Fake News? How To Recognise And Respond To The Unfair Use Of Tactics


Just watching President Trump in action in his first solo press conference last week is proof – if further proof were needed – that his attacks on the media have reached unprecedented levels. His interaction with BBC reporter Jon Sopel leaves us in little doubt that he is prepared to use gameplay to shift the balance of power in his favour. However, the BBC reporter refused to take the President’s barrage of tactics lying down. Rather than ceding ground, he had the presence of mind to think live in the moment and manage Trump’s unfair behaviour, which is clearly better suited to the school playground than it is to the Oval office.


Given the prevalence of gameplay at the highest echelon of power, it will come as no surprise to discover that you will encounter the unfair use of tactics in boardrooms and meetings across the world. The secret to leveling the playing field is firstly recognising the tactics, and secondly learning how to respond to them. So based on my years of experience developing and delivering training programmes, here are the 3 most common types of tactics and how to dispel them:


1.  Silence

Trump clearly showed the power of silence when he refused to answer CCN reporter Jim Acosta’s question during his first press conference as president. He avoided eye contact and said, “I’m not going to give you a question. You are fake news,” before taking a question from the opposite side of the room. In my experience, the best response to the tactical use of silence in the corporate world is to treat it as a game and directly ask them “Are you giving me the silent treatment?” It’s important to use an appropriate tone when you say this so you can keep the mood of the conversation upbeat.


2. Physical intimidation

Whether it’s thumping their fist on the table or in the case of Trump pointing at you in an aggressive manner, physical intimidation can be one of the most daunting types of tactics to have to deal with. It can be tempting to respond with a knee-jerk reaction and shout back as Jim Acosta did when Trump claimed CNN was “fake news.” However, a better way to diffuse this type of situation, is to take a moment to compose yourself, then name the behaviour. For example, if five people turn up for a meeting when you were expecting just one, say “I didn’t realise this was a committee meeting, can I phone a friend?”


3. Undermining you

Another common tactic designed to put you on the back foot is to belittle your experience or make unfair competitor comparisons, as Trump did when he congratulated Fox News on achieving “ratings many times higher than fake news CNN.” The default response to these type of comments is try and justify your position, as Jim Acosta did when he replied, “actually our ratings are doing pretty well.” However, by answering in a logical way you are, in effect, giving the other party’s remark credibility. A much more powerful way to respond is by using humour. Jon Sopel does this in the footage above by replying to Trump’s disparaging comment “Here’s another beauty” with “That’s a good line – impartial, free and fair”. Trump then uses a second tactic and draws a comparison with CNN to which Sopel replies “We could banter back and forth,” before moving the conversation on and getting back to business. By showing the other party you have spotted their use of tactics in this way and then responding with confidence, you are more likely to be able to stand your ground and demonstrate that you should be seen as an equal in the conversation.


I hope that after reading this blog you will have a clearer idea of how to spot and deal with the different types of tactics you will come across in business. By drawing on your self-control and self-management you will have the ability to respond rather than react to the situation. Remember, by ignoring the use of gameplay, you are in effect telling the other party that it’s ok for them to treat you in this way – so be brave and challenge yourself to think live in the moment – even if the other party is supposedly the most powerful person in the free world!


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