(Updated) Caroline Kennedy’s interview with The Daily News complete with the words “you know” interjected
five 200 plus times in two sentences a half hour may very well derail her chances to be appointed to fill the Senate seat being vacated by Hillary Clinton. While her friends describe her as being shy my view as a therapist is that she may be pathologically shy. In other words, her shyness is may be* a symptom of some kind of phobia.
“I’m really coming into this as somebody who isn’t, you know, part of the system, who obviously, you know, stands for the values of, you know. I know how important it is to, you know, to be my own person. And, you know, and that would be obviously true with my relationship with the mayor.”
Added 12/31/08: More reasons why the “you knows” ( and now we have a count: about 200 in a half hour ) can turn into “You? No.”
It’s not about Kennedy’s qualifications. It’s about the perception. For Paterson it’s about her developing into a winner for the 2010 election. I think she can. But it’s up to the governor and he may not.
This is from Margaret Carlson:
Now Kennedy is out there without a script, prompter or even notes and getting hammered in the tabloids for meandering, vague responses. In a 30-minute session with The New York Daily News, Kennedy said “you know” more than 200 times.
On tax cuts: “Well, you know, that’s something, obviously, that, you know, in principle and in the campaign, you know, I think that, um, the tax cuts, you know, were expiring and needed to be repealed.”
Sometimes phobias can be ignored with little effect on a person’s life. For example if you are terrified of flying, take the train or drive. If you are afraid of crowds, don’t shop at WalMart, get your bargains by ordering online.
But, for example, if you must fly in order to keep your job, if you have high motivation behavioral therapy is very effective, as it is for many phobias.
Caroline Kennedy hasn’t “paid her dues” for entry by appointment into the exclusive Senate club by holding elected office, which is the customary way. If she had, she would have been forced to overcome her shyness, possibly through therapy under the more acceptable guise of public speaking coaching.
The perception that she wasn’t ready for prime time would have been apparent by her just trust me interview with The Daily News even without her interjecting “I know” so many times.
Those who have worked closely with Kennedy are effusive in their praise for her competence and her commitment to the causes she has worked on. It is apparent she overcame enough of her shyness to achieve the goals she set out for herself.
If as I suspect, she hasn’t been in treatment for shyness, as a therapist I question her judgment and self awareness for not dealing with this when she first began to think about becoming a politician.
As Sarah Palin demonstrated, if you exude self-confidence you can get away with fractured sentences and the regular use of endearing-to-some “by gollys”.
Unfortunately for Caroline Kennedy, in public speaking “you know” is another version of “ummm” or “uh”, and frequent use of these interjections conveys a lack of confidence.
In politics perception counts. Lack of confidence is generally perceived as lack of competence.
George W. Bush proved that if you come across as “the decider” you can get away with murdering the English language for years before your incompetence catches up with you.
*amended. I didn’t mean to suggest this was for certain.
Hal Brown is a clinical social worker and former mental health center director who is mostly retired from his private psychotherapy practice. He writes on the psychopathology of public figures and other topics that pique his interest. He can be found online at www.stressline.com . He also publishes a website about his hometown of Middleboro, Massachusetts (aka Middleborough) called Middleboro Matters. Archive: of previous columns.