Bimbo Banter

What Cam Newton and Martin Shkreli Have in Common

  • Wildcard
  • February 8, 2016
  • by Merrie Spaeth


What does Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton have in common with ex-drug company CEO Martin Shkreli? They both offer recent examples of some of the most common mistakes in communication--mistakes that cast them in a bad light. Even more serious, these mistakes call into question their judgment in choosing advisers.

First mistake: what we look like when we’re listening affects how our audience perceives us. Recently dubbed by some as “resting bitch face,” we prefer what we’ve called it for years:  the listening face. The Newton-Shkreli comparison illustrates why.

At the press conference following Super Bowl 50, Newton looked bored, pained and annoyed. He replied with monosyllabic answers. Everything contradicted what he should have been conveying as a young leader of his team and one of the faces of professional football today. He conveyed he didn’t like us—the audience—and the result is we don’t like him.

At the other end of the spectrum was Shkreli’s face during the Congressional hearing. The topic was pricing for prescription drugs. You recall Shkreli’s company Turing Pharmaceuticals raised the price of a Daraprim from $13.50 to $750 per pill, and then bragged about the anticipated profits. Congress sniffed an opportunity for TV cameras, and Friday’s hearing wasn’t pretty. Shkreli accomplished the near-impossible:  he made Congress look good. It wasn’t that he cited the 5th Amendment in not answering. IRS executive Lois Lerner did that, too. It was how he looked while listening to questions. When the lead news story is pictures of your face and the word “smirk” in the headline, you lose.

Since it was so predictable that Newton and Shkreli would be asked tough questions, both should have been prepared to communicate with a lifted face, conveying “I’m confident,” and “I like you,” as well as with a positive key message. Ironically, what should have been Newton’s message was articulated by teammate Josh Norman moments later when he said, with emotion, “This loss will make us stronger.”

Both Newton and Shkreli need to think about who’s advising them. Both should have been better prepared and that may mean having people who will sit them down, grab them by the shoulders and say, “Listen to me!” As an expert in this area, I can tell you that means putting your relationship with your friend or client at risk, but it’s what you owe them.

Cam! Martin! Listen to me!

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