Seldom have I so often heard about the ‘40+ generation’ who are now finding each other in the Dutch political arena. Rutte, Samsom, Dijsselbloem, Willem-Alexander… Young at heart… They also often have the same style of speaking, style 40+…

I ask myself why politicians often speak so strangely (Managers are also pretty good at it too!) From a speaking technique point of view there is a big difference between smooth talk, and talking clearly.

The whole of the Netherlands had something to say about Willem-Alexander’s performance. #troonrede was the trending topic on Tuesday afternoon. How did Willem-Alexander do on his first Princes Day, as King? Did he speak clearly; too fast; too slowly; convincingly?

Erwin Wijman journalist, writer and linguist wrote an article in the Volkskrant newspaper ‘Willem-Alexander ruilt morgen zijn barkruk in’ -Tomorrow Willem-Alexander trades in his bar stool-
‘I found that Willem-Alexander was remarkably relaxed and pretty up-beat – in contrast to the actual content. He spoke really smoothly, linguists will have to study in further depth but I think he went about 1.3 times faster than his mother. Whereas Beatrix in her 33 years speaking from the throne favoured the somewhat forced synopsis, I didn’t hear her son doing the same.

That’s true Erwin, but I question if that is an improvement. With the announcement of the abdication of Beatrix, I compared the ways in which Beatrix and Rutte speak. However ‘smooth’ Rutte tries to be it does not help his comprehensibility.
Sometimes it is necessary for a text to land with the public, managers and politicians seem to so often hang on to ‘smooth talking’ the message is forgotten. They also often get stuck in the rut of using technical jargon which just leaves the public cold. I often hear it asked ‘why can’t they just explain it simply?’ the personnel of managers, or the ‘voters’ for a political party can be heard saying again and again; “I just don’t understand what they mean”.  It takes a lot more effort to get people to really engage with you, than if you stay in your own little bubble and make no effort to put yourself in the listener’s shoes! You will often hear said of popular leaders and politicians that they are straightforward….

Personally I am for a combination of both ways of speaking, Beatrix who liked her subtle nuances, but was understandable for all generations, and Willem-Alexander who is doing his best to move with the times.

I think that politicians/managers speak strangely in the eyes of the public, but not in the eyes of their direct peer group. Why are so many of them unable to adapt? That is a question that I will have to get back to you on.  Harry Starren the old director of de Baak said in 2012: “Managers bezigen vaak clichés en onbegrijpelijke taal. Zo houden ze leken buiten … – “Managers often overuse clichés and confusing language. That keeps others firmly on the outside…”

That may well be! Next time I meet one I will ask them, – deal?