Macron VS Trump: Alpha Male Battle (Case Study)

Macron utterly failed to influence Trump.

As a matter of fact, Macron managed to make an enemy out of Trump in a matter of a few days.

This article is a case study on influence, using Macron VS Trump as an example.

It will explain how Macron spectacularly failed to influence Trump and managed to make an enemy out of him by turning the relationship antagonistic.

By the end of this post, you will understand some key principles to influence people.

My name is Lucio, I hold a master’s degree in communication, I am a psychology buff and most of my time goes into analyzing effective (and not-so-effective) human behavior.

Background: Macron Burst Into The Scene

Emmanuel Macron, France’s president, burst into the political scene hailed by some as the new leader of the “free” and progressive world.

I don’t know if Macron believed the hype himself, but he certainly barged in with some very bold moves.
Some of them were bold in a dumb way though.

Macron Persuasion Mistakes

Let’s see, in chronological order, how he spectacularly failed with Donald Trump and the Paris Agreement negotiation.

#1. Don’t Make Enemies

Macron didn’t like Trump.
But if you want to influence people, you should not let your personal feelings get the best of you.

The Handshake

Macron went into his first meeting with Donald Trump with a tough-guy mindset.

He knew that Trump often resorts to bullying and aggressive tactics when dealing with others -check Trump’s Alpha Male handshake-.
So he must have thought he should go even more aggressive to show his resolve and “how alpha” he is.

I think he went a bit too far with that handshake and mean look. But, overall, his intention was sound. It was actually a great tactic.

A show of strength is often indeed a very effective way of handling bullies:

The problem was that he didn’t stop there.

The Swerve & Let Him Wait

Macron goes too far with his “display of strength”.

A few hours later from that handshake, Macron is approaching the group of the various head of state at the NATO summit.

He seems to be going straight towards Trump.
But he swerves, avoids Trump, and goes to Angela Merkel first.

Approaching someone first among a group of people is often a sign your respect him/her the most.

And avoiding to approach someone who’s physically closer to you is a sign you don’t respect him much or don’t want to deal with him.

On top of moving away from Trump, Macron also let him wait (check what to do when someone makes you wait).

After Merkel, he then greets a man between Merkel and Trump, with the momentum suggesting he’s about to finally Greet Trump… And instead, he goes back to a man to the left of Merkel.

Letting Trump wait even longer.
See here:

An obvious sign of disrespect from Macron.

There’s no point in hiding here.
In this era, in any NATO meeting, the US president is the most important man.
Avoiding him and letting him wait like that in front of everyone is most certainly a sign of disrespect.

Trump Hits Back

When finally Macron greets Trump, Trump uses his old “yank and pull” handshake technique.

This is a staple of Trump in asserting physical dominance.

However, given all that preceded I think Trump had to somehow hit back. Macron cornered him and was taking away social values from him.
Trump, typical of him, answered too directly obviously.

But he had to do something to restore the power balance.

A better alternative for him would have been to start talking to someone nearby and let Macron wait before shaking his hand.
Or even better, quickly shaking Macron’s hand without even looking at him and then starting walking again as if he had barely noticed him.

Trump didn’t handle it perfectly here.

#2. Don’t Make Them Feel Inferior If You Win

Sometimes you might need to stand your ground.

And you might even win.
But if you want to influence people, you must play down your wins and make friends again (there are examples of how to do it in the course).

That’s the best possible scenario, actually.
You show how strong you are, and then you make friends. Win: Win, you can influence them with both fear and friendship.

Not Emmanuel Macron though.

He runs his big mouth to the press about his first handshake (check the main part of the article).
He says Trump believes in the “logic of the trial of strength”.
But it doesn’t bother him, he says, as he won’t let anything pass.
And, in an excess of stupidity, he highlights that his handshake was on purpose, that he wanted to show he makes no concession.

Basically, Macron publicly talks smack about Trump and shows off how he beat him (at his own game). And by showing off his “Trump domination” to the press, Macron makes an enemy out of Trump.

This was his biggest mistake.

Men like Trump, who have big ego and a fixed mindset tend to be very touchy.
Trump had already shown, clearly and repeatedly, that he takes things very personally.
And he tends to be very vindictive -the Rosie O’Donnell example, so spiteful it’s actually funny-.

#3. Don’t Induce Them Into Vendetta (Trump Quits Paris Agreement)

Trump will later quit the Paris Agreement to mitigate global warming.

Some Trump aides say Trump’s mind was mostly made up about the Paris Agreement. But they add that if he had any doubts, Macron’s behavior cleared them all (here’s the Washington Post article).

Some other political observers went much further and placed the US’ withdrawal blame even more strongly on Macron.

