Why the First Trump-Clinton Debate is a Teachable Moment

trump__clinton-2-701x482The first Trump-Clinton debate broke the record for the most watched presidential candidate face off, with an estimated 84 million viewers, according to Nielsen. That’s significantly more than the 67.2 million viewers who tuned-in to watch the Romney-Obama 2012 debate. It also bests 1980’s Reagan-Carter debate numbers of 80.6 million, MarketWatch reports. While office debates do not attract nearly as many people, they are often front-and-center of the entire organization.

Here’s Why the First Trump-Clinton Debate is a Teachable Moment

The first Trump-Clinton debate, the most anticipated in American politics to-date, didn’t offer many pundit-predicted fireworks. Sure, there were a few barbs, but nothing compared to John Adams, whose camp called Thomas Jefferson “a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow.” A long running feud between Lady Nancy Astor and Winston Churchill served super-powered shots and quips. She once threatened, “Winston, if you were my husband, I’d poison your tea.” To which he wittily retorted, “Nancy, if I were your husband, I’d drink it!” Rachel, the wife of Andrew Jackson, was called an adulteress and a bigamist.

Most workplaces have petty conflicts that can cause tension between employees. Little annoyances, however, can grow into bigger conflicts when they are manifestations of deeper-rooted issues. Often, the real issue comes from a disconnect between what leadership says and what the actual culture is. People misunderstand the roles of their co-workers. —Business Record.com

But the Clinton-Trump debate serves as a teachable moment, not because of who won, but because of what it showed the American people. Two candidates who over-practiced obvious self-restrain. Each suppressed their own personality and not one of two let their true self take over. Supposedly, it’s the art of appealing calm, cool, and collective — of appearing presidential. In the end, snap polls showed Trump triumphed, while other polls declared Clinton the winner. The ultimate result was an American voter disappointment.

How to Win a Debate

Another way of explaining how the first Clinton-Trump debate is a teachable moment is by pointing out that not one candidate actually stood out. The event will not be among the most memorable of all time. The disappointment results directly from no clear winner. Both candidates tried to please all of the people all of the time and failed. The good news is, there are two more debates; and, you can apply this lesson to your business. When a debate arises, you want to demonstrate the worthiness of your opinion and to position your idea as the best. Here are some helpful suggestions for how to win a debate:

Get your thoughts in-order. If you have the opportunity, take advantage of the time to get your thoughts ready. In situations where you’re likely to encounter a debate, you should go in prepared. While being confident is part of winning, being overconfident is generally part of losing. Think about key points and refrain from using second person pronouns, such as “you.” Don’t worry about throwing zingers, just get your point across calmly yet confidently for it to resonate.

Be aware of your body language. Appearance and body language are huge tells. The Nixon-Kennedy debate and the Gore-Bush debates certainly prove this true. Nixon refused makeup and sweat profusely, while many years later, Gore sighed loudly. Voters who watched the Nixon-Kennedy debate thought Kennedy won, while radio listeners thought Nixon won. These examples clearly demonstrate appearance and body language are very important.

Throw-in a little self-deprecation. There’s nothing wrong with injecting humor but it can go too far. Throw out a bit of self-deprecation as a pseudo rope-a-dope. It shows you are aware of your faults and flaws, taking away some of your opponent’s ammunition. Be sure to balance it with plenty of thoughtful rhetoric.

Sincerely admit when you were wrong. There is no getting around your wrongs — it’s simply ludicrous to try. Any attempt is an exercise in futility and will only serve to undermine your credibility. For instance, if you have a propensity to demand rather than delegate, admit it and move on.

Turn your weakness into a big strength. Since your opponent will surely bring your weakness into the debate, use it to your advantage. Turn your weakness into a strength and don’t dwell on it. Instead, immediately pivot to another strength and elaborate.

What’s your strategy for winning a debate? Have you experienced an unexpected argument and found ways to cope? Please share your experiences and thoughts by leaving a comment!

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