6 Human Dynamics Secrets To Learn From Russell Brand’s Controversial Interview

There are many things I should be doing right now, but I feel compelled to write some integral learning points from an interview last week involving Russell Brand and news anchors on the MSNBC show ‘Morning Joe’.

As you may have noticed, I’m adrenalised by all things human-dynamics, and nowhere are they more at play than in live interviews where anything can happen.

In this interview where Russell is looking to promote his upcoming US tour, we see Mika Brzezinski and panelist Brian Schactman continuously (consciously or unconsciously) attempt to belittle, trivialize and distract Brand with inane comments about his accent, clothes and general demeanour.

As a fellow Brit who does a fair number of interviews on TV here in the US, this is a subject that’s close to home as I’m often having to navigate my way through the etiquette of these kinds of shows, while trying to maintain the standards I’ve come to expect in life.

In this interview, the dynamic certainly wasn’t inline with what Russell has come to expect, and what ensues is a series of social blunders on behalf of the MSNBC staff which result in themselves and Russell clashing heads throughout the interview.

I have a couple of quick things I want to point out to you about this interview, which are best read once you’ve watched the clip.

I’ve distilled my points into six general principles that you can take to the social interactions in your life.

This situation is simply a microcosm for what we go through in our social lives, and the lessons to be learnt here are just as appropriate for use in our love life encounters…

1. Always be prepared to take things in the direction YOU want them to go in

Although Russell is there ‘to be interviewed’, he’s very much in control of the direction of the conversation.

When he sees it’s not going in the direction he wants, he simply changes the subject to one that suits him. The British lady in the interview attempts to put him on the spot by saying, “Can’t we get thirty seconds (of your routine)…now?”.

This is the equivalent of someone finding out you can sing and saying, “Well sing then…”. He doesn’t bother to entertain the notion, as this would immediately put him into ‘dancing monkey mode’.

Another great moment comes when panelist Brian is beginning a new question, and Russell unapologetically turns around and diverts everyone’s attention to the staff in the background on their computers.

He derails Brian’s train of thought and immediately brings the three anchors (and the viewing audience) into his world. Even though he is one against three, he is controlling the frame.

2. Answer the question YOU wanted to be asked

Clearly the motive for Russell’s appearance on the morning show is to promote his tour.

The hosts don’t make it easy for him as they ask superficial questions and create a very confused and pointless interview.

Russell takes back power by saying what he came on to say regardless: “Let me help you. I’m here to promote a tour called Messiah Complex… I want the people of America to come and see me do stand up. Go to RussellBrand.tv to purchase tickets to see me.”

It’s refreshing to see someone take control in this way, and it’s something we can all take on board in our every day conversations.

Always remember that when you have great things to say, you don’t need permission from somebody to say them, and you certainly don’t have to wait to be asked the right question before you can get to the answer.

3. Give no energy to attempts to belittle or patronize you

Brian says to Russell, “I’m going to ask a serious question”, to which Mika says, “Try, it’s never going to work”.

This type of belittling is what people are compelled to do when feeling insecure about a situation.

People get into a kind of mob mentality where their purpose is to bring the other person down. It’s clear by this point that the hosts are threatened by the unexpected intelligence of Brand, and these types of jabs are the result.

Instead of responding to the bait, Russell instead answers the question thoughtfully and shows how misguided their stereotyping of him is.

4. Don’t be afraid to break rapport when people aren’t meeting your standards

The need to maintain rapport constantly to the detriment of our own self-respect is one of the greatest barriers to our social prowess.

In the interview the anchors keep referring to Russell in the third person as if he’s not there. Mika says, “I think it’s just experiencing HIM, it’s taking it all in.”

Between the two women on the show, they manage to do this several times to which his replies are:

“You are talking about me as if I’m not here, and I’m an extra terrestrial.”
“You shouldn’t say ‘he’ when a person is present, you should refer to the person by their name.”
“Stop saying ‘he’. I’m present… ‘Russell’. What’s wrong with your manners?”

I love seeing someone maintain the standard they have from others, especially in a public forum where the temptation is to stay in rapport and avoid confrontation.

It’s interesting to note that when people are called out like this, very often things don’t result in confrontation, but rather just discomfort on their behalf.

When Russell says these things, rather than see confrontation, what we see are shallow attempts to get back in his favour. In short, the anchors start working to win HIM over.

Had he allowed these sub-standards to continue, he would never have gotten their respect in the same way.

In doing so they realized he had teeth (albeit that he was able to show them in an elegant and classy manner).

5. When in doubt, put the attention back on the other person

One of the most evident moments where the power shifts is when Russell starts putting the attention on Mika personally:

“You’ve become nervous… Why are you nervous?” “What seems to be the trouble?”

This immediately puts her on the back foot and takes her attention away from him and back onto herself.

