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Preparation vs. Memorization

Preparation vs. Memorization: When all you have is a hammer, every question looks like a nail.

No doubt Ed Miliband thinks he is prepared for this interview: he has distilled his message into a few punchy points; he makes eye contact, and speaks clearly; he’s obviously practiced what he wants to say, as we can see more clearly here:

Miliband might have made a choice to repeat himself over and over to prevent the interviewer from editing his main message out of his screen time. But in so doing, he comes off as robotic and inauthentic. What Miliband has done is what most of us do when we get nervous: he has mistaken memorization for preparation.

Memorization is seductive. It can help us feel like we’re in control of the message, the audience, the situation. But as we see with Miliband, strict memorization actually controls us: it limits what we can talk about, and prevents us from actually listening and responding, lest a question we didn’t prepare for throws us off.

Had Miliband prepared, had he anticipated the questions that would actually have been asked, had he practiced answering those questions out loud a few times rather than wedging his perfectly prepared statement into them, Miliband could have gotten his message across with a much greater degree of control and a lot less hammering.

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