Speaking Secrets Analysis of Army Chief David Morrison – Behind the Badass

Yes it’s true. Even in this day and age, we are living in a world occupied by bullies, bigots and sexist pigs!

This brings up a key question and the topic of today’s video speech analysis, how do you effectively respond to such people?

Before I introduce the analysis, I should categorically state bullying sickens me and I see it as a major act of cowardice. The reason I mention this now is because during any video analysis, my job as an observer is to remain neutral in relation to values being displayed. My role is to assess what is happening and its effect.

Overall, I am in agreement with the words and actions of the ‘Chief of Army’ and his ‘badass’ (as others have claimed) response is an interesting one. However, what is much more important for our purposes is how does he delivers his message.

 

INSTRUCTIONS

Below you will find my audio analysis of the video. Play the audio and then when instructed play and pause the video underneath it as suggested by the audio. In simple terms, play the audio and follow my directions.

Alternatively, there is also a transcript of my analysis under the video. If you wish to read it along with the audio, or read it without the audio, I suggest you open this page up in a new browser so you have two of the same pages on your screen and can watch the video with one and read along with the other.

Audio:

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TRANSCRIPT

What do you do when the reputation of the organization you love, live and breathe every day is publicly crushed? What happens when your key values are utterly degraded, as if spat on by the foolish and ignorant actions of others? With your back slammed up against the wall and your pride and that of your organization’s at stake, you are going to need to respond. But how?

Do nothing and you will be seen as weak and possibly in favor of the bad behavior. If your response is too strong, you and your organization will be seen as out of control.

I’m Aleks George Srbinoski, Fulfilling Happiness Psychologist and “Accidental Entrepreneur” and welcome to today’s confidence and influence video analysis. As you will find out, I am fascinated by human potential and a keen observer of human behavior. My goal with this analysis is to help you understand the key overt and covert components of confidence, influence and effective communication.

First – the context! The video you are about to watch is of the Australian Chief of Army – David Morrison making an announcement about the values of his organization, after it was released that the Army suspended 3 people over a series of “explicit, derogatory, demeaning and repugnant” emails, that were both highly sexist and bullying in nature. The case at the time of his video release involves about 100 Army personnel.

By the way – that is all I know myself about this story and I know nothing in advance about David Morrison. The whole goal of this video analysis is to help you learn about who someone is and the mechanics behind how they deliver their message with no background information.

Let’s begin…
Play video now…
Pause at 21 seconds

The first thing you notice is that he is gets straight to the point. There is no introduction, no welcome message. There simply is no time for any of that as this matter is just too serious. There has been a massive alleged misdemeanor made by army officers and it has tarnished the reputation of not only the current army but past officers as well.

To help guide you through this speech I’m going to refer to a simple model to help you understand the layers behind the speech. For this reason, I have called it PEEL.

PEEL stands for

Physical (which includes expression, clothing and environment),

Emotion,

Energy and

Language.

I will be referring to these components throughout.

In terms of physical we already have some interesting insights. The background is brown and rather bland so all attention is drawn on him. There is no flag or other symbols such a presentation may usually have. This is the first physical sign to indicate that this speech has not been overly-planned and is meant to come off as natural. Adding to this, he is wearing battle fatigues rather than a more formal type of uniform. He is trying to be more relatable by appearing to be just like any other soldier, even though he is not.

I had you pause it right at 21 seconds so you could notice the facial expression. This is clearly an anger expression. The eyebrows are furrowed inward to create a glare in the eyes and the lips are pressed tightly which is common to anger. However, what is important to know is behind the emotion of anger is hurt. People become angry when the rules they live by are violated. The slight arching down of the lips indicate he could also be restraining a sense of disappointment and sadness. I already get the sense this is what we are going to see throughout the speech. A firm voice or restrained anger and hints of sadness leaking through as well.