When looking to build attraction, this can be done by complimenting someone, making a playful analysis of something they are doing, or asking a question about an aspect of someone’s behaviour that intrigues you.

When Russell says “Don’t be nervous”, he’s actually elevating his status to that of the leader; the person who is nurturing the anchor out of her own state of insecurity.

By this point in the interview, the positions of power are palpable.

6. Don’t be offended by people’s initial interpretation of you

Clearly these people didn’t expect Russell to be as sharp as he is.

If they’d paid more attention to his personality instead of his exterior they might have come better prepared.

We are all used to being judged wrongly in some way, whether it’s by the way we look, the accent we have, the place we are from, or the gender we belong to.

I would argue that as frustrating as people’s ignorant perceptions can be, we should take a minute to celebrate this, as it’s the thing that will allow us to fly completely under people’s radar and surprise them.

When you’re a 7-foot tall grizzly bear, everyone sees you coming. But a cute little dart frog sneaks in unnoticed, and unless someone told you it has enough poison to kill between 10-20 people in one sitting, you’d still be more afraid of the bear.

If those around you want to underestimate you, let them.


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109 Replies to “6 Human Dynamics Secrets To Learn From Russell Brand’s Controversial Interview”

  • Hi, Matthew!

    Dana, here again, from the Philly Seminar. Something profound came to mind while watching the Brand interview and reading what you shared when you said, “As a fellow Brit who does a fair number of interviews on TV here in the US, this is a subject that’s close to home as I’m often having to navigate my way through the etiquette of these kinds of shows, while trying to maintain the standards I’ve come to expect in life.”

    Etiquette is generally out the window because we were never taught these things. Americans, unfortunately, lost the art & beauty of manners, etiquette, and (maybe grammar). One of the precious arts lost with the Independence I guess. ;-) The British refined this art over the centuries in British Culture.

    I am reminded of this sometimes as my close friend is marrying a British gent.

    I remember Brand once shared in one of his skits how rude Americans are naturally. We just don’t know any better. We weren’t raised with the same rulebook & to judge us with that rulebook would be unfair. This could be a great business opportunity.

    Teaching this art would greatly expand our social aptitude or consciousness. Manners are a great way of rewarding others with respect. And if there is one thing I know as a woman is that many women fail to learn the truth that men desire respect a little more than they desire love. I’ve seen so many relationships fail because women give their men love over respect. Men need to feel respected. It exudes honor & esteems him beautifully. Likewise, a man esteems a woman when she respects herself lovingly and with honor. Men give love when a woman respects herself. these ancient truth is all over the Bible, “women respect your husbands…”, “Men love your wives”. See short chapters 1 Peter 3.. Ephesians “…

    This could be an amazing business opportunity here for your organization. Would you be up to teaching proper etiquette & manners to a nation; perhaps starting with women?

    Of course, when teaching, one must consider to teach others the caveat to “judge not”. For the manners in which we learn will not be inherent in everyone else. However, those with this knowledge can be a beacon of love, respect and care for those that may not have been taught this art. You can keep it to the basics. It doesn’t have to a royal style of etiquette but that would be nice. :-)

    Have a great week. Love & Hugs to you,


    1. Dana, Hi from the philly seminar too! Loved all your points. The only issue is that this bad behavior is condoned and encourage when people have no consequences and when they can hide behind their computers and spew hatred. If they had to say it to my mother or yours….they couldn’t do it (or they wouldn’t finish for the smack they would get!)

      Matt-Thank You_ I know a number of corporate bigwigs who could learn a lot from this!

  • You are Brilliant Matthew, very astute of you to break this down so easily, but I guess that is why they pay you the big bucks and you are where you are. Russell is also a tack as well. At the risk of generalizations, and I don’t mean to, but maybe it’s something about the British culture that makes this subject so easily malleable because I’ve seen such great insights and classy responses mainly from people from the UK/England. You and Russell as prime examples of mastery.

  • excellent point, Matt – break rapport when people aren’t meeting your standards. This is the leveling gesture.

    My grandmother once told me, ‘Someone has to meet me at my level, or bring me to a higher one, to keep my attention.’
    I always have this in mind whenever I meet someone and I’m getting the feel for where it may go. It hasn’t failed yet !

  • One of the things I really struggle with, and maybe Matt and/or other readers here could help me out with this, is realizing WHEN I’m giving my power away or when others are trying to put me down.

    Sometimes, I just don’t pick up on it . Other than that the situation just feels really uncomfortable. But I do not feel armed to take enough control of the situation again.

    And often times, I fall back into being overly nice and find that others take advantage of this to believe that they can act however they wish and get away with things they normally wouldn’t. I think awareness is the most important thing… to first realize the discomfort and understand what is happening, then it’s easier to jump in and make things proceed more smoothly (or at least more justly)…

  • Love it bro! I can feel your passion and enthusiasm coming through every sentence in this article. You’re doing awesome work bro. And Im enjoying watching you thrive! Love. Gabs

  • This is why I love your advice! You apply it to every day living not just love and watching this interview helps the rest of us not make the same mistake. Awesome!

