Even people who don’t like or trust Donald Trump still pay attention to what he says. Why is that? And even those who dislike him with intensity keep up to date with his latest and most outrageous statements. Why?
Trump skilfully applies several principles of effective communication anyone can copy. These communication skills principles and tactics are worth observing so that you can be more effective in your communication with friends, family and work colleagues in a way that suits your personality and maintains your integrity.
The 11 Ways You Have Been Trumped
1. Have Emotional Impact
Trump gets an emotional response from his audience and he does this by design because he knows emotional people are more likely to listen and follow him. He speaks with energy, enthusiasm and passion when he wants people to pay close attention and he matches this with statements that move people emotionally.
After the Paris terrorist attack he proclaimed he’d ban all muslims from entering the United States if he was President. This tough on terror statement gets attention by forcing frightened people to listen to him. Whether that is a reasonable, fair or practical solution is beside the point for this analysis. His objective is to get attention.
2. Be Different
Donald Trump is different to the other Presidential candidates and he doesn’t try to tone down his image, his rhetoric or his opinions to fit in. Instead he builds on his points of difference to establish himself as the one versus all the rest. He is telling the undecided public it’s a choice between him or the same established politicians as before. He reduces a complex choice to a simple choice, him or the rest.
Because he is different anytime he makes an outrageous statement it’s because he’s independent, he doesn’t need financial backers and he doesn’t have to tow the party line. Even when he is rude or wrong he is still defining himself as the one and only alternative to business as usual.
3. Agitate Fears
Behind the feel good stories of improving economic times a great many people are fearful of the future and unable to speak up because of political correctness. The general public have had to deal with a series of economic setbacks in the past two decades with real estate booms and busts, stock market crashes and job insecurity as the new norm.
When people are scared and feeling unsure about their prospects it doesn’t take much to agitate their fears. Trump isn’t worried about offending anyone so he’ll blame China for taking American jobs and he’ll blame Mexico for illegal immigration. And both statements generate an emotional response in millions who are concerned about financial security.
Again and again, we see Trump deliberately provoking enemies and agitating the fears and concerns of the working man and woman. He does this knowing that rational discussions will not move people to vote for him.
4. Keep it Simple
Most politicians don’t speak plain English and many people don’t trust politicians. Consequently talk of initiatives, resolutions and programs fall on deaf ears. The public has heard it all before and people switch off to political buzz words. Instead, Trump speaks plain English so anyone can follow his points and so he is not immediately assumed to be distrustful by using the tainted language of politicians.
Simplicity is a valuable attribute in a busy world of 24×7 news and constant interruptions. A distracted mind can still process a message that is short, sweet and simple. Simplicity cuts through the clutter we all contend with everyday.
5. Use Repetition
When politicians have a 12 point plan or even a 5 point plan it can get confusing very quickly. After you throw in some counter arguments and lengthy discussion it is hard to keep peoples attention. A far better approach is to focus only on the few issues that really bother people. That’s why Trump will talk again and again about the same few issues, the same few concerns that scare people: illegal immigration, terrorism and job insecurity.
No matter how directly related or indirectly related another issue is he will reframe it as one of those core concerns that he can and will address. That’s why any attentive member of the public can tell you what he stands for. Can the same be said for all of the other presidential candidates?
6. Project Certainty
Trump is always 100% certain, absolutely definite and positive about what he says. His words, his voice tone and his posture are all in agreement even when his ideas seem unfeasible or even completely wrong. The facts don’t matter when you simply want to define your tribe and eliminate those who will never follow you.
While other candidates are careful about what they say and sincere in their efforts to not offend anyone Trump often does the opposite because he is used to being the boss and leading with his vision of the future. He knows people want to be led and he is happy to do so by giving them the sense of certainty they hope for.
7. Be Entertaining
Politicians are hard working members of a political machine that doesn’t tolerate mavericks. Consequently elections are made up of many candidates who share the same world view and behave in the same way. It’s hard for any individual to stand out in the media because they are all so similar.
