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Analysing the interview: Justin Trudeau

The other day I was working with a client, and I gave him a section from a political commentary article to read aloud.  He glanced over the article, which was about Justin Trudeau and the recent Liberal Party leadership race.  We briefly chatted about Trudeau’s famous father and the current buzz around the newly elected Liberal Party leader.  My client said that he wasn’t too sure about Justin Trudeau;  I replied “I don’t think Trudeau is too sure about Trudeau.”

After we were done for the evening, I thought more about what I had said and why I said it.  After all, I actually know very little about the man, not having following his political career with much interest.  This man has many factors in his favour when it comes to establishing a high-office political career.  He is well-practiced: the Liberal Party has been grooming him for this for some time and he is already familiar with the glare of the media lens.  He is a young, fresh face for a new generation of voters.  He is tall, handsome, well-educated, and well-spoken with honed presentation skills – these give him the sort of charisma politicians need to sway voters.

My opinion was formed based on an interview between Peter Mansbridge and Trudeau which I watched the night before. There was something odd about that interview, something that made me feel that Trudeau is as yet too green in his career to be able to make a reasonable stab at the position of Prime Minister.  The feeling of unease came almost entirely from the way Trudeau spoke during the interview.

As I am a big fan of analysing performances to figure out why they have the effect they do, I will give you the analysis of the interview and how it affected my opinion of him.

In the interview in question (you can watch it here), I saw a young man  – a young man who is being called out by his opponents as lacking in experience and judgement – take on an air of erudite casualness that seemed more appropriate for the owner of a social media start-up than for a potential Prime Minister.  He sits far back in the club chair, which brings down the energy of the room and the viewers.  His shirt sleeves are rolled up, reinforcing an image that is more “Google-employee” than “party leader”.  I suspect the look was intended to radiate calm confidence, but for me the confidence came across as forced.  Casualness is not the same as confidence, and it looked as though he was trying just a little too hard, which made me wonder just how confident he really is.

Next was the manner in which he spoke.  He has a pleasant voice and uses gestures well.  I thought he spoke particularly well during the pre-interview segment, in which Trudeau and Mansbridge conversed while walking down an Ottawa street.  It could be that the physical activity of walking helped focus Trudeau’s energy.  During the sit-down interview portion, however, there was a marked change in the speech style.  His energy seemed to get the better of him and his rate of speech kept increasing as the interview went on.  He clearly called on his stage training in terms of breathing, but eventually the pace caught up with him.  By the end of the interview, I found his breathing distracting.  Additionally, his tone began to lilt upwards more and more often as the interview progressed.  The sincere passion that his voice had at the start was replaced with notes of dismissive incredulity.  Combine these two changes with eyebrows that were usually knit upwards, and I was left with the impression of a breathy, wide-eyed man making his first foray into local politics.  This does not exactly inspire confidence in this particular voter.

Initially, I was prepared to like what he had to say in the interview.  Unfortunately, by the end of it, I felt as though Trudeau himself was uncertain of what his new position of Liberal Party Leader meant to him.

I’m not writing off Trudeau as a politician just yet.  He is green, and it is possible he will grow to be a responsible official with sound judgement and leadership qualities.  It is impossible to determine his strengths and weaknesses based off of one interview given early in his leadership career.  That being said, however, it is worth noting how my reservations were developed.  If we understand why other people leave the impressions they do, it better enables us to figure out how we can give the impression we actually want.


What is your opinion of the interview?