Late autumn 2016. The world was in a state of shock. An unscrupulous billionaire, TVstar, Grab-them-by-the-pussy-old-man was elected as the next US president. How the hell could it happen? Many have followed this circus with fascination, disgust, but also love for his sarcasm, outbursts, his waving hands, arrogant “nose-in-the-air”, and simple linguistic use.
I claim that Trump is a good communicator. What do I mean with that? Read on.
For 25 years I have been looking for various success factors in human communication. I have distilled three communicative superpowers and those are Energy, Empathy and Clarity. Let’s analyze Donald Trump using these three superpowers:
ENERGY is about the followers believing that the leader believes. Why should they do it otherwise? Trump’s followers believe that he believes! Energy is especially noticeable in the body language and in the voice. Donald Trump has some gestures that he often repeats. His arms are in the air with his wrists facing out and away from the torso, which is a sign of security. His voice is varied, everything from shouting to some sort of lower volume sarcastic reasoning. He rarely becomes monotonous and therefore not boring. His digital communication is almost always at the highest volume and has lots of high (negative) energy.
EMPATHY is about a capacity to anticipate another person’s reaction, intellectually and emotionally. Donald Trump is actually a master of this – in one sense – and a complete loser in another. He has his fan-base wrapped around his little finger. They think he really understands their misfortunes, sufferings, fears and frustrations. Even though he behaves like the schoolyard’s worst bully against those who think differently, this only strengthens his followers’ view of him as an empathic person – for them!
What he doesn’t possess is a non-judging compassion. I find it hard to believe that he can emotionally understand an unemployed American in the Midwest, but it doesn’t seem to be a problem for his target audience. They haven’t felt that established “broiler politicians” have cared for them for so many years anyway, and then he comes along and says “I see you and your sufferings. The other schmucks don’t, and I will fix your problems.” Of course, they want to vote for him.
CLARITY is his thing – sometimes, or at least when he’s not mumbling or rambling. He doesn’t shy away. He expresses himself, in my eyes, far too childish and repetitive, but so what? It isn’t me he wants to reach out to. Those who follow him love his oversimplified language, “We’re gonna build the wall.”, “It’s gonna be huge.”, ”I probably know more about xyz than anyone.” and so on. He uses a powerful Us-against-Them language that makes everyone on the “inside” love him and everyone on the “outside” horrified. He is not alone in doing this. In most democratic countries, the trend is to find a clear Us-against-Them rhetoric. Making the Us narrow and then singling out other groups as threats using hatred rhetoric and frightening propaganda. Trump does it all the time. His opponents get into problems since they try to reason around a common truth and common facts that they then interpret differently. Trump invent his own truths and facts.
All in all: He is super strong within his clan, his tribe, his fan-base. He uses the Us-against-Them strategy all the way and it is obvious that it has works. This man seems to be able to do and say anything without consequences. How the next election will go remains to be seen. I think it depends on three things:
- How many people that actually votes, including post votings that Trump is so scared of.
- Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Biden is not the best communicator and I have yet to see any really strong skills from a communication perspective. Harris is sharp as a nail but we don’t know how she will fare in the new role as running mate.
- How long Trumps followers can muster up the anger that Trump needs, because anger is more energy-draining than joy and people really just want to feel good.
At the keyboard – Antoni Lacinai, Keynote speaker and author with passion for human communication. Find more tips and thoughts at www.lacinai.com
Observe: This is not a political text, so please comment on the matter of whether you think Trump is a communicator of rank or not but leave the politics aside.