are you able to make your points in a way that holds the attention of the audience? Benchmark the performance of those you observe (or yourself) against the control-of-the-atmosphere factors listed in the chapter.



✵ With the right kind of energy, you’re focused, you’re interested in others, and you’re absorbing what others are telling you. You project enthusiasm.

✵ A good communicator’s energy is perceived as a “life force” vitality, a vigor exemplified by successful professionals in the business, sports, and media worlds.

✵ Properly focused energy comes across as a magnetic intensity, an inner flame that says, “I am committed, I believe, I want to tell you.”

Questions/Exercises for Discussion and Reflection

Try this experiment in the transforming power of positive energy. The next time you get to the head of the line at a ticket counter or ask anyone for information, greet the person with a sincere hello and a smile. Watch how the other person reacts to your friendly energy. Consider how a more energetic approach might work in a situation where you need to gain the goodwill or help of others.



✵ According to executive recruiters, seven out of ten people lose their jobs because of personality conflicts, not because of lack of skills.

✵ For middle management and up, the primary criteria for advancement are communication and motivation skills.

✵ The essential responsibility of any employee is to be positive, enthusiastic, and friendly.

✵ To lighten up doesn’t mean you become a comedian, but it does mean appreciating humor and seeing the lighter side in stressful situations.

✵ The six Rs of humor are research, relevance, rhythm, rehearsal, relaxation, and risk.

Questions/Exercises for Discussion and Reflection

The next time you feel yourself or someone else getting upset about something, try to control the situation by consciously de-escalating the tension. How might you put what is happening into a lighter, less serious perspective? Gauge your reaction by asking yourself this question: In two weeks, two months, or two years, will all this seem as important as it does now? If the answer is no, what can you do to smile, relax, make others more comfortable, and maybe even add a little levity to the situation?



✵ No one can manufacture an “image” for anyone. All a consultant can do is advise and guide you on how to capitalize on your personal assets.

✵ Acting isn’t the skill required for effective communication of your own ideas. Acting is when someone hands you a script and asks you to be somebody other than who you really are.

✵ Performing demands that you be yourself. Acting is a passing illusion; performing is the “real you” at the gut and mind level reflecting true commitment.

✵ “At your best” is a simple checklist of factors: physical appearance, energy, speech rate, pitch, tone, phrasing, gestures, eye contact, and holding audience interest.

✵ Research has shown that audience interpretations of speaker messages are determined 55 percent by the speaker’s nonverbal communication (facial expression, body language), 38 percent by the speaker’s vocal quality (tone, pitch, volume, variation), and only 7 percent by the literal words.

✵ Overall, audiences remember concepts (idea clusters formed by the words) and emotional expression (as communicated through the eyes, face, voice, and body).

Questions/Exercises for Discussion and Reflection

In your personal estimation or according to a colleague or friend, how consistently are you communicating at your best, measured by the checklist of factors listed in the chapter? Are you willing to make an effort to improve? Whom do you know who might benefit from applying the checklist to themselves and how might you make them aware of it? Here are two options for getting feedback on your communication skills: (1) The next time you address an audience, if the occasion is appropriate, ask the person in charge of the meeting if he or she wants to distribute a brief evaluation form for your listeners to fill in about you, containing the checklist items. Be sure the form is distributed by the chairperson and is explained as coming from the sponsoring organization—not from you (you don’t want to seem too self-serving). (2) Another way to get feedback is to sit for a videotaped mock job interview conducted by a friend—whether or not you’re looking for a job. As you watch the playback, would you hire you? Choose at least one aspect of your communication skills that you’ll consciously work on this month.



✵ In a poll of human fears, twice as many people were more afraid of speaking in public than of dying. Fear of failure and embarrassment are the main reasons people don’t do things in life.

✵ Insecure communicators usually see themselves as worse speakers than they really are.

✵ There are two kinds of anxiety that may affect how we address an individual (or group): external anxiety caused by frightening outside situations that might occur, and internal anxiety that results from illness. Less than 2 percent of people actually suffer from internal anxiety.

✵ The greatest antidotes to fear are preparation of material and use of energy in delivery.

✵ Since you are the message, you must view yourself in a short-term and a long-term way. Short-term, as in a speech, use everything in your power at the moment and forge ahead. Long-term, improve yourself constantly to bring forth a successful lifetime. Do not confuse the two.

Questions/Exercises for Discussion and Reflection

Think about your greatest fears. Picture yourself in front of an audience and consider the absolute worst consequences of your showing fearful behavior to others. Could you survive the worst and would the audience “forgive” you (or even care that much)? If communicating in certain situations gives you the jitters, minimize your anxiety and be fair to yourself by preparing what you’re going to say as much in advance as possible. If you make a mistake, don’t fuss over it. Get back to your topic. Work up the courage to put yourself in one communication circumstance you’ve been dreading. When you’re in front of your audience, don’t try to be perfect. Just focus on getting your message across. Once you complete your presentation, how reasonable or awful were the fears that earlier bothered you? What reaction did you get from the audience?



✵ The safest course in dealing with the press is not to make “off the record” statements. The only thing off the record is what you don’t say.

✵ If you have wisecracking instincts, keep them in check around the media.

✵ You have an obligation to help the press by providing true and complete information. But don’t be cornered into meeting a reporter’s deadline if it forces you to provide incomplete or unsubstantiated facts.

