During my summer holidays I have met a man who was physically very similar to Donald Trump. He was around 70 years old, small (1,60 M), same hair color and style like Donald Trump, he does not look very friendly either and even though he came from New York, he was originally from Georgia (Russia). He came to spend two weeks holidays in Aruba with his wife. When I first met him, I was doing the queue at the hut where one can lease the deck chairs at the beach in order to get four for me and my family. Suddenly little Donald Trump came to me and complained that I had taken his place at the queue.
He argued that I took his place while he was training with his soccer ball 30 meters from the queue. He told me that he can not just sit and wait until the office for the chair-rental opens. And he also said that this was his chair even though he was away playing soccer by himself. I told him that I understood and I just took a place after his empty chair. But he still continued complaining and talking to the air about my mistake of having taking his chair for two minutes. People looked at him but nobody was formally in his conversation.
I had the impression that he was honest and that he is the kind of person that says the things exactly the way he experiences it, so he expresses his own true.
Next day, I arrived again after him. I took a chair behind his chair and I start reading. Then a woman came and she took his place. I explained her that this chair was already occupied by the man who was playing soccer by himself over there, but she didn't care, she was impolite and told me that if he was playing, he lost his chair and she just took his place. All the people in the queue look at her without saying a word. After a while she felt so uncomfortable that she just left and I put my book on the chair to avoid that it happens again. Little Donal Trump watched everything and looked at her with a mad face. He came back to his place and I took my book to let his chair free. He started to tell how impolite that woman was and how shocked he was with the abusive behaviour of that woman.
I did not know to whom he was talking to. To me? To the whole line of people? To himself? Is it possible that I paced him unconsciously and he was talking to me?
The next day I decided I will coach little Donald Trump
The next day I arrived early. I was the second person in the queue to reserve the deck-chairs. Little Donald Trump arrived a bit later and was on the fifth place in the queue. Then he walked to a terrace that was about 30 meters away from the queue and started playing soccer by himself. I put my book on his chair to reserve his place and avoid problems. He came and started to talk to me and to the other people in the line. I guess he was in a good mood. He was funny and the people liked him and we all laugh with him at his jokes. It was interesting to see how my first impression of him were changing: from a grumpy old little man to a total social success with the people of that place. Everything was fine until he started to talk about the social and political situation in the USA. That was pretty uncomfortable for many people in the line because all of them were Americans, who were on vacation and don't want to talk about politics. Some of the people started to use their phones, other continued reading their books and I was left there listening to his complain about how bad the situation was. I felt uncomfortable, but then I thought, that was my chance to coach little Donald Trump!
I did not talk about politics, but I listened to him in order to find the spots where I could turn around the conversation from complaining to a solution oriented perspective. It was not easy, that was a real challenge. He talked a lot and I couldn't find the turning point. I tried to discover the figure and the ground of his theme. I just wanted to figure it out, what was behind his concern. After a big while I thought that not finding solutions to the social and political situation for his neighbourhood was his real problem. In such a case the hypothetical frame was an excellent tool to work with.
If you were President of the United States what would you do?
I asked. He looked at me as if he didn't expected that question at all. He was speechless. I let him a while in his astonishment but I was waiting for him to answer. He asked me, "What do you mean with that?" He looked upset. He thought I was joking. I just asked the question again with all respect. He told me his first solution. And I asked, "What else?" It really does not matter if the solution was right or wrong. The important thing was to bring him in a position to open up and to bring his awareness to focus on solutions. He started to tell one thing after the other. He started to have fun telling me about how he would solve all the problems of his neighbourhood and he got happier with every answer he was telling me. At the end he said, "I know, I am not a President. But it was fun to talk about it".
And that is exactly what was our conversation about: to change from problem oriented to a solution oriented conversation and it was great even though it was not a formal coaching session!
Maria Griselda Mueller
is a professional life and executive coach specialized in expats life and cross-cultural support. She is originally from Venezuela, has lived in more than ten countries around the world and has a Master certification in psychological coaching.