18-15 Segment 1: The Rise of Confrontational Politics

 

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Controversial politicians are nothing new in American politics, but the recent election of Donald Trump proved just how influential high-conflict politicians can be on the public. However, many people wonder what makes these high-conflict individuals so appealing, and how they manage to argue their way into powerful positions. We talk to two experts about how high-conflict politicians become so successful.

Bill Eddy, president of the High Conflict Institute and author of Trump Bubbles: The Dramatic Rise and Fall of High-Conflict Politicians, explains that a high-conflict person (HCP) is an individual that exhibits a repetitive narrow pattern of behavior, an all-or-nothing attitude, and intense emotions that easily distract them from being focused on problem solving. Many of their patterns of behavior become predictable, but Eddy states high-conflict individuals must first do something damaging before people realize. Yet, these high-conflict people still tend to attract an audience. He explains that high-conflict people are appealing in times of turmoil because they are able to make situations look simple. Furthermore, Eddy explains two other influencing factors in their success: the system of communication between a high-conflict person and the public, and that individuals ability to manipulate this system. Through understanding these different factors, high-conflict people are capable of gaining a following that allows them to become successful.

Another way that high-conflict people are able to appeal to a large audience and increase their opportunity for success is through emotion. Lauren A. Wright, PhD, political scientist and author of On Behalf of the President: Presidential Spouses and White House Communications Strategy Today, explains that studies have shown that being able to observe a person’s facial expressions, rather than just hearing the person speak, can influence people to be more inclined toward that person. Because of this, television and other visual media play a very important role in the public’s perception of a person.

How does this provide an advantage to politicians? This unconscious absorption of expression allows high-conflict politicians to easily spread their anger to their followers, while also establishing a loving relationship with them even though they have never met. However, when handling situations with a high-conflict person, Eddy explains that it is important to use E.A.R. statements. These statements rely on empathy, attention, and respect which can calm someone with a high-conflict personality because it shows them that you are aware that they are working hard and that you appreciate the work that they have done.

Guests:

  • Bill Eddy, president of the High Conflict Institute and author of Trump Bubbles: The Dramatic Rise and Fall of High-Conflict Politicians
  • Laura A. Wright, PhD; political scientist and author of On Behalf of the President: Presidential Spouses and White House Communications Strategy Today

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16-34 Segment 1: High-conflict politicians

politician: man pointing directly into camera

 

Throughout American history we’ve had politicians who stir up controversy during their campaigns: Bernie Sanders, Pat Buchanan, Joe McCarthy and now Donald Trump, to name just a few. These candidates are what one of our guests calls “high-conflict politicians.” What is the attraction some voters have for these candidates? Why are they so loyal to them? And what is the political climate that brings them to the fore? We discuss these issues with our guests who look at the politics and the psychology of high-conflict candidates.

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Click here for guest information and the transcript