I am, by profession, a behaviorist who teaches advanced strategic selling. Here’s my take on how Donald Trump operates as seen through the aperture of both lenses, the behavioral side and selling side.
The Hero persona. There are eight types of students I deal with in a classroom. Trump typifies the biggest pain of all: a Hero. A Hero is an attention seeker who perceives himself to be the smartest in the room, regardless which side of the fact-and-fiction pendulum his opinion may swing. The best way to handle a Hero is to set up another classmate to cut him off at the knees. If the instructor does it, the classmates will support their cohort. Yesterday’s Justice Department appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller as a fully empowered lead sheep will do just fine. The Republicans have let Trump lead. Soon they will have to decide if perhaps another sheep should lead the way.
Trump relies on a stern paternal image projection to lead. John McCain and Bernie Sanders, and most recently John Kasich, are trying to be voices of reason. All three are being trampled due to what I refer to as “the sheep mentality.” In a pasture, five sheep determine the direction of the flock. People are, by nature, herd animals. Once the leaders pick the direction the rest simply follow. This seems to be the current state of affairs on Capitol Hill. Special counsel Mueller is well respected by both major parties and know what he’s doing. Trump places winning above all — including the truth — and he wakes today to a very big problem orchestrated by a man he cannot control. The paternal mandate Trump enjoy for four months is now threatened.
Reflexive looping. Trump is a reflexive-looper, a creature of habit, who uses deceptive mixed messages to lead his flock. Reflexive loopers are quite predictable, as Trump has proven to be with regard to the consistency of his erratic behaviors. What he says and does is not as predictable as the fact that he relies on misdirection as his “go to” evasive technique. Mueller will ignore such bombast. Loopers tend to be tacticians who react to people, places, and things. Loopers are not situationally nimble, which is a self-limiting challenge for someone in charge. Trump’s reality is shaped by a self-controlled life in the New York bubble, a set of behaviors that worked well for him. Looping, however, severely limits his macro view of the world, its citizens, and issues.
Digital addiction. Trump also shows all the signs of digital addiction, a topic I blanketed in my most recent book. He does not read — he watches TV — and relies on talking heads to tell him what other flocks are thinking. Supporters justify this lack of in-depth insight by claiming Trump to be a “visual learner” who likes bullet points, charts, and graphs. This, of course, is a slam on true visual learners, for whom reading is often their primary source of knowledge, insight, contrasting points of view, and command of the language. Trump’s savage butchering of the English language is embarrassing for any CEO, much less one in charge of the world’s most powerful nation. His limitations come as no surprise. The more you read, the greater your vocabulary expands. Trump is poor with grammar, punctuation, and message clarity. This will not change. Digital addiction makes it worse and showcases his mistakes for the world to lampoon.
Three-headed juggling. We all go through life juggling three heads: how we want to appear to others, how we do appear to others, and who we really are. Trump lives to juggle only the first two. The third will be revealed. The fishbowl life of the presidency, coupled with fact-based research and time, will reveal his character. Presidents are elected based on what they promise, the job reveals who they are. Trump is an image projector who wants to be perceived as a leader, a swami of brilliance. He is not, which the national and global fact-based press and Mr. Mueller will take turns sharing. Since Trump is media-dependent to learn what’s going on around him, his protection mechanism when attacked is to lash back. This is 100 percent predictable and will not change.He will be defiant to the end, which increasing numbers believe will come via voluntary resignation once he locates a safe trap door.
Narcissistic mistruths. The president is a textbook narcissist who truly believes he is superior to others. As such, his penchant for chronic mistruths and exaggerated inaccuracies are not, to him, falsehoods. He truly believes these things to be correct, which will be his Achilles heel. As non-narcissists tend to learn early in life and carefully respect, the truth matters. The problem with lying is that you can never remember what you said. Special investigator Mueller will unravel these threads. The results will not be pleasant.
The presidency is a tough job and, at times, a thankless job. Trump has no one to blame for this mess but the man in the mirror. His chaotic and dreadful performance is reminds millions of Americans of a kid falling off his training-wheeled bike time and blaming the bike for his inability to win the Tour de France.