Questions/Exercises for Discussion and Reflection

If you were to conduct an interview with the press, what subject(s) could you speak about with authority? How would you prepare yourself for meeting the press? What topics would you prefer to keep private and how would you respond if a reporter confronted you with those topics?



✵ Check out all over-the-phone media requests for information. You need to check out the reporter, what he wants, and why he might want it.

✵ With the media, you are always on defense, but if you do it right, you occasionally score.

✵ Never go into a media interview unprepared. Discuss the interview in advance with a public relations professional, a media trainer, or other trusted counsel. Reverse your roles: If you were the journalist, what questions would you ask?

✵ Have an agenda with at least three major points you want to mention in the interview. The most common mistake made by people who are interviewed is that they wait for the reporter to ask questions related to the major points they are prepared to make. That may never happen.

✵ The medium determines the message. Newspaper interviews allow you time to explain. Radio and TV interviews require “headline” answers.

✵ Never assume that your agenda and the reporter’s agenda are alike. You have a prepared point of view, but the reporter has a series of questions that may go beyond the scope of your agenda. Early in the interview you must try to build a bridge between the two agendas.

✵ You are not obliged to reveal confidential information, but don’t dismiss the query with “No comment.” Give a rational explanation as to the proprietary nature of some of your information.

✵ In news interviews, be friendly, be brief, be direct, and be positive.

✵ Avoid jargon, speak plainly, and use examples and illustrations expressed in laymen’s terms.

✵ Stay composed at all times. Part of the reporter’s armament is to throw you off balance, so stay calm and stick to your point of view with short, clear answers.

✵ Whether it’s a TV, radio, or print interview, say what you have to say, then stop. It’s the reporter’s problem to come up with the next question. Generally, the tougher the question, the shorter your answer should be.

✵ Dress conservatively. Don’t let your wardrobe overwhelm your words.

✵ A practical formula for interviews runs thusly: Q = A + 1. A question is asked (Q). Reply with a brief answer (A). Then add a point or points (+ 1), preferably from your prepared agenda.

✵ You can ask a reporter if you can review his text of the interview, but don’t request changes in his writing style.

✵ The more inflammatory the journalist, the cooler you should be.

✵ If a reporter uses negative, hypothetical, or incorrect words in a question, don’t legitimize them by repeating them in your answer.

✵ Develop three levels, or “tiers,” for each answer, to the most challenging questions that may be asked by a reporter: Tier A is a short summary of your position. Tier B is a concrete example or fact to back up your summary. Tier C is a further elaboration and another supporting statement. If a reporter pushes you further, go back to tier A.

✵ Audiences have a short attention span, so cut to the heart of the matter.

✵ In all interviews, don’t give in to pressure to go beyond the bounds of your stated position.

Questions/Exercises for Discussion and Reflection

Ask a friend or colleague to conduct a mock media interview with you on a subject related to your work or interests. Make a list of at least three proactive points you’d want to communicate if you met with the press. Play devil’s advocate and also list the areas where you might be vulnerable to criticism or tough probing. How skillful are you at implementing the Q = A + 1 formula explained in this book? Ask the interviewer for feedback (or, if you’ve recorded the interview, come to your own conclusions). How successful were you at presenting a positive composite message, one in which your style and substance worked well together? Did you say anything quotable? Returning to the concept of the “guest meter,” where would you rate (boring, okay, interesting, memorable, book this person back)? Did you say or do anything you’d regret if the interview were broadcast or printed? Review this chapter again and pinpoint areas where you might improve your media interviewing skills.



✵ Remember: We’re all human and vulnerable. Show that side of yourself to others and they’ll be more sympathetic to you.

Questions/Exercises for Discussion and Reflection

Arrogance defeats likability. Speakers succeed only if audiences allow them to succeed. This will happen only if the speaker sincerely tries to communicate with the audience, as opposed to acting full of self-importance. Does arrogance ever creep into your communication? Remember: Audiences will respond more favorably to a genuine, human approach.


1. Eugene B. McDaniel with James Johnson, Scars and Stripes (Philadelphia and New York: A. J. Holman Company, 1975), p. 40.

2. Nick Jordan, “The Face of Feeling,” Psychology Today 20, no. 1 (January 1986), p. 8.

3. Robert O. Skovgard, ed., Openings (Dayton, Ohio: The Executive Speaker Co., 1984), p. 24.

4. Ibid., p. 14.

5. Ibid., p. 4.

6. Ibid., p. 2.

7. Gerald Gardner, All the President’s Wits: The Power of Presidential Humor (New York: Beech Tree Books, William Morrow Publishing, 1986), p. 222.

8. Ibid., p. 137.

9. Ibid., p. 37.

10. Ibid., p. 20.

11. James Brady, “In Step with Perry King,” Parade, February 8, 1987, p. 22.

12. Robert O. Skovgard, “Summaries and Closings,” The Executive Speaker 7, no. 1 (January 1986), p. 9.

13. Skovgard, Openings, p. 36.

14. Ibid., p. 26.

15. Lou Cannon, Reporting: An Inside View (Sacramento: California Journal Press, 1977), p. 5.

16. Thomas Griffith, How True: A Skeptic’s Guide to Believing the News (Boston: Little, Brown & Company, 1974), p. 7.

17. Bill Hunter, “The Softening of Business Communication,” IABC Communication World 2, no. 2 (February 1985), p. 29.