Will Donald Trump’s Personality & Temperament evolve with his new job as President Trump?
Ross Reinhold, December 2016
About a year ago Donald Trump graced the cover of Mad Magazine’s MAD 20 issue that covered the “. . . dumbest people, events and things of 2015 . . . “ and thus became “Mad Magazine’s Man of the Year” lampooning his campaign slogan into “Make America Dumb Again.”
That “prestigious” award 🙂 has been topped this year by being named Time Magazine’s 2016 Person of the Year. . Time’s editors were quick and clear to indicate this isn’t necessarily an honor they bestowed on Trump: “This is the 90th time we have named the person who had the greatest influence, for better or worse, on the events of the year. So which is it this year: Better or worse? The challenge for Donald Trump is how profoundly the country disagrees about the answer.”
A year ago we did our first Personality Type profile of Donald Trump, explaining how his temperament and behavior isn’t really very abnormal for an ESTP personality type. “Bold, Brash, Bombastic” was how we described Trump. Yet drawing upon some ESTP personality type profiles of recognized experts in the field of personality type education, we cast Trump in a much more “normal” light than the image we’ve seen in the media. (See one of these ESTP profiles here)
One of the problems in understanding Trump is that ESTP personalities are rarely found in politics. Likewise ESTPs are rare in academia or intellectual circles. Trump is not the kind of personality the media, commentators, political academia, and the general public are used to seeing amongst political candidates.
Another issue in understanding Trump is a common fault most all of us have with meeting anyone with whom we don’t have a long-standing and close relationship. We only see one face of a multi-faceted personality. We have to guess at what is behind the mask that is only part of the whole person. And ESTP types don’t rush to take the mask off; they are masterful players who by nature keep their “cards close to their vests.” And their “emotional expressions” can playfully have you wondering what cards they indeed hold.
ESTPs are pragmatic, goal-oriented people; they keep their eye on the prize. Like all Sensing-oriented types they value most their direct experience. If a formula wins, why change it? So what we’ve seen during the campaign is Donald Trump using tools and strategies that have worked for him and for his goal of winning. His campaign was about winning. An audition for getting to know “the real Donald Trump” wasn’t part of it.
In a follow-up article on the Leadership Styles of Trump and Clinton, I speculated that if indeed Trump did get elected President we’d see him “morph into a kinder, softer version of what we have seen during the campaign.” We would see the emergence of “Donald Trump 2.0.”
The Emergence of Trump the Negotiator
Even before he takes office, we are already seeing the emergence of Trump 2.0. It is a new situation that calls for new strategies. While winning many future challenges, big and small, will still be important, it is Trump the Negotiator not Trump the Entertainer who will be running the new show.
While some detractors recognize his negotiation and deal-making skills, they envision him being a very hard-liner, a bully in negotiations. They think the tough talk in the media will be replicated behind closed doors. He will make enemies; he’ll break the china in the shop. I disagree. I see Trump as an experienced negotiator who knows that in negotiations, while trying to win, you don’t try to make the other guy loose. While it is not language an ESTP uses, the ideal in truly successful negotiations is a win-win outcome. You end up losing in the long run if you “Bully your way” to an advantageous deal with someone or some group that you expect to have a long term relationship with.
Laying the Groundwork
Since the election, we’ve seen Trump involved in numerous meetings with people who weren’t Trump supporters. He’s met and and talked at length with President Obama and actually listened to what Obama has to say. He’s met with Al Gore who after the meeting indicated he had a “ . . . . lengthy and very productive session with the President-elect.” He’s had serious and fruitful conversations with Mitt Romney, who previously felt Trump was unfit for President, but like Gore was complimentary of his recent discussions with Trump. In his preparations for taking office and in considering his early appointments, he’s met with many people from different segments of society. A large number of them were during the campaign critical of Trump but who now seem to be changing their tune based on the recent contacts with Trump.
What’s going on here? Is this more Trump playing games with us; another masterful acting performance; a prelude to a gottcha?
No it is entirely consistent with Trump’s ESTP personality. Trump is very clear extravert who has lots of energy, seems to run on very little sleep. Extravert’s minds work best when they can “think out loud” and talk things out with others. As a pragmatic ESTP type, he is going to prefer knowledge he gains from his direct experience. While we know Trump uses the Internet, spending time surfing the Internet for knowledge isn’t likely to be his means of getting good information. His strategy would be to “surf” real people; people with a variety of expertise, learn through interactions with them. Build up a database of knowledge and information in a manner that fits his ESTP nature.
His time spent meeting with people who are drawn from different segments of society also is laying the groundwork for later relationships. Good negotiations are more likely to arise from first building a good foundation of relationships.
Donald Trump Mad Man or Man for the Times?
There remains plenty of hysteria over Trump since the election. Witness a few comments to an article on “Economic policy in the Trump administration” (i.e. a relatively apolitical essay) in a recent Linked-In forum populated by intelligent professional and managerial folk:
“Trump is an empty suit who preys on others, appropriates the accomplishments of others, and feeds his ego on adulation and self aggrandizement.”
“This analysis completely ignores Trump’s severe narcissistic personality disorder.”
“Study up on what NPD is – Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Because that is most likely what DJT has. And it’s frightening. Aggressive and reckless, here we come.”
“What is the only difference between Adolph Hitler and Donald Trump? Hitler was an artist”
What we see in the above writers and in the things they see about Donald Trump is our Feeling nature getting a bit out of control. It happens to Trump; it happens to many of the people who make comments like those above.
The Feeling mental process (while a higher level of executive judgment) also has a close connection to our primal, emotional part of our brains. So Feeling can drive critical comments about others who have managed to inflame our emotional brain or it can drive compassion and cooperation with others. Love and Hate arise from the same place in the animal part of our brains. As an Extravert, who is way out there on the extraversion scale, Trump’s Feeling is out there too and reacts in real time, which is where his mouth gets ahead of his thinking mind.
But I submit in more intimate circumstances, one-on-one or in smaller meetings, Trump’s Introverted nature (his Thinking and Intuition) takes more control. He becomes a more balanced person and generally more likeable. And more rational. This is normal for a very extraverted ESTP personality.
I expect Trump to continue to Tweet, excite and sometimes anger people with his off-the-cuff comments. It’s entertainment for him and it acts as a pressure relief valve. It is a part of his nature. But if you take these statements as well-thought out or coming from the deepest part of his nature (revealing his true self!), you don’t understand ESTP personalities nor very extraverted people in general. You gotta look at his whole nature and the fruits of the tree.
Maybe I’m wrong, seeing Trump with rose-colored glasses. Maybe he just luckily evaded mental hospitalization or criminal prosecution for 70 years. But I think the Donald Trump version 2.0 that is emerging is real and I expect it to continue.
How successful will he be? Will he negotiate a detente with the Main Stream Media or continue to do his creative “end-arounds” engaging the public and getting his messages out via other means? And he’ll encounter many other obstacles in the form of political adversaries and various interest groups who perceive him as being antagonistic to their values and goals. A good deal of this opposition is based on a one dimensional view of Donald Trump 1.0 as seen and portrayed in the media during the campaign. How readily will these opposition forces let loose of these perceptions and give him a fresh look? Time will tell.
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