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Discussion > What makes a good communicator

I criticised Lindzen today and said he was a bad communicator (in the Al Jazeera thread) my comments went down like a lead balloon ^.^
Probably like most people on the blog I am a student of life; I watch people, observe what they do, try to figure out why they do it and whether it works. I also watch myself and try and understand why I do things.

I have observed many conversations at management level in the company I worked for where one was explaining to another how and why a certain task should be performed. At the end of the conversations both parties walked away perfectly happy, one because he had explained what was needed and the other because he now understood what was needed. In many cases both were wrong.

The objective of communication is to transfer facts/feelings/ideas/dangers/commands etc from one person to another but it is only successful if at the end, the recipient has the exact same facts/feelings/ideas/dangers/commands in his mind.
There are hundreds of reasons why communication breaks down but I will just list a few.

The communicator does not ask questions to check whether the recipient has got the message.

The communicator speaks normally form his own knowledge and experience without considering the knowledge/experience of his audience

The communicator is more interested in impressing his audience than communicating.

The communicator lacks humour/charisma/basically is boring.

The communicator does not fully understand his subject.

Being a bad communicator is not a crime and some people just can not do it successfully.

If you want to sell something (and people on this blog are very interested in selling the truth about climate) then you need to be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of your sales force ^.^

Jul 13, 2013 at 4:55 PM | Registered CommenterDung

I think it's more of an issue for the other side, tbh.

Whenever an article is billed as being by a "climate communicator", you can bet within a couple of paragraphs it's talking about "deniers" or issuing amateur psychiatric diagnoses to explain why someone may claim disbelief in the "97% consensus".

Jul 13, 2013 at 5:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterTurning Tide


you saw an EDITED debate...

Given Hassan's attacks on Lindzen, he did very well.. about 2/3rds of Hassans fossil fuel, consensus, merchants of doubts relentles attacks on Lindzen were edited out...

don't judge by an edit. no he is not brilliant, he would say so himself.. but so what.

Jul 13, 2013 at 6:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

1. Tell them what you are going to say.
2. Say it.
3. Tell them what it was you said.
4. Ask them what it was you said.

Jul 13, 2013 at 6:43 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

I think you are making the unwarranted asumption that Lindzen was aiming to achieve the same things that you would have aimed to achieve had you been in that seat. Similarly for the other speakers. On the whole I though everyone did fine except for Mehdi Hassan, who came over as arrogant, ignorant, and a bit of a jerk, and David Rose who was more angry than was wise given the venue, and who really shouldn't have mentioned the inquisition (Galileo was fine, inquisition was not).

Jul 13, 2013 at 9:50 PM | Registered CommenterJonathan Jones

One who tells the story, imparts his/her development chronologically, the learning and fears, takes the audience on the same journey as they have experienced.

And ends with "Donald Rumsfeld"

Jul 13, 2013 at 10:04 PM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

Al Jazeera are not allowing my comments, despite me attending the debate by their invitation!

I merely reposted Myles Allen's criticism of Mehdir Hassan

Jul 13, 2013 at 10:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

Jonathan Jones

I didn't even consider what I would have done I simply made a comment about Lindzen and it was not particularly related to his performance on Al Jazeera, it was based on many videos I have seen of him.

The power wielded by great communicators is huge ; Churchill, Hitler and JFK just to mention three and it is totally unrelated to other skills that a person may have. I watched Lindzen in a debate where Gavin Schmitt was part of the opposing side, I watched him in The great Global Warming Swindle and in his presentation in the House of Commons. His House of Commons presentation was perhaps the best demonstration of what I am trying to say.
The accepted view on BH has been that with the possible exception of Graham Stringer, no MP has much of a clue about climate science. However Lindzen's presentation was quite technical even if we might all think it was simple stuff.
Try and think back to before you took an interest in climate science, whatever your own specialised knowledge you faced a steep learning curve if you wanted to get your head round it. Lindzen does not seem to grasp that and so his presentation will have gone right over the heads of almost all those who attended.

Jul 14, 2013 at 1:29 AM | Registered CommenterDung

What we need is someone who is highly intelligent and knowledgeable enough about all the different aspects of CAGW to be able to filter out all the useable facts and collate them into a coherent form. The person has to be reasonably good looking and presentable enough to portray a person people can trust in. They should have a nice speaking voice and be assertive without being pushy or mouthy. They must not talk too fast when conveying important points nor too slow so as to bore the listener. A bonus wold be if this person already had celebrity status but they must not have done anything that might be used against them. They need to use language that is simple enough to understand but technical enough to impress. This person needs to be understanding of warmist fears and able to ease those concerns rather than deride them. He or she must be able to demonstrate that they have no vested interest in keeping fossil fuels or a wealthy lifestyle, ideally this must extend back two or three familial generations. The person needs a near perfect memory for figures, research citations and web locations. Ideally the person would be immensely self assured so that they could go into hostile environments like a BBC Newsnight studio and be badgered by aggressive journalists but still act as if they were having a relaxed debate with a family friend. But most important of all, this individual must be highly qualified in one of the climate science fields; have diverged from the mainstream enough to want to speak out; and have supreme confidence that they should risk credibility, money and peace of mind for a cause that will in all probability run it’s course, no matter what, because it has reached the status of a religion.

Or we could make do with what we’ve got.

Or we could help by marshalling all the best arguments so that anyone put in this position can bring them to mind at the drop of a hat?

Jul 14, 2013 at 8:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2


Thank-you for your stout defence of my right to make strong comments on this blog. It's a pity we have a self-appointed prefect who is at various times unnecessarily rude and has the RC habit of putting words into the mouths of others.

You are right, great communication skills are vital in all areas of life, personal, business, politics etc. Academics are generally, though not always, mediocre in this area.

Jul 14, 2013 at 9:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Hewitt

Your points about successful communication are fine. I’m not sure they matter much in the context of a TV debate that was never going to be seen by more than a few motivated people whse minds are already made up.
The uncommitted, uninformed viewer will have seen a rude, pushy interviewer constantly interrupting a very professory professor. I decided to become a climate sceptic when I read Monbiot being rude about Booker. Since then it’s been confirmation bias all the way ;-)
More important than who’s got the presentation skills is the question of who’s considered as having the authority to speak for us. Montford’s invitation to speak to the parliamentary committee is a big step forward for scepticism. He probably won’t bowl them over with his rhetorical flourishes, but I bet he’ll change a few minds about the nature of us pointy-headed swivel-eyed sceptics.

Jul 14, 2013 at 12:30 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers


You are probably right on all counts and reading your list of required skills and attributes means only the man of steel could fit the bill ^.^ A famous stereotype is the absent minded professor who rewrites relativity in a morning and then can't remember where he parked his car. I guess we are stuck with what we have got but also we should realise that some are far better than others at putting over our views.
I am not convinced at all though that a relevant qualification is required (there so many separate sections of physics, chemistry, biology, geology, meteorology, mathematics, statistics, astronomy and many more I am sure) and I think what you need is someone intelligent enough and well educated enough to quickly grasp any and all of the subjects. If I had to pick one I would say mathematics because that skill is needed in all the other areas but I think you underestimate communication hehe.

Jul 14, 2013 at 3:22 PM | Registered CommenterDung

John Hewitt

No problem standing up for what is obviously right but you should know that Richard and I have previous ^.^ He is in many ways a remarkable man but he does have a nasty side that leaps out now and again.

Jul 14, 2013 at 3:30 PM | Registered CommenterDung