Monday, July 4, 2022

Persuasion Depends More on Attitude Than It Does on Words

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I just Googled “hypnotic language” and got more than 29 million hits. If you believe that “where there is smoke there is fire,” you’ll understand that there must be some truth to the idea that you can use language in a way that gets people to do what you want them to do. That might set you on a quest for the magic words that will make you irresistible.

You would be on that quest for a very long time. You can remember every pattern from every site and play with every deck of flash cards and still not be irresistible. You might even make yourself quite annoying or just a little creepy. I sometimes hear the stories of people who have been made very uncomfortable by people who say they know hypnosis or NLP.

It’s unlikely that someone else has been messing with your brain. Conspiracy theorists aside, it is doubtful that hypnosis opinion is a momentary distraction. Two conditions of this theory are:

• The view is for something you wanted to do anyway

• The suggestion (or command) is for something of benefit to you.

Yes, people can make suggestions that get us to do things we would not otherwise do. You don’t need the concept of covert hypnosis to explain how it happens. You could go back (to Aristotle, for instance) and study one of the many lines of development for rhetoric: the art of persuasion through language.

Words work when people connect. Hypnotic language works when you form a secure connection with another.

When the active link is negative, then the suggestions will be framed by that negativity (often taking the form of “why don’t you just jump off a bridge?”). They may ask you to do something (maybe to yourself), and even if brilliantly hidden as an embedded command, you did not do it. Instead, you probably matched it with an equally inappropriate suggestion of your own.

On the other hand, you have also had the experience of meeting someone who seems to be right for you. After talking to this person, you might do little things that you would not otherwise do: things like reading a book or going to bed early or walking instead of driving. You probably didn’t connect something that person said to the small, inconspicuous changes you made. You might not have realized you made any changes. But somehow, things went better and felt better after that conversation.

If you are in a position where you need to get someone to behave in a new way (you might be a coach, a trainer, an employer, or a manager), then you get to choose. Will you be the person practicing magic words in the hope that they work, or will you be the person who talks in a way that results in small, positive changes?

If you, like me, want to be the second kind of influencer, then the words you already know and the patterns you already use will give you the language that you need. You need two vital ingredients to make them work: a clear intention and a genuine interest in connecting with the person you want to influence. Those two ingredients harness two of the brain’s superpowers: the ability to find the resources to meet clear conscious goals and the ability to make social connections. You can count on those superpowers to interact with your language centers and make the best words pop into your mind at the right moment.

You don’t have to believe me now. You can find me after you try what I am suggesting. Put away the flashcards and instead have a clear, reasonable intention based on what you know; focus and pay attention to that person. Be genuinely engaged by paying attention to what they are saying and doing (you’ll find you echo their behaviors and words when you are paying attention).

The language you choose will match the patterns that unlimited websites are promoting. They will work as if they are magic, but you will know the real magic is somewhere else. It’s the combination of a clear, firm intention with a commitment to paying close attention to another person that will make you almost irresistible.


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