A few weeks back, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard gave a speech in Parliament that has gone viral on YouTube – with over 2 million views – and perhaps changed the nature of the debate about sexism in Australia. Fellow speech coach Claire Duffy brought it to my attention and I’ve been studying the speech since, because it’s a wonderful example of how to get angry effectively in public. So, if you’re going to blow off some steam, take these 5 lessons from Prime Minister Gillard on how to do it well. Watch Gillard as she eviscerates the opposition leader for his sexist attitude and utterances.
1. Get angry, but stay controlled. What makes Prime Minister Gillard’s anger so effective is that she doesn’t lose control. She’s white hot, but she doesn’t yell or cry or do any of those things that people out of control do. The result is far more effective than hysterics.
2. Get both the emotion and the logic right. Gillard’s marshalling of the evidence of her opponent’s instances of sexism and misogyny is impressive and detailed. The speech goes on too long for YouTube, but they run on a different clock in Parliament, so Gillard has a chance to document every mistake the opposition leader has ever made.
What’s fascinating to watch is the reaction of the opposition leader, Tony Abbott, to Gillard’s speech. At first, he’s all smiles and scorn. But as Gillard proceeds to take him apart, and the minutes roll by, he goes from defiance to defeat in a wonderful display of public emotion that is all the more interesting because he’s trying so hard not to show it.
3. Watch your vocal pitch when you’re angry. We all have a tendency to raise our voices in pitch as well as volume when we’re angry. The result is that our vocal tones become less authoritative. President Obama has this issue – in his debates, the more his pitch rose in arguing with Romney, the less presidential he sounded. Especially in the first two debates.
Gillard, on the other hand, keeps her voice well modulated and in a low register of her range. That makes her voice strong and authoritative. She sounds like a leader.
4. Use the admonishing forefinger with extreme care. As Claire notes in her blog on the topic, generally the admonishing forefinger is one of the few gestures that good speech coaches will tell you specifically not to use. We all hate it; it’s widely disliked in cultures around the world because it’s a scolding gesture, and no one likes to be scolded. In this case, I would have coached Gillard to use the forefinger a little less, but she’s to be forgiven because her anger makes the admonishments OK.
The most effective use would have been once only, at the end of her speech, and had she done that she would have put Abbott away for good.
5. If you’re taking someone to task, talk to that person, but don’t forget the audience. Many of us are uncomfortable with anger, especially in public, and we’ll often avoid making eye contact with the object of our fury because it’s easier to unload if you block out the other. But Gillard does the right thing. She looks at Abbott directly throughout the speech.
And yet she doesn’t forget that the point of a public speech is that you’re addressing the whole public, not just the object of your anger. Gillard shifts her body and eye contact effectively to include the whole audience throughout her talk.
Anger is powerful when it’s done right. Study this brilliant speech for how to do it.