Viswa Sadasivan is Editor-in-Chief for Inconvenient Questions, a former Nominated MP of the Singapore Parliament and a former TV current affairs host. The views expressed here are his own.
Being likeable is not difficult, is it? Yet, why is it that I am finding so many politicians appearing unlikeable during the rallies – even those I know to be reasonably nice people. Quite sad, actually.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not talking about those who try very hard to show care and concern and end up looking totally plastic. Neither am I talking about the politicians who are clearly too well prepped by spin doctors and end up smiling awkwardly, raising their voices at inappropriate moments, speaking broken English (ostensibly to connect with the crowd), showing off their mastery of multiple languages, or in some cases even crying.
What our politicians need to come to terms with is: your audience may not all have strong academic credentials, but we are not dumb! We can tell a worthy politician from a ‘wayang king’ (‘drama king’) or a charlatan. Nobody likes being talked down to, patronised or, worse, treated like an idiot. And the more you come at us with highly curated speeches delivered in a rehearsed fashion, the higher the possibility that we won’t just like you less, but actually start disliking you.
And this is the reality, guys – whether you like it or not. If I like you I am more inclined to believe what you say, and even make excuses for you when you fumble or stumble. If I don’t like you, here’s what will happen. My mind will build barriers to shut out what you say – no matter how correct your facts and figures are and regardless of how polished your presentation. In fact, if I don’t like you, I will find reasons to dislike you every time you say or do something. To believe that the human mind (especially when it interfaces with the heart, which does happen every now and then) thinks and behaves rationally all the time is a dangerous assumption.
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