So the least popular new president in the history of new presidents just got himself inaugurated, after losing the popular election by three million votes. Hail to the Chief! As our new Russian besties would say, Prisyagat' na vernost' nashemu rukovoditelyu! ("Swear fealty to our leader!")
Or maybe you're not feeling fealty. Maybe you admitted to a relative or a social medium that it's hard to see a science-doubting, journalism-bashing, civil-rights-hero dissing fop as your president?
Which inspires the inevitable response from a Trump supporter: "Get over it." What exactly are we supposed to be getting over? The fact that we have a billionaire-cabinetted tweet clown as president?
That's not for me to say. I'm here to offer a less obnoxious suggestion: Protest all you want, but when you're talking to a Trump supporter, first decide exactly what you want. If you're the kind of decent American I think you are, I'm guessing you want at least one of these things:
1. Pleasant conversations without walking on eggshells.
2. Making Trump supporters begin to doubt their choice. (The less popular the president, the less evil he can do.)
3. Not getting shot.
And, best of all,
4. More love, less hate.
Actually, number four offers one of the best manipulative strategies rhetoric has to offer, and it will help you attain the first three goals. Besides, love—platonic love, not how-to-get-laid love—happens to be one of the few tools of manipulation that doesn't hurt anyone. Here's how it works:
When you're with someone you can't stand, tell yourself you love them. Even if, really, you can't stand their stupid big-mouth faces, say to yourself, "I really love being with this person." Smile and nod. Try to send love beams out of your eyes.
No, you're not being genuine. Yes, you're being more than a little dishonest. But I've found in numerous debates that an agreeable, amenable, loving attitude tends to make an opponent more persuadable. In loving your enemy, you may seem like you're giving up power; but in reality you're gaining power. How? By putting the person in a state called " cognitive ease."
One theory of rhetoric and argument—which I teach professionally—suggests that making people feel powerful and welcome in an exchange also makes them more susceptible to persuasion. An agreeable, smiling, love-beaming person seems more likeable and trustworthy; and when you like and trust a person, you're inclined to believe more of what they say. You're more likely to take their opinion more seriously, even to the point of doubting your own just a little.
So what exactly do you say while beaming love to a Trump supporter who's just told you to "Get over it?"
Say, "You're right." Nod, smile, agree. Say, "I'm with you. Trump is president." Yeah I know. I even hate writing that. But agreeing that Trump is president actually reframes the issue. This isn't about getting over anything. It's about admitting an obvious fact. By doing that, you imply that you and the supporter are part of the same tribe. You already agree! He might look suspicious, but that's okay. You've gained power.
Next say, "I'm looking forward to seeing what he and that cabinet of his will do. Trump said he'll do great things for the working people, right?"
The supporter will probably say something about jobs. Let him. Nod.
You: And I like how everybody will get health care while our premiums will go down.
Trumpie: Right, that Obamacare was a mess, and Trump's gonna replace it.
You: Can't wait! And he's going to get rid of crime in the inner cities. No more murders in Chicago.
Trumpie: Right. Sounds like you should have voted for the guy.
You (still smiling): Well, you and I are going to hold Trump's feet to the fire, right? You and I aren't going to let Trump go back on his promises, are we?
Trumpie: He won't.
You: Of course he won't. And you and I are going to hold him to his promises. The economy is going to grow by, what, five percent? And he's going to rebuild our roads and bridges and railroads, right? And if he doesn't…
Trumpie: Oh, he will.
You: You bet! Two years from now, if you and he are right, America will be loved and respected by the world, we'll have great trade deals, the dollar will be stronger, the Earth won't be getting warmer, and crime will just about disappear. Did I miss anything?
See what you did there? First, you immediately agreed. Trump is president. Next, you reminded the supporter of all the things Trump promised. Finally, you implied a pact: The two of you will not stand for Trump failing on those promises.
Admittedly, results may vary. But the dialogue shows the basic strategy: Couch your points in ways that agree with your opponent. Your goal isn't to "win." Most arguments don't get won on points. Instead, you want to destabilize your opponent's position. Have him walking away wondering just a little bit whether Trump really can do all those things.
And two years from now, when Republicans become the latest chumps to realize they've been had by a master con man, your Trump supporter just might be one of those saying they should throw the bum out.
And then both of you can get over it.
_Jay Heinrichs is the author of _Thank You For Arguing: What Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson Can Teach Us About the Art of Persuasion.