What You Can (Still) Learn From Donald Trump

Love him or hate him, Trump is an effective communicator.

I know. Risky topic. Read on.

In recent weeks, Donald Trump has become a political “powder keg” characterized by various gaffes and bumpy poll numbers. His early cycle rise to the 2016 Republican nomination however was truly remarkable.

So…what got him there?

In a word: communication. Correction…two words: communication style.

Donald Trump speaking with supporters
Donald Trump speaking with supporters

That’s right… love him or hate him Trump is (or was, depending on your view) an effective communicator. His success lies in his mastery of four components of communication that can make anyone effective in conveying ideas and persuading listeners. Even if your personal mission is not to lead the free world—these are techniques that YOU can use to positively impact your communications with clients, colleagues, board members and juries:

1. Pith – “The Donald” has mastered the art of expressing himself concisely and forcefully. He says what he wants and does so using word economy minus painstaking attention to grammar or syntax. This allows him to message to a wider audience by avoiding meandering prose or “big words.” He is a sophisticated man, but he speaks the language of the masses. What he says, sticks. Take note.

2. Suggestion – Recognize that suggesting something to a listener can be extremely powerful if done forcefully and succinctly. The right suggestion can alter a listener’s mindset. Consider Trump’s past success derailing Jeb Bush’s candidacy. He did it by repeatedly suggesting that Mr. Bush was a “low-energy” candidate (i.e. the exact opposite profile of a person you want in the White House). It became a quiet mantra that resonated and ultimately, I believe, got into Jeb’s head. Result: one less competitor for the nomination. Suggestion is power.

3. Synchronicity – Mr. Trump’s verbal message is very well coordinated with what his body is also saying at the moment. In other words, Trump is pithy and powerfully suggestive when speaking and uses body language that fully supports and reinforces the message coming out of his mouth. There is no disconnection between the two. Each of his several “stock” body movements (e.g. the finger wagging “no, no you’re totally wrong” motion ― or the arms spread wide “get on board, folks” move) fits perfectly with what he is saying at the time. It takes years to reach this level of communication expertise, but the results are well worth the effort. So, merge your words and body movement. By the way, Steve Jobs was an absolute master of this as well. Practicing in front of a mirror helps. I’d bet my last dollar Donald does it ― daily.

4. Authenticity – This is the bow on the packaging. Donald Trump is comfortable being Donald Trump. The man knows who he is and this conviction comes through in his speech. Whether he is engaging an audience of die-hard supporters or speaking to a skeptical reporter the subtext is the same: “I know who I am and I am comfortable with it.” People appreciate and respect that—even if they disagree with what you are saying. Proof: more than one of Mr. Trump’s opponents has fared poorly by attempting to be something they are not. Be yourself. People always know.

Fortunately, Donald Trump doesn’t have a monopoly on any of the traits or techniques listed above. He just merges them superbly and uses them effectively. You can too.

About the author:

Ernesto Sigmon is an attorney in Houston, TX. He has an LLM in International Law from George Washington University Law School, and an MBA in Finance and Accounting from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

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