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“Why are you a political puppet?”


Ben Jourdan

Arch Lustberg is a man who loves the spoken word. However, Arch believes the communication skills needed to be a great orator are declining drastically among today’s political leaders, businessmen and women, and society as a whole.

Perhaps this is why, at 87 years young, Arch is still a committed leader in the field of dynamic communications.  He has coached congressional leaders, presidential appointees, and business tycoons on effective communication. He is also the author of four best-selling books and numerous audio and videotapes that have brought his techniques to thousands of companies, associations, offices, universities, and homes. Plain and simple, this man’s training gets results.

At first glance you would never expect the amount of utter enthusiasm that pours from Arch when he speaks. I had the opportunity to sit for two hours and watch Arch coach 39 western state legislators during a session for the 2011 Western Legislative Academy held at Penrose House. Microphone in hand and camera rolling, Arch, acting as a reporter, would pedantically ask an unsuspecting state legislator, “Why are you a political puppet?” or, “Why is your caucus a disaster?” Reactions varied, of course, but a defensive tone rang out from all legislators when answering his questions. After the activity, Arch expressed how all the common responses given were poor ones and explained why.

Arch covered four main pieces of advice when addressing the responses given by the legislators.  First, pausing is key. Let your mind process the question. Don’t jump into an answer so quickly. Not doing this usually produces responses that haunt politicians for the rest of their careers.

Second, maintain eye contact and make it intentional.  Don’t give the interviewer the “stare of death” but relax your facial muscles and arch your brows to show that you are attentive and interested in the questions. 

Third—my personal favorite—don’t repeat any negative buzz words that interviewers may include in their questions. Arch suggests that repeat negative buzz words, no matter what answer is given, will cause the audience to associate those words with your name. Change the emotion of the conversation and escape the buzz words.

Fourth and finally, give the interviewer honest, positive, and caring information. This may seem like common sense, but when you get an offensive question like, “How did you buy your seat in the legislature?” common sense may drift away.

Ultimately the session was by far the best guidance I have received concerning public speaking. And I witnessed these politicians transform their communication skills right before my eyes. 

The Western Legislative Academy brings together a small class of western state legislators in their first four years of service for an intensive three-day training experience Click here to learn more.