Jesse and Matt discuss Adam Grant’s book, Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success, specifically Grant’s concept of the power of powerless speech.

“When our audience can see that we have flaws, it really helps them identify with us.”

“You can’t learn anything from Superman.”

“The word expert and the word experience have the same Latin root.”

“You don’t become an expert by avoiding problems.”

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Jesse: I’m going to add something which is that there’s this idea that’s been researched and that Adam Grant talks about in his book Give and Take, a notion called the power of powerless speech. That sometimes when we look human or when our audience can see that we have flaws, it really helps them identify with us. That therefore makes our message more acceptable to them, they’re more willing to hear our message because we seem human. You can’t learn anything from Superman, someone who has no flaws or faults, someone who overcomes each adversity with ease. There’s not too much you can learn from that person because they’re unrelatable.

When we reveal some of our shortcomings or flaws, we really invite the audience in to identify with us, to go through the experiences the way that we did and to find a human solution to human problems. There’s this idea that I toy around with sometimes, in English the word for expert and the word for experience have the same Latin root. An expert is someone who has had experiences, some of those experiences are good and some of them are bad but you need both to become an expert. You don’t become an expert by avoiding problems, you become an expert by facing them and trying different things and giving yourself permission to fail sometimes. It doesn’t matter so much if you fail, what matters is if you get back up again and try again.

Jesse Scinto is a public speaking expert and lecturer in the Strategic Communications Department at Columbia University in New York.


About Matt Krause

Matt began his professional life as an import buyer, and since 2006 has been teaching companies how to connect with their investors and clients better. His clients work in Istanbul, London, and Madrid for companies like Allianz, 3M, P&G, Citibank, and Reckitt Benckiser. He also walked across Turkey and wrote a book about it.