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This is the first in what will be a series of posts on how to have productive conversations with Trump supporters.
We know Trump is a malevolently pathological liar who deliberately distorts truth to “sell” his frighteningly negative view of people and the world. The deeper, even more dangerous impact of his incessant lying is that over time truth gets overwhelmed until it finally disappears.
We know that. Trump’s supporters don’t get it. They live in the crazy, propaganda-driven world of his lies. For example, regarding immigration.
Our borders are getting overrun by tens of thousands of “those people:” rapists, criminals, and drug dealers, who come into this country and take jobs from hard-working Americans or go immediately on welfare that we have to pay. All those crying children are just left wing liberal Democratic propaganda. Democrats want to turn America into a refugee camp/homeless shelter so they can enroll these people as voters and disenfranchise “Real Americans.”
Current rates of illegal immigration remain extremely low by historic standards. Immigrants legally admitted go through an extensive vetting process. Legal and undocumented immigrants are significantly less likely to commit crimes than native-born citizens, making them a net benefit to public safety. The research shows that immigrants are not taking jobs away from U.S. natives, and their impact on wages appears to be small to nonexistent, particularly across the long term.
Problem #1: Trump’s supporters believe his lies. They really do.
Problem #2: Attacking Trump personally causes his supporters to dig in their heels even deeper. By attacking Trump, you’re attacking them.
Problem #3: Because there is no mutually-shared independent factual reality, arguing against Trump supporters with facts is a losing strategy. Our “facts” are lies to them.
Problem #4: While they may not like him, or may even be repelled by his personality, they overlook those shortcomings because they “like what he’s doing” – even though they may struggle to articulate exactly what that means.
I’ll be going into greater depth on communication and persuasion strategies in subsequent posts. Here’s the core foundation. If you try these approaches, start with your best friends—you know, the ones you’ve been avoiding because of your painful political differences.
CONSUMER WARNING: These are experience and research-based best practices. But they aren’t a fool-proof panacea (never underestimate the tenacity of fools). If you use these techniques with your Trump-supporter friends, realize that they will need, at some point, to be wiling to engage you in rational discussion. If they simply can’t do that, go on to your next friend.
This post is just a start. In subsequent posts I’ll be taking a deeper dive into the challenge drawing from sources like Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, latest breakthroughs in the cognitive neuroscience of how the brain really works, and tested strategies in influence, persuasion, and win/win negotiation. You can read the entire blog series at www.tombehrbooks.com/articles/blog
- Come from a place of love and respect. Don’t fight the battle on his turf. You can’t win. Start with Trump supporters you care about. Remember why they are important to you. As strange as it may seem right now, like you, they wake up each morning concerned about creating the best future possible for themselves, the people they love, and our country.
- Do NOT attack Trump personally. You won’t win. By now, their support for Trump is deeply anchored in their subconscious. Without being aware of what they’re doing, they will instinctively, reflexively defend Trump as if you attacked one of their children.
- If intellectually and morally possible, re-position yourself as an independent moderate, so that you remove yourself as a target (a Democratic, socialist, communist, weak, “liberetard snowflake”). If you look at our nation and the challenges it faces squarely, neither party has any viable answers. The solutions lie in the rational middle, not the radical extremes.
- Forget about winning arguments. That’s Trump’s game. What you’re about is the process of healing relationships. Stay focused on that goal.
- Change your game. Trump’s strength is fear, anger, insults, yelling, disrespect, humiliation, and cruelty. Make and keep the resolve to come from a place of caring, listening, asking open questions, and respectful acknowledgement. Spend the first conversation really trying to understand how they see things.
- Hold to the truth about your feelings and intentions. Stay genuine. That’s the best weapon against the Big Lie.
[Is there an end game? Sure. By November, help as many people as you can decide on their own, to abandon Trump. You can’t make them change. But you can create the opportunity for them to choose to change, themselves.]
For example (adapt to your own style and language):
“You’re an important friend to me. We go back a long time. I know we see things politically in very different ways, but I’m really troubled by how are between us now. I’d like to restore our friendship to what it’s been. What do you think?” [After you ask that question, quiet down and start listening!]