Hillary Clinton

“Demonstrate power, command the issues and the ability to shred your opponent – all while seeming (just) likeable enough.” -Maeve Reston, CNN

Whether you’re a Hillary Clinton supporter or not, Hillary Clinton should be admired for her ability to command last night’s debate despite Donald Trump’s continuous attacks and  interruptions. Many tactics she used in last night’s debate can and should be learned and adopted in the workplace. In this post, I explore 7 things every successful woman can learn from Hillary Clinton, as demonstrated in last night’s presidential debate.

1. Practice gratitude

There’s a concept in Jewish tradition called hakarat hatov – “recognizing the good.” This can take many different forms, one of which, mentioned by the Rabbis of ancient times, is to begin a speech with a show of gratitude to your hosts. Hillary Clinton did just this at the beginning of the debate, by thanking Lester Holt, and Hofstra University for hosting the debate. The idea of gratitude is one that can be adopted anywhere. It’s a beautiful gesture, and a stellar show of refinement – especially when one is under tremendous pressure.

2. Find Similarities

Within the first 15 seconds of speaking, Hillary Clinton mentions her two-year-old granddaughter’s birthday. At the outset of the debate, before things get uncomfortable, Hillary Clinton establishes (or attempts to establish) her commonalities with her 10 million viewers – she’s a grandma and a family woman who is willing to work hard for a bright and hopeful future for America. Later in the debate, she continues to find commonalities with her audience by mentioning her father, a hard-working small-business owner, thus implying her own middle-class status. Being like our target audience, or at the very least having things in common with them, makes us more likeable and gives us a better shot at selling them on our idea. (For more about this idea read Influence and To Sell is Human.)

3. Smile

Smiling and showing her emotion is something that doesn’t always come easy to Hillary Clinton.

And yet she did a great job of it throughout the debate.
I especially loved the way Hillary Clinton handled herself after Donald Trump’s tirade on her personality towards the end of the debate.
“Whoo! Okay!” she said with a huge smile while shaking her shoulders to relieve her tension and both cool herself down and warm herself up to reply. In my humble opinion, this was the highlight of the debate. Clinton’s smile throughout, but especially at this point, highlighted just how capable Clinton is at defusing potentially explosive situations. A simple but huge smile can go a long way in changing the dynamics of situation, in addition to making a person likeable.  

4. You are what you wear

No doubt that Hillary’s choice of clothes had a double effect. Her red pants suit established her as the dominant candidate of the evening both in the beholder’s eye as well as in her own eye. Hillary Clinton dressed to kill. She dominated the presidential debate not just with her with her knowledge of the issues at hand, but also through her wardrobe.  

Understanding the social context of a situation and knowing what you should wear, is an art. No doubt Hillary Clinton has plenty of people to advise her on such issues. I think a healthy rule of thumb is to always look classy. And if you can somehow add something – perhaps an accessory, if not an item of clothing, that carries across your fun personality, add it.

5. Be specific

In terms of content, what made the difference between the candidates, is that one candidate knew her stuff. She clearly came prepared to to talk about her policies and positions. She was able to get specific and draw on statistics and her own experiences to create compelling arguements. In addition, she was able to zoom out and look at the broad picture to offer more than just one way to do things.

Being specific is vital when making an argument. When you know what you’re talking about, when you can make compelling arguments and back them up, and when you do this time and time again, you will become known as diligent, thorough capable and clever. Perhaps most importantly, everyone will want you on their team, or better yet, everybody will want to be on your team.    

6. Don’t whine but call for fairness

Throughout the debate Donald Trump continuously interrupted and attacked his opponent. And despite the unfairness of Trump’s behaviour, which he rarely got called on, Hillary did not complain. Not once. But when Trump interrupted her two minutes to discuss the way she will handle taxing the wealthy, she says “let’s start the clock again, Lester,” bringing the moderator’s attention to the fact that she deserves her full two minutes. It helped immensely that she said this with a big smile on her face. Not saying it with a smile could have been understood as a hostile request or as a complaint about fairness.

7. Be prepared

Practice, practice and more practice. There’s no doubt in my mind, that Hillary Clinton has the very best advisors, counsellors and aides to help her prepare for her debates and presentations. But even so, nobody can do the actual work for her, just as nobody can do your work for you. Hillary Clinton came prepared. So prepared and in such clear control of her opponent that she could very effectively drop words into Trump’s mouth with his total submission.  

I think — I think — I think Donald just criticized me for preparing for this debate.”

And then she goes on to make her killer statement. Something she’s been preparing to say to him for a long time:

“And, yes, I did. And you know what else I prepared for? I prepared to be president. And I think that’s a good thing.”

Your turn. What valuable lessons did you learn from Hillary Clinton in her debate performance?