President Trump still hasn’t mastered the art of the verbal deal

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President Donald Trump speaks at the 9th annual Shale Insight Conference at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019, in Pittsburgh.  Photos courtesy of AP Photo/Evan Vucci.

President Donald Trump speaks at the 9th annual Shale Insight Conference at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019, in Pittsburgh. Photos courtesy of AP Photo/Evan Vucci.

As you may have noticed over the last few years, President Trump isn’t exactly the most refined communicator. (In other news, water is wet, the sky’s blue and I’m a hopeless romantic.) I’m not even speaking to my concordance, or lack thereof, with his beliefs or statements; no matter where you lie on the political spectrum, you should at least acknowledge Trump’s shoddy grasp of the English language. As a Daily Campus weekly columnist, the chapter secretary for another UConn Tier III organization and an English major, I specialize in verbal communication. Therefore I think it’d be worthwhile to objectively evaluate Trump’s ability–or in this case, inability–to abide by basic principles of effective communication. 

Before you initiate oral or written conversation, it’s important to consider what tone is most appropriate to apply within your particular context. For example, there are major differences in how I’d speak with a close friend or family member as opposed to an on- or off-campus VIP, and in how I’d articulate myself in an English persuasive paper as opposed to a psychology research paper. Heck, I even approach my Daily Campus editorials and columns somewhat differently! We can attribute such variation to distinctions in structure, style, mood and purpose across genres. My issue with Trump in this regard is that no matter what communicative medium he uses, his tone remains fairly constant: His informality and unfiltered boisterousness across his Twitter posts, news interview and even some press conferences with foreign leaders demonstrate his lack of consideration toward contextual communicative norms, which truly lessens the weight behind his words. 

As you communicate, it’s vital to construct a well-thought-out and clear argument. Whenever I intend to persuade an audience, as I do right now, I try to cover all my bases, provide credible evidence to back up my points and address any and all counterarguments I can devise. I also ensure my argument remains fluent and consistent (i.e. I provide logical organization and avoid contradicting myself). And of course, transparency and honesty are essential to establishing coherence and trust. Unfortunately, Trump simply doesn’t appear to value these qualities. After all, his ramblings are largely disjointed, nonsensical or incoherent, and even his attempts to instill reputability backfire via self-contradiction, citation of unreliable sources and dishonesty. 

Another critical consideration involves mass appeal. For one, keep it simple, stupid! No, really–I promise I’m not trying to be rude! You can begin with a basic claim and branch out from there. For the sake of generalizability, your overall message should be concise and memorable with some call for unified action. You can distinguish yourself in various ways, whether via connecting personal experiences, incorporating current trends and media or establishing an authentic, relatable public persona (e.g. I like to think that my readers consider me a typical college student with quick wit and creativity). To his credit, Trump does keep things simple and memorable; I just wish that he’d substantiate his words and be a more approachable, unifying presence beyond his limited base. 

Once you’ve put your thoughts and beliefs out into the universe, you must manage your audience’s response–whether positive or negative, solicited or unsolicited–properly. For one, you should remain levelheaded and open-minded toward feedback. Many people have justification for their differing opinions, and there’s always the possibility that, deliberately or not, you’ve gotten something objectively wrong. If you can address such instances thoughtfully and maturely, then generally you and your words will garner more respect and favorability. Not only are Trump’s defiant outbursts in the face of public skepticism and his demonization of critics as “haters and losers” unbecoming of someone in his position, but such petulance disqualifies his claims from the get-go. Furthermore, you can’t afford to insult your audience’s mental and independent capacity by being dishonest or patronizing; rather than follow Trump’s example, be upfront and humble yourself. And my final piece of advice for those of you who want to abide by common courtesy and maintain a strong, loyal following: Show some gratitude for your audience’s time and attention. Some of us, like Trump, shamefully neglect to do this, but such explicitly expressed appreciation can truly go a long way in the court of public opinion. 

Mr. President, I know you fancy yourself as having perfected “the art of the deal.” But I must contest you on this front: based upon my analysis, you still haven’t mastered “the art of the verbal deal.” Please come back to us when you do, hopefully sooner rather than later. 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by individual writers in the opinion section do not reflect the views and opinions of The Daily Campus or other staff members. Only articles labeled “Editorial” are the official opinions of The Daily Campus.


Michael Katz is a weekly columnist for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at michael.i.katz@uconn.edu.

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