Now the story could be over, but out of social dynamics interest, let’s see what happened after and what we can learn from it:

#4. Repair Relations (But Macron Escalates Further)

Macron, taking his role of leader of the progressive world one step further, prepares a message in English for the US citizens.

He opens it by saying:

Let me say a few words to our American friends.

Macron speaks as if he were talking to an occupied territory that needs to be liberated.
Of course, Trump was not going to like that: dah!

Soon after Macron also launched a program and a website inviting American researchers to go to France to research.
And he writes on his website “to all responsible American citizens”, clearly implying that Trump is not responsible.

See it here:

Whether or not we agree with Macron on that, that certainly isn’t helping their relationship.

#5. Seek Agreement (Avoid Drawn Out Wars)

War is the antithesis of influence.

When you’re at war, people hate you.
In war, people suffer and die just to hurt you.

Macron started a war with Trump.

Macron then invites Trump to Paris for the national celebration. As soon as he’s out of the car Trump is more dominant, but his main revenge comes later:

#6. Don’t Fight Out of Ego (Trump Shames Macron… Trolling Power Move)

Now here’s the interesting thing.

Have you noticed how Macron spoke to the press about his Trump handshake?

He was serious and spoke matter-of-factly about his tactics. Macron revealed all his cards, publicly, and left no room for imagination.

Trump instead never reveals his cards.
He always covers his tracks and raises dust to hide his real moves.

As the 48 Laws of Power suggests, he conceals his intentions.

And when the press asked him about Macron after the Paris meeting, he hits him indirectly.
He says that Macron loves holding his hand. And he adds “and that’s good, as far that goes“.

People who are too used to literal talk will say that Trump is, at his usual, talking nonsense.
But he’s actually very effective.
He blames the victim while at the same time taking the pi** out of Mzcron.

Trump pretends it was Macron who wanted to hold his hand in Paris.
And he slightly implies Macron might be a little bit too much into him. It’s even a slight dig at Macron’s homosexuality –same technique I describe against a guy who wanted to out-alpha me-.

Trump outmaneuvered Macron both physically and socially.

Trump VS macron

Macron’s Influencing Mistakes

Macron did well in the first encounter.

He proved he was not to be trifled with. That’s where he had to stop.

His mistake was that he kept insisting down that belligerent path in front of the whole group of heads of state.

You get respect when you deal strongly with someone one on one.
You get hatred and rage when you do it in front of others because that becomes shaming.

And then again, bigger still, he brags publicly to the press.
Macron said to the press that he wanted to show he wasn’t going to make any concessions.
And of all the stupid things he said, that was one of the worst.

First of all, a man like Trump prides himself on deal-making and negotiation skills.
Macron painting himself as the best, toughest negotiator is like emasculating Trump.

Basically, Macron created a win-lose situation.
And when you create win-lose situations with those who are calling the shots, you lose.

Of course, at that point, Trump was motivated not to stay in the Paris Agreement as that would have felt like he was submitting.

And further still, Cialdini shows that the best negotiators are not the tough ones. The best ones do make concessions.
Making concessions is the best way to reach mutually beneficial agreements.

Macron had to keep his show of strength private. That way he would have gotten Trump’s respect without souring relations.

When you create win-lose situations… You can lose

How to Influence People: The Correct Way

Now the big question is, what should have Macron done?

We’ve already seen that his plan of showing Trump he was no guy to be pushed around was great.
You often get bullies’ respect only after you show strength.
Or after you show you’re not afraid of escalating -and ideally after you beat them-.

After he showed Trump some resolve Macron was in the perfect position to make it up to Trump and make him feel good.
Indeed, people don’t respect those complimenting them from a lower position as that feels like brown-nosing.

But since Macron was now in a position of strength, he could use the full leverage of building Trump up.

Men with big ego like Donald Trump are more easily manipulated, and Macron should have used that to his advantage.

For example, he could have said publicly that “Trump is the most important person in the difficult quest of saving our planet“.
And then complimented him for how deeply he cares about the common people.

That would have put pressure on Trump to conform and given him an incentive to step up to the plate.
Such as the honor of championing a worthy cause.


Tony Robbins said in one of his sales training: selling and influencing is the art of making friends.

He couldn’t have been more right.
Such a simple lesson, and yet so often overlooked.

Macron did the exact opposite. He picked up a fight and backed Trump into a corner.
The Paris Agreement was the collateral damage of Macron’s alpha male posturing.

Here’s what he did:

  1. Stood up to Trump
  2. Shamed Trump publicly & made an enemy
  3. Created a win-lose atmosphere saying there are no concessions
  4. Forced Trump to hit back

Here’s a summary of what he should have done:

  1. Showed strength to earn Trump’s respect
  2. Offer an olive branch to make a friend from a position of strength
  3. Strengthen that friendship
  4. Appeal to Trump’s ego to champion a better world
trump macron photo
Photo by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
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