Famous Last Words: He Listens With His Mouth …
I am a news junkie. My take on cable and network news coverage:
• Dullest newscaster: Wolf Blitzer
• Best newscaster: Mika Brzezinski
• Most miscast newscaster: Katie Couric
• Best interviewer: Tim Russert
• Worst interviewer: Chris Matthews
• Most fascinating: Chris Matthews
• Most irritating: Chris Matthews
The Chris Matthews Enigma
Chris Matthews, star of “Hardball” (MSNBC, weeknights) and “The Chris Matthews Show” (NBC, weekends), may be the smartest guy on television. He is an expert on history and politics (he was top dog on the staff of legendary House Speaker Tip O’Neill for a number of years), knows everybody in Washington, and can drop historical nuggets into a conversation with dazzling facility.
At the same time, his idea of framing a question is to make a long, prejudicial statement and then ask his guest to comment on what was just said. Whereupon he will interrupt and interrupt some more. As someone once said, Chris Matthews listens with his mouth. His enthusiasm and perpetual good humor not only are infectious, but also are inversely proportional to his ratings, which generally are terrible, probably because his overpowering persona is about showing off how smart he is rather than eliciting information from his guests.
That said, Matthews’ new book, “Life’s a Campaign,” is worth reading for what we in business can learn from the savvy politicians he has spent a lifetime studying. A sampling:
•Every door that swings wide for you has somebody on the other side opening it. The principle to remember here is that once a person has made a bet on you, they’re likely to do it again. Hiring someone is a very personal thing. It’s buying stock in someone else’s success. The key is to think of each person who gives you a job or promotion as a stockholder, someone who has a deep investment in you.
• You may notice in the course of your career certain people becoming cool to you. Try not to take it personally. For whatever reason, they’ve become your rivals. They envy what you’ve got, or they fear you’re after what they’ve got.
• Ten Second Rule: No matter how great the temptation to spit out a snappy response or clever thought, COUNT TO TEN before you do. This is especially true if you’re angry.
Non-listener Matthews on the Need to Listen
According to Matthews, one of the great listeners of our time is Bill Clinton:
As a college student at Georgetown, Bill was famous for being able to read the professors. He would wow his classmates by predicting just what questions would be on the exams. That’s because he listened in class, really heard what the professors most cared about. This is something I’ve been telling my kids: Pay attention to what the teacher personally is trying to teach.
Prior to her run for office, 49 percent of New Yorkers were “bothered” that Hillary Clinton was not a resident of the state, with 53 percent sure that she did not “understand the issues and problems” of New York. The poll also told the Clintons—54 percent to 32 percent—that voters preferred Hillary to listen to them rather than state her positions on the issues. The Clintons came up with Hillary’s famous “Listening Tour.” Matthews:
The strategy was a masterstroke. The people of upstate New York, long ignored by the clamorous politicians of Manhattan, now had someone whose ears were open to them. Evita had come to the mountain.
The bottom line: Listen to your customers and prospects. You’ll win their hearts, minds, orders and … their loyalty.
Denny Hatch is a freelance direct marketing consultant and copywriter. Visit him at www.dennyhatch.com, or contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.