President Trump will influence all of our lives regardless as to what our political leanings are and where our devotions lie. And his impact may vary depending on what area of the country you reside and work in. Consider just a few of the issues: The job security of coal miners in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, or Kentucky; migrant (and illegal?) workers in California; autoworkers in Ohio, Michigan, or Kentucky; Muslims, Jews, or Mormons who wish to worship in public with freedom, Cubans in southern Florida; your access to healthcare whether you are a Veteran seeking treatment at the VA or a civilian who just wants to be able to see a doctor (and pay for it) in your area.
This article is a guide on how to cut through the media clutter and listen, interpret, and make an educated decision about what the words and behaviors of Mr. Trump may actually mean for you and your area neighbors. As you read every tweet, listen to every word, or discuss the next President with other Americans, keep these things in mind.
1 - Watch out for formulas
Ask yourself: Is this behavior similar to what I have seen or read before? Does it make sense? Is it consistent with what I have read or heard before?
Donald Trump has a Twitter formula that he uses in his tweets and it is important to remember that tweets are one-sided; he most likely is not scrolling through all of the dissenting responses on Twitter, and the 140-character limit allows for the omission of clarity or detail. His tweet formula is simple and typically goes like this:
Tweets are easy to share and can reach a wide audience worldwide in a matter of seconds. BUT, as with most communication in the Information Age, they allow the writer to comfortably state whatever is on his or her mind without any consequences.
In addition, the use of Twitter as a form of communication allows the writer to make huge assumptions about the audience and their response. Trump tweets untrue and/or misleading statements and posts them as if they have been accepted as true at face value. As an informed American citizen, don't read these statements and blindly accept them. Remember, a headline or teaser travels much faster and gains much more ground then the full story. Mr. Trump and his team are aware of this and use it to their advantage.
2 - Ask yourself, "Am I being bullied?"
Mr. Trump, both in person and online, has used language and behaviors that are typical of bullies from the schoolyard to corporate America. Don't allow yourself to be the victim of bullying. Practice what you teach your children before they get on the bus. As a reminder, there are primary forms of bullying which include both verbal bullying and social bullying. A verbal bully (who repeatedly says or writes mean things) will display many of the following behaviors: teasing, name-calling, the use of inappropriate sexual comments, taunting (e.g., "I dare you"), or threaten to cause harm. A social bully (who degrades one's status or relationships) will often: exclude certain individuals from activities, suggest that others exclude certain individuals as well, spread rumors or falsehoods about someone, or embarrass someone in public (e.g., someone with a disability). Read the tweets, listen to the speeches, and pay attention to the language.
3 - Are we being led by a con man?
Donald Trump rose to his level of fame on television and now on the geopolitical stage based on his previous work in real estate and the business world. For many of us, his name was synonymous with wealth and fortune. All someone needs to do is pick up The Art of the Deal, a book co-written by Mr. Trump, to see his own suggestion to use tactics that have been associated with successful "cons" as well. "Con" stems from the word "confidence" in that confidence schemes are only successful if the perpetrator can gain the confidence of his or her "mark," or target. It can be argued that the Trump presidential campaign was a con of sorts with the American voter serving as the mark. Mr. Trump has even made statements that some of the things he said about his opponent such as "Lock Her Up!" "played well during the campaign." What you have here is an admission from the candidate that he intentionally used specific words and phrases to "play" to his audience and help secure more votes.
As you evaluate our new President, keep in mind that one aspect that is true of most successful con men is their undying faith in their ability to fool almost anyone. What helps Mr. Trump with many audiences is the observation that the more successful a con artist appears to be, the easier it is to keep the illusion going. A con man must also repeatedly lie with confidence. In general, we do not feel comfortable lying and most of us have an inner reluctance to repeatedly mislead and deceive others. But the inner "conscience" that is present in many of us also can be our downfall in the face of a serial liar. Most people tend to believe a statement (especially from an authority or in the media) if it is delivered with an air of authority. In Mr. Trump's case, his apparent narcissism with its associated lack of empathy, assists him in this step of repeatedly lying (even in the face of conflicting information). Mr. Trump's book explicitly quotes him as saying that "exaggerated hyperbole," a fancy word for lying, helps to close many business deals. The Art of the Deal also suggests demeaning of opponents as a strategy to use but we'll discuss that later.
