fb-pixelWhat if Trump won’t leave the White House? A hostage negotiator, an animal-control officer, and a toddler whisperer have advice - The Boston Globe Skip to main content

What if Trump won’t leave the White House? A hostage negotiator, an animal-control officer, and a toddler whisperer have advice

Give him a five-minute warning, use food as a lure, remind him he has something to live for.

Brendan Lynch/Globe Staff

There’s only one way this presidency ends, as any reality TV junkie surely knows. With Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani holed up inside the White House on Inauguration Day, the president rage-tweeting at Fox News, as helicopters hover, and the Bidens shiver on the stoop, their German Shepherds and movers growing impatient.

You’ll NEVER take me alive!

Even as the transition to Joe Biden’s administration—finally—began, on Tuesday Trump was tweeting about “the stench of the 2020 Election Hoax” and still refusing to concede. But a nation hooked on drama does not want to see a US president dragged out the front door, noncompliant-airline-passenger style, as Ivanka grasps his hands and Melania looks on.


But what if the self-described ”Golden Goose” of TV ratings barricades himself in the Oval Office — a scenario that’s been pondered by Vanity Fair and Forbes, among others — and refuses to leave?

The Globe asked experts in the art of persuasion how they go about dislodging the reluctant.

The hostage negotiator

“The first thing you do is try to establish a rapport with the individual,” said Alfred S. Titus, Jr., a retired NYPD homicide detective who was a member of the force’s hostage negotiation team.

“You want to try and get into their mind to find out what the issue is,” said Titus, an assistant professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

“We try to get a feel for where the person is from, what their family situation is,” he said. “Are they married? Do they have children?”

“We try to remind them how good their life has been — hopefully that’s the case — and talk about what they have to look forward to.”


When a suspect is inside a building, he said, the conversation is ideally conducted over a phone line, not shouted from the street. “A megaphone is a last resort because everyone can hear.”

“We want to develop a one-on-one relationship,” he said, “where the person is free to open up and cry or scream — or whatever — to release that tension.”

The animal control officer

“When we do a wildlife evacuation, we don’t do anything except give them the ability to get out,” said Mark Thomas, the owner of Baystate Wildlife Management, in Canton.

“When you’ve got squirrels or bats or raccoons, they’re all coming and going on a regular basis, leaving to eat and drink and then coming back in, so we install one-way doors,” he said. “They’re like little exit tunnels where they go out but can’t get back in. They squeeze out and the door closes behind them.

Invaders are usually gone within five days, he said, but if the animals are being “difficult,” the firm may sprinkle coyote urine around.

The toddler whisperer

“With any transition, I give warnings of the change a few minutes ahead of time,” said Kim Warrington, owner of Kim’s Kid Kare FCC and Preschool, in Athol.

She gave an example: “In five minutes, it will be time to pick up the blocks and go… In two minutes, it will be time...”

“I will also acknowledge their feelings,” she said. “I know you do not want to go inside yet because you are having so much fun, but we have to go in now, so we can eat lunch, rest, and have time to come back outside before it’s time for you to go home.”


But the nice tone shouldn’t be mistaken for flexibility. “If there is not a choice, I do not ask,” she said. “With a child that does not want to leave a parent, I do not ask, but will give them a choice such as, ‘You can come with me on your own walking, or I will carry you inside so we can start our day.’ ”

The behavioral economist

“Behavioral economists think a lot about the psychology underlying decision making, and the extent to which factors outside of strictly ‘rational’ thinking influence behavior,” said Syon Bhanot, an assistant professor of economics at Swarthmore College.

“For example, there is research in psychology that shows that we sometimes lash out against perceived efforts to constrain our behavioral freedom, a concept known as ‘psychological reactance.’ ”

“So you have to be careful when you try to compel behavior change to not trigger psychological reactance and instead to encourage people to see adherence with the behavior you are encouraging as in that person’s best interest.”

The dog trainer

“If I have a dog that is in a crate and does not want to come out, I would use a lure,” said Martin Wright, the owner of Argos Dog Training in Dorchester.


But some dogs are tricky, he said. “They come out of the crate, grab the food, and go back in. So we make adjustments, we close the crate door quickly, or we move the food further away.”

“Dogs like to play,” he added, “so sometimes you can get them out of the crate if you show them a ball.”

Or maybe a golf cart.

Beth Teitell can be reached at beth.teitell@globe.com. Follow her @bethteitell.