The idea of using Donald Trump as a good example of anything is a stretch. But the fact is, the bigoted Republican Party leader-hopeful is doing something right. At least, he’s doing something right in the eyes of the 30% of Republican voters, who give him full support. People attend his rallies; celebrities endorse him. His own adult children have publicly praised him.
So how is it that someone who makes such outrageous statements about people (President Obama, Mexicans, women) is so successful? The answer to that question is no doubt complex. But one puzzle piece is this: Trump has powerful skills of persuasion.
It’s clear that his success, to date, isn’t built on a political platform or some rational, well-presented ideas about governing the U.S.A. Instead, it’s built on appealing to the emotions. It’s built on being blunt, direct, and what most of us would consider at the very least “politically incorrect.” (At worst, racist, xenophobic, and misogynistic.) As well, it’s built on using words of persuasion. Or in some cases, on avoiding specific kinds of words of persuasion.
According to one linguistic analysis comparing Trump to Jeb Bush, another candidate, Trump is notable for not using the statesman-like words that Bush favors. (Words such as “strategy,” “government,” or even “growth.”) Trump uses short, blunt words, and the word he uses most frequently is “I.”
But more than using or avoiding specific words, Trump uses language to heighten and exaggerate — a fear mongering technique that appears to be working. For example, as Russell Granger says in 7 Triggers to Yes: Why Donald Trump is So Persuasive as a Candidate, instead of saying America is “in trouble,” he says it’s “going down the drain.” Instead of saying free trade is “a problem,” he says it’s “terrible.” Instead of saying China “beat us,” he says China “killed us.” And so on.
The above examples of dramatic words and phrases show how he appeals to people’s emotions. He does this to connect with an audience that is predisposed to receive these alarmist pleas. And, as Trump’s success shows, appealing to this base emotion helps get his message across.
So, how could you persuade like Donald Trump, in your business life? Try using the following three principles. They apply to any form of communication, written or spoken.
1/Consider your goal: If you want to persuade your audience in business, you need to know exactly what you want them to do.
2/Consider your audience: If you want to convince your audience that your goal is important to them, you need to know who your audience is. You need to be sure that they are the right audience for your message.
3/Consider your words: If you want to reach your audience, you need to know what kind of language will appeal to and persuade them.
I’ve noticed through my work that many people struggle with clearly identifying their goal and how to persuade their chosen audience. Fortunately, help is available at The Language Lab. Also fortunately, the help I can offer does not require appealing to the lowest emotions, a la Donald Trump!
Do you need help using persuasive language in business? Contact me at The Language Lab.