Trump in contrast knows how to use the media to build his audience. He had a successful media career with The Apprentice and he knows what gets people talking and he knows what goes viral. He is happy to make outrageous statements and he is equally unafraid to offend anyone who gets in his way. He understands the role of the sound bite and even if he is misquoted he is still the one who is getting the media exposure not someone else.
8. Reflect Social Mood
In a politically correct time it is unacceptable to discuss certain issues unless you are in agreement with the prevailing mainstream agendas. Consequently there is a great deal of pent up frustration, anger and dissatisfaction that is not addressed by the politicians of the day. Instead we are told to focus on the positive and to be happy that the economy is improving. Even if the top 20% of society are living happy and prosperous lives there are enough dissatisfied people to create real change once someone speaks to their ignored concerns.
Over the years at the beginning of previous election cycles Trump often explored the idea of running for President but always backed down once it looked like he didn’t have support on the ground. This time was different because the social mood has shifted in this post financial crisis world of the “I can’t afford it” (sharing) economy.
Trump is the option for those who want someone to “make America great again”. Enough people feel lost and uncertain of the future that he can appeal to both patriotic pride and a restoration of lost glory. Not so long ago everyone wanted to be rich, today a lot of people are more concerned about not losing what they have. Trump speaks directly to this fear by promising to fix things and make it like it was in the good old days. This is a very compelling promise for people grieving for the past and looking to the future with pessimism.
9. Offer Understandable Solutions
All politicians offer solutions the only problem is most people don’t understand those solutions and so don’t trust them because it sounds like more of the same failed promises of the past. All the talk of dealing with terrorist threats in the Middle East and restoring American competitiveness don’t mean anything if people can’t imagine what that means.
Trump offers simple solutions that anyone can understand and anyone can visualise. Whether those solutions will ever work is not the point because he is only appealing to those who will or might vote for him. The rest of the population who would never back him are irrelevant especially those who present a rational argument to discount his ideas.
Trump talks about building a wall on the Mexican border and everyone can understand what he is saying. A seasoned politician would talk in terms of facts, figures and new initiatives that leave people unsure about what the proposed solution is. A vague or confusing promise is not a solution anyone can get behind but even a bad, understandable solution can appear better than the unintelligible alternatives.
10. Exude Strength
Most politicians stand tall, work hard and hope to be appointed to better positions. They want approval from their party and from their constituents and they need the backing of their donors. This need to please weakens their ability to be individuals with their own views and opinions. Neediness comes across as polished and over rehearsed efforts to be liked by everyone. Ultimately it turns people into representations of who they would like to be or what the public would like them to be instead of who they really are. And the resulting lack of congruence makes it hard for people to trust them.
On the other hand, Trump is used to being the boss and he is used to getting his way and so he speaks from a position of strength, as a force of habit. His attitude reflects a belief in his abilities as a self made man who doesn’t need the approval of anyone other than the electorate. This unrepressed strength and leadership gives him the vitality of a President that other candidates only take on after being appointed to the position. The other candidates are hoping to be appointed King but Trump is already a self appointed King and he knows it.
11. Demonstrate Insight
Trump has a track record in business that he uses as proof that he can get things done and that he has been right in the past. He can point to a history of making promises and delivering. And he can demonstrate he has intelligence and wisdom by selectively referring to his past predictions that turned out to be true.
At initial glance it sounds like he is almost always right and has been right time and time again. This apparently psychic ability is a natural result of making so many general predictions and statements that he will of course be correct at times. The key is that he reminds people of those correct predictions that confirm his understanding of the select few issues his followers are most concerned about. By doing this he creates an aura of strength backed by a successful track record predicting the future even in today’s difficult times. Yet again he presents himself as someone to be listened to.
Now that we have reviewed the communication skills principles Trump applies in his unique way, do bear in mind how you use these principles is up to you. You can be a person of integrity and use what you have just learned to be persuasive and appreciated while treating others with respect. And you can also use this understanding to spot when others are attempting to influence you. Either way these are essential skills to master in a world where the best communicators tend to dominate and win.