Play on…
Pause at 46 seconds to see a much more intense anger expression.
Play on…
Pause at 55 seconds and there you will see a brief indication of sadness following anger on the face with the lips arching down much more and also in those last words, their is a slight weakening in voice firmness on the words ‘stands for’. At this stage you can also here in the language how direct it all is. Every single word has been carefully thought out and designed to be direct and strong.

Play on…
(55 – 59 seconds) Head is subtly shaking, clearly he disagrees with the conduct he is speaking about.
Play on…
Pause – 1:20 – Very important statement here just before 1:20.
Play

Pause at 1:28 – now he moves into the history of the organization and the stresses put upon it. Here he is attempting to express how credible and important the organization is and gives a lot of vital background in just that one statement.
Play
Pause: 1:41 – Here he offers simple and direct praise to female officers.
Play
Pause: 1:46 – ‘Get out’. The key statement has just been made, clearly the most important message of the speech so far and a rise in intensity now looks imminent.
Play

Pause 2:09 – Fantastic, several things have just happened. First, in just one sentence, if you notice someone degrading another, “show moral courage and take a stand against it”, he has just revealed the purpose of the speech. It is a call to action to rise up against oppression and he is calling on all viewers to do so. In one aspect this is related to his organization, but the reality is this is a human message directed at all people.

His emotional state changed in that statement as well. There was a touch a desperation in it, slightly pleading, but rather than make him sound weak, it has the opposite effect of increasing his strength because that twinge of desperation shows his fear and humanity. It is the most authentically made statement so far is quite heart wrenching. The persona as the army strong officer remains but that little crack in the armor gives us an insight into the level of pain felt.

Play
Pause – 2:18 – Now he elaborates on his position with a slight increase in energy and carefully selected and elegant language.
Play

Pause – 2:28 Now comes the language contrast and the psychological call to arms. We have gone from elegance to simple and direct fighting language. “I will be ruthless.” He has dived in and immersed himself back into the full persona of the strong military leader and has started speaking like a man at war and is calling on the listener’s support. He has already indicated that it is your human duty to follow the values he is espousing so in order to remain consistent, especially if you have agreed with what he has said so far, you would be nodding your head and sharing some of that angry feeling he has been demonstrating through the speech.

As I often say, emotions are contagious and he has been leading you to this very moment, the implication being if you are a strong and good person, you will join him on his quest promote respectable behavior and police derogatory behavior.

Play
Pause – 2:32 – “The standard you walk past, is the standard you accept” – right there, that simple, direct and catchy phrase provides the perfect summary in one line.
Play

Pause – 2:58 – If you don’t want to follow these values than get out! These sentences are controlled but still passionate battle cries. With the majority of the audience fully on board by now, this is the time to add fuel to the emotional fires that have been set.
Play

Pause – 3:06 – “There is no place for you amongst this band of brothers and sisters”. Another simple and easy line to remember and a great summary of the purpose of the message. A very stern controlled anger look follows the line and then the screen quickly fades to black, a message implying that certain people are not welcome and will be stamped out.

SUMMARY

This was a really powerful speech about a very sensitive issue. Going back to PEEL.

Physical (Environment, clothing, body language)
Emotions
Energy
Language

Notice how the video was set up. Simple bland background, but also conveniently complimentary to his uniform and his message to come. He is wearing a battle uniform that simply offers his name and the Australian flag. No indication of rank is given on his uniform that can be seen, he is to appear like everyone else but from the very beginning, we see how he is not. The only thing that moves is his face so all your attention will be drawn to it and the words that come from him.

The guiding emotion is anger, with hints of sadness at times and the energy remains relatively stable for the most part but intensifies mildly during key points. Finally, the language is very simple and direct. He is sometimes elegant in his idealistic expressions but then as the emotional intensity and anger rises and he becomes impassioned, the language becomes even more simple and direct as he declares his intentions to do battle with those who oppose the espoused values.