His Sales Habits
Reframing. Trump is a conceptual presenter, which means he disregards and downplays the importance of nuts and bolts in deference to reframing issues into a larger context which only he understands. This is an effective, slithery approach for someone with positional power. His messages are modified based upon the needs of the moment, a maddening habit that is entertaining but serves him well. A snake oil salesman sells this way, a president should not.
Message repetition. Because Trump marks progress differently than most Americans — he tries for quick hits instead of sound, risk-balanced advancements — Trump reinforces his greatness through repetitious proclamation. These echoes serve two purposes: They help him believe it, and they reassure his voting base of loyal sheep-like followers. Conclusions are important because once we have reach an opinion about something, the brain seeks reaffirming evidence tied to whatever conclusion we have drawn. In that regard Trump sells these messages to himself as well as his supporters. Chronic repetition of hook statements and pet phrases is a salesman’s tactic that has served him well. Reinforcing simple messages doesn’t necessarily solve complex issues, but he and his supporters — as trusting sheep tend to do — follow along regardless.
Repetition is part of Trump’s sales success and reputation, a sales technique as old as man. It worked for the caveman selling wheels and it works now.
Fear. A salesperson has two emotional triggers to convince a customer to do what he or she wants: the avoidance of a negative consequence or the pursuit of a positive reward. Trump is 100 percent fear.
Self-promotion as a negotiator. Trump brands himself as a super “a negotiator.” I know a hundred better. If I knew more people I’d probably know a thousand better. He is pure “win/lose” in style and method and the job he’s in is better served with a “win/win” approach. In win/win neither side has to like the agreement but both sides can live with it. By proclaiming his greatness at a mismatched skill set, he sets himself up for constant bickering domestically and abroad.
Most of his success came not from negotiating but from leverage. A key part of Trump’s wealth-building was knowing when he held the hammer and when he didn’t. When he had the hammer he hit people with it, as bullies tend to do. Deadbeating small business owners during construction projects was a regular business strategy that saved him millions, as did funneling tens of millions more to himself prior to bankrupting his casinos.
Today he has positional power and threatens the sheep on Capitol Hill to get what he wants. To some this is deplorable. From a sales perspective, it’s a textbook example of using leverage rather than negotiation. As I am fond of saying to my clients, “Negotiation is a very expensive substitute for better selling.” Prior to yesterday’s appointment of special investigator Robert Mueller, Trump wielded great leverage and used it. Today he’s in a far weaker position.
Trump’s Impact on Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness
The phrase, “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” is in the United States Declaration of Independence. Our forefathers deemed these “unalienable rights.” It is government’s job to protect these rights. Let’s look at them individually:
Life. Life is tough without easy and affordable access to quality health care. We are the Western world’s worst at cost-versus-coverage and health care quality. Stripping health care coverage away from citizens is a direct impediment to the first of these three American credos.
Liberty. This is the argument for those advocating arming our nation to the teeth, which of course creates a heightened sense of urgency for other nations to do the same. Trump is a hawk. He won’t spend money on Life but will spend it like a drunken sailor in Paris in the name of Liberty.
The Pursuit of Happiness. I have yet to hear a compelling argument that explains how the pursuit of happiness can be attained without physical and emotional health. Trump is a regressionist who places the after-tax impact of legislative programming ahead of quality of life enablers for the people he was hired to protect.
As long or short as he is in office, Trump will bluster forth with his very predictable behaviors and sales tactics. His methods are uncontrollabe but what is controllable is how each of us chooses to act and react. That choice boils down to one simple decision: Are you going to be a lead sheep or a one that blindly follows?
Voice and act upon your convictions. Take the high road and do the right thing.
If you believe like our forefathers in Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, embrace those words and champion those unalienable rights to the very best of your ability. Together we can create the change we wish to see. But nothing will change unless we — individually and collectively — care enough to make things happen. Don’t sit back and watch. Engage.
Thanks for reading. The truth is out there. Whatever we learn, I look forward to its revelation.
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