Everybody has a Donald Trump in their life. That is not to say that we all are personally connected to Donald John Trump, Sr of Manhattan, NY and current presidential candidate saying outlandish things. But we do all have someone – at work, at church, on our soft ball team, or in our family – that will say things that makes the whole crowd uncomfortable and might make everybody embarrassed to be associated with this irrational character. “That” guy can take a perfectly good day and make it seem like the longest day of our life just by opening their mouth and spewing their thoughts on a subject.
So what do you do when you know someone that thinks they speak for everybody, but their “spokesmanship” is unwarranted and off the mark? What do you do when “that” gal/guy just won’t shut up? What can be done to soften or silence that hot air in the room?
Don’t ignore them just because they usually say dumb things and people don’t take them seriously. By being silent and/or ignoring the controversy you send the signal that you agree with her/him. That is bad especially if they are causing more division in the crowd than clarity on the subject. If you don’t like what they say you certainly don’t want others to assume you think they are right, or smart or telling the truth.
Don’t be silent for the sake of not causing further controversy. Sometimes you might have to make a public statement that sets the record straight and separates you from them. More often your speaking will be done privately with other people effected by “the Donald.” Make sure that you are the only one that is troubled by her/his stump speeches on behalf of everyone else. Making sure that everyone else on the team is not in agreement with the rhetoric may be the best thing you can do, but sometimes taking on your teammate in public might be the better the choice.
Don’t make excuses for them. Stupid is as stupid does. Let them hang themselves. Your interference will only delay their public shaming.
Don’t join them in their foolishness. Whatever you say or do in response, do it with class, prudence, hope, and grace. Getting the last word or the best word in a debate only has momentary satisfaction. Losing or dinging your character in frustration will prove to be very costly. One slip of the tongue can do great harm to your career and/or your reputation.
Don’t be afraid to cut ties. If at all possible we should desire to find the common ground with those who have brought discomfort to our camp. Not everyone has to agree on everything, but we all must find the space where we can agree and hang out there often. In the end though it may not be possible to keep everybody on board. That is easier said than done, but it could possibly come to that. Sometimes a government, a business, a team, or a church is better off with one less person on board. Maybe it is your call to invite them to disembark. Think that through carefully, but be ready to do it if necessary. That is what a leader does when the situation warrants it.
If you have been lucky enough to avoid having such a brash personality in your life then count yourself lucky. But get ready and be prepared. I’ll bet they are right around the corner thinking of something clever (in their humble opinion) to say. Now you are ready for them.
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)