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4 Abusive Manipulative Communication Strategies Demonstrated by Donald Trump

Ben Carson endorsed Donald Trump today for President of the United States. Since the two candidates seemed to be on complete opposite sides of the coin, this has left many people wondering what Carson saw in Trump, what Trump used to cajole Carson into endorsing him, or whether Carson is really a political stooge.

I have seen this so many times, and experienced it quite a few. It is easy to look at Carson and ask “How could you?” But this is just the situation where we need to follow Jesus’ often misquoted words about judging: Judge not, lest you be judged, for by the same measure you use against another, it will be used against you. The situation Carson just faced and lost face in is similar to so many situations I have seen in years in ministry and as a PK. Rather than taking time to point a finger of condemnation, I want to present the lessons I have learned from watching many people like Trump work their charm.

One: Control The Narrative

Trump convinces even those who are trying to break his stranglehold on the media that he is “shameless” and “brilliant.” These positive words show that even an author attempting to take Donald down a few notches is incapable of discussing him on any terms but the ones he wants. This is the first step of a master manipulator.

Belinda is a mom of 4*, husband number 3 works hard, but he spends significant time drinking, smoking, and playing computer games. Belinda is the lord of the house in these times, and the children know that they have certain roles to fulfill. The oldest, a son, is the one who cares for the other kids when his step-dad is drunk and mommy has a migraine. The oldest daughter is the smart one. The next daughter is the pretty one. The youngest is the troublemaker. These titles come out in overt and covert ways throughout the children’s lives and they deal with that narrative long after their mom’s influence has left.

*The two case studies I present are actually conglomerates of multiple people who I have had direct experience with. Names are completely fictitious. 

Two: Isolate Them Through the Narrative

Manipulators will take entire families and groups of people away from friends and family, isolate them, and begin implanting and influencing the very language people use to define themselves. It is no accident that Trump has attacked every political opponent and member of the media who is a threat to him, nor is it childish name-calling. It is the first step of his manipulative process. If you imply Carson is a pedophile, you make him come to you with a meek attitude in a “spirit of reconciliation.”

Casey is a single father of 2. Raised by missionaries in the 3rd world, he is great at giving people what they want to hear. While continually talking about the Christians who do not measure up for some reason, he will quickly compliment leaders around him to gain their trust and approval. Meanwhile he targets people within the church community who are searching, struggling, or otherwise feel outside the group. He furthers their isolation, ingratiating them to him through favors and special treatment in the meantime.

Three: Emphasize an Us vs Them Mentality

No More Christian Nice Guy, a book discussing how Christian men can leave behind the manipulative title of nice, looks at this clearly. The author’s mom would abuse him constantly with a refrain about how “they” were coming to take him away. This established a fear of others that could only be rectified by a manipulated relationship with his mother.

I have seen this too many times, and Donald Trump is just another example. Every fan of his falls under his “us” mentality, meanwhile those who are outside are left wondering how to get in: see Palin, Christie and Carson.  Although this is part of isolating victims and controlling the narrative, the us vs them mentality is so much more insidious. In creating this mentality, the manipulative abuser comes to turn bystanders into accomplices for his or her crimes, while ostracizing those who see the manipulation for what it is.

Four: Retreat and Retrench

A manipulator uses people. Donald Trump used Christie to identify himself as an establishment player, Palin to ingratiate himself with the tea party, and he is now using Carson to attempt to recruit Christians, intellectuals, and people who favored Carson’s gentler persona. Casey used people to protect his abusive, pedophile tendencies. Belinda uses people to enforce her control of her children.

Eventually all the moral issues come to the forefront. Trump University is a scam. Casey’s ex-wife lands in a committed relationship where she starts talking about the abuse. Belinda’s husband challenges her after she locks the kids outside for 10 hours in the snow.

The manipulative abuser then backs up, and finds a new place to target their abuse. Casey moves out of state, and hides with his kids in a new community where he begins the manipulation again. Belinda sends the smart child to live with a teacher-friend, leaves the responsible child at home with his step-dad, takes her two youngest to another city, and files for divorce.

These trends are issues I have seen in so many abusive manipulating relationships, and I see them with Donald Trump and the American people.

How Are We To Respond?

This is the key issue I want to bring up in this article. How do we respond to an abuser and to the people in relationship with them? This is the most difficult. As much as we love to confront issues in our society, the narrative concerning issues is controlled by the Trumps of this world.

We must focus on relationships. Start by surrounding yourself with positive, informationally rich relationships with strong individuals. Find people you disagree with and build relationships with them. In order to be an effective help to people in abusive relationships and to counter the political influence of the Trumps of this world, we must first be strong in our own community.

After you have established strong relationships, then you can reach out. Do not focus on issues, the abuser controls the narrative. Focus on relationships. Take the time to listen, verify everything they say from independent sources, and only correct their erroneous attitudes after you are invited to do so.

Be strong. Abusive relationships need controversy to control the narrative. A strong individual avoids reacting because she knows what is right and is confident in her community. Rather than reacting to the narrative, live outside of it, boldly!

For the Trump narrative, the number one fear so far is based in nationalism. The other is immigrants, refugees, and Muslims. Be a strong Christian, and still take time to study the Koran with Muslims in your community. If that is not an option, find a Hispanic or African American church and go there one Sunday a month.

If you find yourself susceptible to a political fear-based system, take time to really listen to people who are different then you. Hate guns? Sign up for the NRA’s mailing list and listen. Love guns? Take time to read material by the Brady Campaign, and do not react, but think and realize that there is another human being made in the image of God writing the words you are reading.

Love them. Love the people who are different from you, but do not attempt to get into their “inner circle” or pull them into yours. This is the first boundary that abusers love to violate. Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Ben Carson and Ted Cruz are not your spouse, your parents, your children, or even your local representative (unless they are, but I doubt this post will be that widely read). They are people running for the position of CEO of the national government of the Federal System of the United States. They are not God.

The best way we can help people in abusive relationships is by understanding the boundaries healthy to human relationships and walking in them as examples. Whether it is showing a battered wife that her husband has violated a boundary reserved for God (life and death), or showing Donald Trump fans that he has no understanding of any boundaries, familial, business or governmental, the boundaries we set are the best way to show people proper relationships.

Be there for people in abusive relationships. Stay strong through healthy relationships. Understand and exercise healthy boundaries. These are the three steps that come to mind as I write, do you have more?