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”

  • Wow one of the most interesting and useful articles you’ve made. Keep up the advice about having a great conversation!

  • I was crying with laughter at that interview! I loved how the tables were completely turned at the end!

  • I go through this on a daily basis since I’ve moved to another country. Stereotypes, frustrating labels are all too common. It’s brilliant how Russel is so quick on his feet…so in control of the situation. I sincerely admire his wit. I do wonder however if confrontation would occur if it was a social scene and not an interview. I find there to be a thin line between demanding people to meet our standards and confrontation. Thank you Mathew for all your insight. This video and your insight dealt with issues I have thought about for years, yet never heard anyone address directly, except maybe Dostoevsky, only that didn’t answer the predicament…I have learnt soo much from your videos and advice…it has literally changed my life. :)

  • I am very impressed by the way Russel Brand handled these people. He took conrol of the conversation and still remained a gentleman all the way – an intelligent gentleman.

    Thanks, Matthew, for reminding me that I have every right to break rapport when a sitution goes against my standards.

  • Excellent stuff, thanks for sharing. I’m a long time fan of Brand’s and love the way he runs the conversation seemingly effortlessly. These people obviously didn’t make the effort to look him up and figure out the kind of personality (wit, and intelligence) he has, and he called them on it (albeit in a humorous way).

  • This is a great example of how we can take control our interactions with other people. Kinda felt bad for Mika.
    As always, thanks Matt x

  • Hi Matthew,

    Just loved your brilliant analysis of this interview. You are amazing.

    We are often too afraid to stand up for ourselves in group situations – this was a great lesson. I am learning so much from you. Bless you.

  • This is a brilliant analysis.
    Some good advice at the end too.
    Not everyone is gifted with the same sharp wit as Russell Brand.
    And all they can rely on for respect are those exteriors.
    And it’s just sad.

  • Hi Matthew. I love how, you higlight in all of your writings, the importance of standards and quality. People waste too much time mulling over the wrong arguments, incidents and experiences. Instead, striving better quality amd increasing your standards in life is important. This formula has helped me go through some of the hardest times in my life. However, at the end of the day, I have myself amd I must enrich her.

    1. I totally agree with this! It’s amazing how few people are talking about standards nowadays. Thanks to Matt for doing it. We need to be encouraged as much as possible to have our own standards and not let them be taken away by anyone.

  • Been on courses about confrontation & picked up tips about dealing with difficult situations. But this is the same in practice & more! Invaluable pointing out the positives of being ‘under the radar’. Go through this on daily basis. So frustrating. End up being negative, go into ‘soap box’ mode, then back to square one. Just didn’t know how to deal with or approach it. Liberating. :)

  • Russell was right, the other people in the room did have an underlying nervousness, that they probably carried around with them all the time as a (potentially changeable) aspect of their personalities. This contrasted strongly with his essential peacefulness and calmness.
    I am reminded of how Cesar Millan, on his shows, will constantly point out to people their nervousnesses which affect their dogs, and will attempt to lead them to a place of calm assertiveness (and their dogs to a place of calm submissiveness.) Their anxiousness shows by contrast, Cesar’s calmness.
    Cesar Millan and Russell Brand have a lot in common, imo; which could explain why Russell Brand’s dog was so calm and well behaved on Johnathan Ross.

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