    1. And by mistake I mean the anchors making the mistake. Conversations or interviews shouldn’t put anyone down. Russell definitely took the lead. Loved it!

      1. Did you catch one of them was calling Russell, William?… They didn’t even know his name. He calls them out on it too. Hysterical.

        1. That was certainly weird. I was so confused by her calling him that that I speculated whether maybe she was calling him “Rillie” as her own version of a shortened form of Russell, but you must be right: she was just mixed up about what his name actually was!

  • Matthew, I love that you took the time to extrapolate what was relevant from that interview. He is so stunningly clever and witty and I love to watch when he is on chat shows. He is always in control and wipes the floor with people’s prejudice and expectations. But this showed it on a new level.
    I have definitely been held back in life by too often worrying about what other people think. Russell completely turns that around.
    Thank you for your insights and your clever explanations Matthew. With your intelligence, charisma by the bucket load and gorgeous looks you are also a force to be reckoned with.
    Kathryn xx

  • Again, case in point, this is why I rarely watch TV. What a pathetic interview. Why these shows are popular is beyond me.

  • If you just sit back and watch the interview, it really is quite a powerful crash course showcasing Russell’s intelligence. I think not only did he point out the ridiculousness and rudeness of the anchors’ behavior but also how the way American news media today really don’t report what is most important to our society. It’s amazing how many of my fellow Americans do not know about Snowden and Manning. Our feeedom is such an illusion today; yet it takes a comedian and foreigner to utter the names of these two American patriots on the news. Check out the difference between CNN international edition and CNN American edition and you’ll realize why we Americans are getting dumber.

    Anyway, rant aside – thank you for taking the time to thoughtfully break down the social interaction here Matt. Another great post!

    1. You can see from the get go Russell’s face when the anchor in the blue dress says, She never heard of him and doesn’t know anything about him… What an ass of her. If you have a guest on or a client coming to see you, one should get educated on that person to have a great interview with them, not insult them with saying “never heard of you really”. Russells face and reaction immediately told me he was displeased and realized he was about to embark on an interview with morons. How do these people even get on TV to begin with?… I am sure there are so many other worthy anchors for that job. I am really ashamed to be an American when I see people like this on TV for all the world to see and think this is what Americans are like.

      1. I would have to agree. The minute Mika introduced him in a negative fashion, I was already uncomfortable watching it because the look on his face let one know exactly how this interview was going to go. And he handled himself better then I thought he would. I definitely learned a lot by your examination of the interview. Thanks!

  • Awesome article today Matt. This goes far beyond getting any guy and into the realm of truly owning your self-worth.

    I run a business and I am always amazed how people assume because I’m a graphic designer by trade that I must be a flighty, artistic type and that I must play with crayons and finger paints all day long.

    Love how Brand delivers a smack down. Thanks for sharing. :)

  • What an idiotic rude disrespectful group of news anchors!!!! Horrible people. That’s why many people call MSNBC, MSNBHeeHaw for their lack of class! Never watch that channel.

    Great take on the interview Matthew! I was not always the biggest fan of Russell Brand but now he was completely won me over with how he handled those infants!

  • Loved it, he is so clever, bet they don’t invite him back for a while :) Hadn’t seen this before Matt, thanks for posting it, and giving your insight into how Russel handled the situation. very useful, and I know just the person, a colleague ! who has a habit of belittling to use this on !

  • I just loved how Brand takes over and shows them how an anchor should report the news! Basically, demonstrating how to do their job. Hilarious! I have so much respect for Russell Brand now. This is the second interview of his that I have seen and he is incredibly intelligent and witty!

    Matt, thank you for your insight on this. I love all of your views on dating and how to conduct ourselves in social situations.

    Oh, and by the way, I’m an American!

    Connie xoxo

  • Matt, you should have done this with Hodo and Kathie Lee. They were ridiculous – all the interrupting. Can’t stand them.

    1. Hi, Matt!

      I so agree! Your last interview with Hoda & Kathie Lee was…well, a mess. They interrupted you every time you spoke, KL was flirting with you – it was just sloppy behavior I’d expect at break time, off camera, not on. When someone commented on this, you replied, “All in good fun.”

      Wasn’t fun to watch.

      Love to you.

  • I dare say, (British voice) I’d like to create a Kingdom with this man, he owned the entire studio in his own particular way that was far from ignorant. Plus, he’s got a super great tan.

  • (British accent): oh my goodness Russell Brad taught a lesson here! My big, big respect to this talented young man. He owned the place!

  • Great and charming guy Russel! He is real and clever, nice analyses very useful especially about the kind of mob mentally. This happens to me very often and you showed me a nice, elegant way to deal with it in style.
    Many thanks for that Matt!!


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