Finally, in terms of structure, there is a very powerful pattern that you will often see. The speech starts with a strong statement that acts as a headline. Since the story is so sensational as it is, all he has to do is directly state what happened. Then the required background information is given to bring the audience up to speed before the purpose of the speech is declared. Once the audience understands the purpose of the speech, which will always relate in some way to the need to overcome a problem, a declaration of required change is made, and strategies in relation to how that change will be made are (usually) offered.

(I have switched tense here to draw listener in) By this time, if you have done your job correctly, your audience should be on your side and eager to join your cause and so are now open to you amplifying the intensity of your message by increasing your level of commitment and passion towards the cause.

A quick side note here, passion does not necessarily mean you get your audience jumping up and down with excitement. Unlike what you see in American military movies, the average Australian does not connect well to highly excitable behavior. At least not without a considerable warm up. His passion was more of a steely and firm increase in intensity which I feel was very appropriate for the issue being dealt with.

Lastly, you end with a simple summary and preferably an easily memorable and repeatable set of statements that encompass your entire message.

The other question to end on is based on this speech what can we infer about David Morrison. To put it bluntly, he is a proud man and he is pissed off! If you go into a lion’s cage and mock it, as soon as it gets out, your head will be the first one to come off. This man believes in himself, his work and the history of his organization. His values cross all contexts which means he’s the kind of guy to take things personally. If you insult his organization, in essence you are also insulting him. He is clearly angry, hurt, disappointed and saddened but he appears to thrive on such stress and challenge.

He is an action taker, and ready at the drop of a hat to fight for what he believes in. That kind of attitude probably got him in trouble at times in his younger days but now as an older and wiser man, he knows how to restrain himself and plan out his engagements. He is highly persuasive and whether you agree with him or not, he will do everything he can to complete his mission.

 

YOUR CONTRIBUTION

Do you have any questions or comments? Perhaps there is something I missed, or something you would like to add to the conversation. If so, make a comment below and I’ll respond to you.

Also feel free to share this post with others. You could send out a personal letter to 10 other people highlighting why they must read this post right now or if that is too hard, I’ll accept a ‘like’ and ‘share’ etc with your preferred social media channels ;)

6 Responses to “Speaking Secrets Analysis of Army Chief David Morrison – Behind the Badass”

  1. An interesting analysis of what an effect ‘PEEL’ can have on how a speech is delivered. It would have been easy for him to become defensive about the situation, or even to justify the actions of the ADF members. In healthcare, bullying and harassing behaviour is also very common. As a medical recruiter, I see this a lot. This is an excellent example of outstanding leadership.
    Thanks for drawing attention to the various aspects of this speech that make it memorable and hard-hitting.

  2. aleks Reply

    Thanks for your input Shaun :) That’s true, it is easy to become defensive when your being heavily scrutinized. He didn’t do that, and that is part of the reason why he was able to obtain so many fans with his message. He took the more courageous and highly non-politician like approach of calling it what it is, and declaring to do what it takes to make it right.

  3. I found it really useful watching the video along with the transcript. I never really thought about the depth and range there is to anger as an emotion. Looking at the things you pointed out in Morrison’s address reminded me how powerful and important these subtle variations in emotion can be.

  4. aleks Reply

    Very true James. The anger is there through out. Anger is not just about exploding at someone, there are many variations. His restrained anger was typical of someone who has had their morality based rules broken. However, usually people than don’t have to make a speech whilst feeling that way – which is part of the reason his was so interesting. He is controlling his anger, but it is clearly a challenge. This makes the speech more authentic.

  5. luis Reply

    Thank you Aleks for the post. I find the PEEL structure very useful for my own applications. I am also very interested in reading people like that, I will enjoy following these posts

  6. aleks Reply

    Glad you enjoyed it Luis. It’s always useful to work with a simple structure that you can easily refer back to when analyzing a subject. I figured PEEL would be a good model for this example. As for reading people – it is an art and a science, but it’s also about paying attention. Just working on being fully present with people will help you connect to what they are feeling more easily.

Leave a Reply to Shaun Hughston