4 - Does the new President have MY interests in mind or is he a narcissist?
In general, narcissists tend to:
- attempt to avoid feeling helpless or depressed by becoming angry instead, and tend to react to perceived slights or criticism with rage and humiliation (this has been seen over and over on Twitter in response to Democrats, news reporters, the popular vote results)
- show outward grandiosity that may mask underlying vulnerability. Narcissists are invested in seeing and portraying themselves as emotionally strong, untroubled, and emotionally in control, often despite clear evidence of underlying insecurity or distress
- be preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
- take advantage of others to achieve their own gains
- lack empathy or the ability to identify the feelings of others
- seek out constant sources of admiration
- be envious of others or believe that others are envious of him.
Mr. Trump's New Year's tweet (his first of the day) provides a good example of these narcissistic features: "Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don't know what to do. Love!"
Mr. Trump is projecting himself as strong, disregarding the fact that he lost the popular vote, and projecting the idea that he loves watching the ongoing criticism and debate with regard to his Presidency.
When you read Mr. Trump's tweets or listen to his words, what is glaringly missing from this over and over again? There is almost no mention of his 10-year old son or his grandchildren or his younger wife. In other words, we have not seen any speech or statement that addresses the world he will leave behind (well before them presumably) after his term in office. This is an unprecedented lack of empathy or deference to family for a U.S. President.
5 - Is the new President a liar?
I am not going to suggest that there is a lie detector or definitive "truth" test that we could use for the President-elect. However, we can use what is known from the neuroscience and psychological literature to examine his public behavior.
As described above, if one repeatedly lies and maintains that mistruth for an extended period of time, it is going to take a toll on his mental abilities. There is an increased need for mental resources when an individual must "toe the line" between what is fact and what he or she is reporting to be true. There is the possibility for a crack in the fabrication or the complete collapse of the lie. This is because the individual has to simultaneously monitor the verbal elements (what is being said), the nonverbal elements (what his body language is showing), and also anticipate potential follow-up questions. The more information that is requested from Mr. Trump, the more chances there are to weigh what he is saying/has said with available evidence. In addition, the longer the press conference, the more opportunities exist to further investigate his statements.
To finish this point, let's take a brief look at some of Mr. Trump's favorite sayings such as, "Believe me" or "I can tell you." These statements actually reveal quite a bit. At the simplest level, they are verbal "crutches" upon which he leans to fill spaces in his remarks. Most people who spend a lot of time speaking in public will develop these. Yet, these statements by Mr. Trump run deeper than simply being familiar crutches. As described by George Lakoff, a professor of linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley, "What's interesting about 'believe me,' is the stress is on me." Lakoff continues, "It assumes that knowledge comes from direct experience." Finally Lakoff, states, "Then it says, 'I have direct experience of that thing. And you should believe someone who has that experience. You should believe me, because I know.' "It appears as if Mr. Trump is striving extremely hard to obtain an air of legitimacy in the absence of any concrete evidence.
Mr. Trump's use of the phrases, "That I can tell you" or "that I will tell you" are verbal crutches as well but they also provide a peek into his "con" and its maintenance. These statements project the idea that there is knowledge only he has and that he will dole this out at his discretion. There is an element of truth here. He does have knowledge that we don't have in the sense that he is formulating a lie.
Intermingled with his verbal crutches are distraction statements intentionally meant to shorten the questioning and obscure his lack of a clear (or truthful) answer. Look at this statement from Mr. Trump at a rally in 2015 in Rochester, New Hampshire:
"But we're going to get it back and do some real jobs. How about the man with that beautiful red hat!"
He provides no evidence on how jobs will be created and then points out a bright, shiny object to distract his listeners. Just this weekend, Mr. Trump addressed hacking and said, "I know a lot about hacking and hacking is a very hard thing to prove, so it could be somebody else…[ask me about it] on Tuesday or Wednesday." It's a distraction and a stall tactic to hide his lack of an understanding or answer.
In conclusion, remember the new President is to represent the people including the millions who did not vote him. Watch and evaluate our next President; use the above tools and be informed and check his progress toward your expectations. See what happens in your area.
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