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Sunday, April 18, 2021

The Trump Factor – A Lesson in Bravado and Base Instincts

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So if you stopped paying attention yesterday for a bit, then you might have missed the fact that Donald Trump just became the next president of the United States.

This came as a surprise to… basically everyone. Going in to the day, Trump had around a 20-30% chance of actually winning, according to most polls.

So today, a lot of people are going to be asking one question: how?

fear and bravado

But since this isn’t a site about politics, I wanted to talk about something relevant to lawyers – bravado, authenticity, and substance.


You may have seen this kind of lawyer before. They’re the one that walks into a room with a client and almost immediately manages to start getting the client all excited about the thing in question.

They make big promises like “we’re gonna go get your money back” or “no worries we can do that contract by tomorrow”.

The promises are made without usually much thought for:

  • whether or not they’re possible
  • whether or not the lawyer can deliver on the promise; and
  • whether or not they’re a good idea.

That’s the nature of bravado – it allows you to say things without getting caught up in the fear of the thing.

To some extent, that’s a good thing. But not always.

The person filled with bravado sometimes makes promises they can’t keep.

Worse though – if they’re not careful, then lawyers with a lot of bravado get in the habit of saying whatever they need in order to get the result – they walk away from their authenticity, and their honesty.

Get Them Before They Get YOU!

Here’s the other things that lawyers filled with bravado have a tendency to do – they appeal to base instincts: fear, revenge, anger (the dark side of the force).

It’s pure simplicity to be able to nudge people in the direction they are already going.

Got an ugly family law dispute? Then you’ve got a client primed with fear, bitterness, betrayal.

Got a business owner with a big debt owed to them? Then you place on their sense of entitlement, their righteous indignation at the unpaid debt.

So what happens if you combine your bravado with your knowledge of these things? You can egg your client on and make them feel like you really understand them. They’ll feel vindicated and justified in feeling how they do, and you’ll come across as the big hero.

By playing on the emotions that you know must be there, you can immediately get your client on board – get the work, get the matter, and start spending money.

So What’s the Trump Factor?

When you look at the vote split, it seems like Trump nailed the polls in “uneducated white people” and Clinton took a lot of the vote in non-white voters, and educated voters.

That’s hardly a shock.

But it would also be foolish to think that everyone who voted for Trump was “dumb”. So here’s the question – how did a man with no political experience to speak of, and a campaign that was largely an international joke, manage to get elected as the president?

He has bravado.

And he appealed to people’s baser instincts.

It’s a key point in marketing that you have to tap into people’s burning desires or worst fears. And that’s exactly what these tactics do.

Look at the trump campaign. His message focused solely on a few topics:

  • fear – fear of immigrants, fear of economic collapse, fear of ISIS, fear of the FBI, fear of Clinton
  • self-accomplishment – make America great again.

We already know that people make most decisions based on their emotional reaction.

And Trump picked the right emotions, either on purpose or inadvertently.

The question is going to be this: can Trump actually deliver on any of the rhetoric, or not?

Are you prepared to be like Trump?

Here’s where the rubber hits the road, and as I write this only the next little while will tell us what the consequences of this decision are.

But here’s my question for you: are you prepared to be like Trump? Are you prepared to get “the win” (maybe secure the client, get the work, encourage the litigation) using Trump methods?

If not – then are you prepared for the fact that sometimes people using Trump methods are going to beat you?

Let me know in the comments!

Happy Lawyering!

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  • The TRUMP method or what I call as TRUMPETEERING may work in politics but not in courts (mostly) and with law societies and legal work. But I have seen many trumps in legal profession in India and in New Zealand and have read a lot about such Lawyers every where else.

    • My comment has to do with logic.

      Hillary’s platform used words like respect and tolerance towards all minorities, gender, race, creed, school of thought, sexual orientation. Her supportes were deeply into this.

      Wednesday morning I woke up to see a bunch of people in my social media timeline saying:

      “I can’t live in a moronic country”;
      “It seems fascists (Trump electors) won”;
      “The 40% of you that didn’t vote are lazy and worthless”.

      That made me think: If the (so called) “educated Americans” said such a thing, where is their tolerance? How can you be both educated and incoherent at the same time? Is tolerance just a “pro forma” campaign recourse? Can you be hypocrite and persuasive at the time?

      I would like an educated american to comment on that.

  • Thank you for the article, it is very helpful.

    I just started practicing law this September and am having an issue with bravado.

    I am always making promises to clients that I can’t deliver, usually it’s a promise about how soon I will get this or that done for them. I feel very bad about making empty promises.

    The other day a client kept chasing me for something and said to me in an email in which my boss was copied “when you were on the phone you were so confident that you could get it done within a week”. I felt that was a slap on my face.

    I’m not sure how to deal with this issue. It seems to me that it has become my second nature to act out of bravado. I fear that if I don’t find a way to deal with it, sooner or later my boss would have a conversation with me about it.

    • Hey there QZ – what you’re describing is very common. Importantly you have identified it as a problem. Normally it comes from one of two places: the desire to please the client and the inability to say “no” or “wait” to them (sometimes it just can’t be done), or a poor assessment of our own capacity. Aside from the obvious which is stop over-promising, I suggest that you keep a record of what you promise clients, and each time you do it make sure that you have a specific plan for delivering on that promise – early. Aim to deliver early, not on the date that you promised.

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