The Art of Changing the Subject

President Trump has been criticized harshly over the past week because of his performance in Helsinki with Russian President Putin. So yesterday he tried his best to change the subject. By tweeting this:

Predictably, the pundits pounced.

The fact that the tweet came out of the blue and had nothing to do with anything matters not. It worked. He changed the subject. The focus. Twitter lit up, not about Russia or the president’s dismal performance but about this unrelated, contrived tweet.

Mr. Trump is a master at dictating the public discourse. He’s better at it than anyone I’ve ever seen. And from that we can learn, Vera.

Now, I’m not suggesting you model your life after Mr. Trump. Far from it. But I am suggesting we can learn from him, even if we think he’s a deplorable person.

No matter what you might think of his character (or lack thereof), Mr. Trump’s achievements are undeniable. For heaven’s sake, he got elected president of the United States! So obviously he must be good — very good — at something.

And he is. And one of those things is changing the subject.

This is a skill that can come in handy for all of us. There will be times when the discussion is going nowhere. Or, worse yet, is taking you down a rabbit hole. Or, even worse, putting you in the worst light possible and posing a threat to you personally.

Reason suggests you can work your way out of it. That persuasion is called for, and will be effective. But life has taught me it isn’t always that easy. Humans are emotional being. Reason has its limits. Persuasive powers aren’t as effective as we think they are. Sometimes, the best strategy is to shift the focus and change the subject.

Mr. Trump reminds us that sometimes the best way of doing that is to grab the other person’s attention in such a way you can’t be ignored.

In his case, he went to the extreme. Yesterday, he came off as being unhinged. But it worked.

Again, I’m not suggesting you emulate Mr. Trump. Somehow he manages to pull it off, but I suspect most people would fall flat on their faces if they tried half the stunts Mr. Trump employs. That said, there is something to be learned here.

Try not to allow apparent lunacy to blind you to the lessons to be learned from others. Important lessons can be learned, even from bad teachers.

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