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Trevor Smith: How to cope with a Trump

Published:Sunday | March 27, 2016 | 12:00 AM
How To Cope With A Trump In Your Life

American presidential Republican candidate Donald Trump is a major talking point these days. His behaviour is puzzling to some, condemned by others, and embraced by his enthusiastic followers.

I have been intimidated out of my wits by dogs lying still in front of their gate. The fact that I was willing to give up my right to walk on a public thoroughfare because I felt threatened gives us an important starting point in dealing with a dominant personality like Trump at work, home, or play.


Step 1

Recognise that at its core, dominance feeds on intimidation and submission. What is not widely recognised is that the domination can be self-inflicted!

I allowed myself to be dominated by dogs who had no interest in harming me. Weeding out self-inflicted domination is the first step in dealing effectively with Trump-like dominant personalities.

Dominance is actually a style of behaviour, and with it comes certain attitudes, mannerisms, and actions. One such mannerism is the equivalent of aggressive barking. That barking is not necessarily supported by a commitment or intention to bite. However, its intensity puts doubt in the minds of others and the barker protects its position. The barking demeanour creates a feeling of intimidation in others.

Individuals who, like Donald Trump, use dominance as their preferred style of interacting with others may come across as aggressive, pushy, and even threatening. Recognising that the barking may just be a reflex response makes it easier to avoid being intimidated by it.


Step 2

Make the distinction between bark, bite, and intention to bite. We identified the weeding out of self-induced domination as the first step. Develop the courage to identify when barking is not linked to biting or the intention to bite.

The secret is the need to look beyond tone and body language, which complicates communication with dominant personalities. Do not be distracted by mannerisms. This is a challenging but fundamental mechanism for dealing effectively with dominant personalities. Is there blustering taking place to distract attention from the real issues?

Keeping your focus on the core issue helps you to avoid being distracted by the noise of tone and body language. You need to take that foundation principle into dealing with dominant personalities like Trump.


Step 3

Dominant personalities have a strong desire to win or make a notable contribution to winning. Sitting in the back seat away from the steering wheel is distinctly uncomfortable for them. That is the second-guessing and push back that leaders get from dominant team members. This is the equivalent of the challenges the GOP are having with the Trump challenge to their values and principles. To work with this personality's desire to win:

• Work to identify ways to address the needs of the dominant party through negotiation.

• Share where you are going and the route you are taking, and why you have chosen that route.

• Actively take on board their feedback and explain what can be incorporated and what cannot be accommodated now, and why.

• Show them respect and pay tribute to their contribution. Whatever the relationship, make it clear that their cooperation is needed. Sell the value of working with the system instead of against it.

In essence, the final step in your quest to deal more effectively with dominant personalities is to integrate them meaningfully into processes and respect their contribution.

However, further action may be required with individuals who want to advance their personal agenda. Devise strategies to move those individuals from the 'they' side of the we/them divide. Negotiate to achieve genuine buy-in and commitment.

Offer the dominant individual different roles. Modify the operating environment and context. Do that effectively and you will experience less push back and greater levels of cooperation.


Step 4

Fighting fire with fire and headbutting really produces no winners in the long run. Pursue at least workable collaboration.

Follow the 4 steps outlined above for best results in dealing with dominant personalities.

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• Trevor E. S. Smith is a behaviour modification coach with the Success with People Academy.