How to talk to fourth graders: Trump’s communication triumph

Donald Trump has clearly developed his communication skills aimed at a specific and large block of voters

David Rigby
David Rigby - Special to Al Arabiya English
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“The purpose of communication is the results that you get”. This model from Neuro Linguistic Programming is being very effectively demonstrated by U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Jack Schafer of Politico recently examined the numerous subtleties and intricacies of Trump’s typical speech structures. He claims that Trump talks like a simpleton and therefore that he is the ideal candidate for less astute conservatives who can’t seem to figure out left from right. He has learned to talk to his people as if they were stupid four graders.

He uses very simple words and short sentences. Schafer is speculating that his speeches are designed to win the votes of citizens with lower IQs and may not be his natural speech pattern. In the same way that Hilary Clinton has very carefully crafted an image that she dresses like she went to the local dime store.

Donald Trump has clearly developed his communication skills aimed at a specific and large block of voters.

This week the British Parliament debated whether to ban Donald Trump from visiting the UK. This is because over 500000 people signed a petition to have him banned, which, by UK law, requires this debate. A very active, vocal, and possibly a majority of the British, including the Prime Minister are rightly outraged by what they hear from the US, It is debatable whether there are legal grounds for banning him and, as expected, they haven’t banned him.

After all, a country that not once, but twice elected communications expert George W. Bush to president could easily end up with President Donald Trump, and banning the U.S. president from the UK might not be a good idea.

According to Schafer, Trump prefers to use short, block-like words, and he combines them into short, block-like speeches instead of linking together multi-syllabic terms and complex phrases.

For anyone with native English this is what we all need to do in the UAE, not because the people are stupid but because we have to recognize that the majority do not have English as a first language and hence a more limited vocabulary. Equally, the shorter the word the less time it takes to text.

Being from England, I am aware of how misunderstandings can arise talking even with Americans. And with anyone else you never know whether they would use British or American English. These days, I typically emulate Peter Tinniswood’s Winston when I use both English and American in the same sentence such as “Take the luggage, the baggage from the boot, the trunk and put it in the lift, the elevator”, Nevertheless I came unstuck recently when talking a recently arrived Indian who knew neither boot nor trunk and instead used the South Asian English ‘Dickie’.

So given “The purpose of communication is the results that you get” and assuming that you wish to be understood rather than to show off then the skill is to be able to assess the grasp of language of the person you are talking to. Addressing the eloquent as if they are stupid doesn’t go down too well either. When I used to be a Radio Host in the UK we were taught to always address the ‘one key person’ who was the most typical of the listeners you had or aspired to have.

Matching your words to your audience was well demonstrated this week in the UK’s BBC Radio 4 Show ‘Last Word’ about the recently deceased/passed. Being Radio 4, we expect the audience to be very articulate! On the programme which included David Bowie and Alan Rickman as its subjects one spokesman managed to use the words ‘eloquent’, ’languid’, ’quintessential’, ’old ruee’ and ‘ingenue’ in almost the same sentence. Very impressive but not for the general public in the UK let alone UAE.

I use short words short sentences and no expressions until I am sure the listener can deal with more. So Remember ‘KISS’ – ‘Keep it simple, stupid!’

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