The Winning Voice

Best in class communication techniques from Michael Kelly

Kevin Spacey – ‘Do you have a heart?’

‘Do you have a heart?’

This is a memorable line spoken by Kevin Spacey during his interview with Charlie Rose.

Below is the link to the clip (see ‘Here is the CLIP’)  of the 34:39 minute interview.

There are several sections of the clip that resonated with me.

  • Overall, just as Spacey owns scenes in his acting, he owns this conversation with Rose. He’s playful, witty, solid, unrushed, passionate, flippant – readily accessing ideas and conveying them through sparkling eyes, vitality and swagger in his face, body language and gesturing.

  • The clip at the 10:38 >  12:11 minute section cuts to Spacey working with actors in a master class. He says:

‘. . . if you want it to land and make an impact (ie. your performance). . .  if you want those f*** to remember you . . . you’ve got to let it hurt sometime . . .  because that’s all an audience ever wants . . . is to

open up your chest and show them you have a heart’.

This comment aligns to some of my prior posts, Owning a scene – James Spader, where I share the quote from Horace: ‘If you want me to weep, you must first feel grief yourself’.

In essence, from your heart, do you care about what you’re saying, and if so how much.

Of course, acting is different than interactions in business. (though as Shakespeare wrote, ‘All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players’). Having a ‘heart’ is important in business. The problem is, that most executives bottle-up their emotions.

  • At the 12:32 > 12:49 section Spacey says, ‘that is a note I need to really hear myself . . . that is a point I have forsaken for a while’.  Here, is saying the message he delivered to his class, was advice he needed to hear.

Have you had any of those moments? When you realise in the moment that you need to do what you’re telling a direct report to do. My view is that the quotation, ‘Practice what you preach’ is backward. It should be,

‘Preach what you practice’.

That is, don’t preach it, until you’re already practising it yourself.

  • At the 13:05 > 17:01 section Spacey describes an experience where he drew out a powerful performance from a shy woman in one of his acting classes. In the section Spacey says, ‘I could feel the whole room go like this’ (moving his body forward). That is, he felt the audience being physically and emotionally drawn to, and compelled to listen more closely to the speaker.

The point of bringing this up is this.

With practice you can become aware when an audience is being drawn more closely to your messages – when the audience is ‘with’ you. A starting point in developing this awareness is to use pauses in your speaking to ‘tune in’ to the audience. Pause a fraction longer between sentences, and observe the audience. Are they leaning in?

Regularly I in my business pitch consulting and workshops with clients I speak the below quotation from the The 50th Law by Robert Greene and  50 cent. The audience always physically and emotionally tunes in to me during this recitation.

The Fearless Approach

What he had discovered was simple: When you submit in spirit to aggressors or to an unjust and impossible situation, you do not buy yourself any real peace. You encourage people to go further, to take more from you, to use you for their own purposes.

They sense your lack of self-respect and they feel justified in mistreating you. When you are humble you reap the wages of humility.  You must develop the opposite – a fighting stance that comes from deep within and cannot be shaken. You force some respect.

This is how it is in life for everyone: people will take from you what they can. If they sense that you are the type of person who accepts and submits, they will push and push until they have established an exploitative relationship with you.  Some will do this overtly; others are more slippery and passive aggressive.

You must demonstrate to them that there are lines that cannot be crossed. They will pay a price for trying to push you around.  This comes from you attitude fearless and always prepared to fight. It radiates outward and can be read in your manner without you have to speak a word.

By a paradoxical law of human nature, trying to please people less, will make them more likely in the long run to respect and treat you better.’

Other notable points in the rest of the clip, were:

  • How just one sentence from Jack Lemmon gave Spacey the belief to pursue an acting career.
  • How acting daily in a stage play allowed him to take on the role of Frank Underwood in the  House of Cards series
  • ‘The act of being watched changes the game’.
  • How practice allows a ‘player’ to access new technique++

Here is the CLIP


Own the Conversation

In the next seven days adapt one of the above points. How could you put more heart in your speaking? Listen to yourself speaking and consider if you need to hear and act on what you’re saying, or pause a fraction more and see if the audience is drawn to you


++ check out this post about how to Access new techniques

#You might want to trial my Confident Personal Communication video learning programme because it will give you practical techniques to ‘Own the Conversation’.

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