Category Archives: Manipulation

Interrupting Patterns Can Lead To Expanding Opportunities

I Shot An Elephant In My Pajamas

I used to have this friend that had a particular skill. It wasn’t anything that was going to make him rich, or famous, but it was really fun to watch. The interesting thing was that whenever he tried to purposely do it, like think about it beforehand, it never was quite as amusing.

It even was less funny to watch, and more obviously forced, when there was a group of people, and somebody mentioned this particular skill, and then everybody turned and expected him to turn it on right on the spot. He wasn’t a shy guy, so he never melted under pressure or anything, but it seemed to be much more spontaneous whenever he just launched into this particular behavior without any prompting, and kind of riffed off of himself. Especially when it happened at a party or something when there were plenty of people around, and they were completely taken by surprise.

I was reading this article the other day about something called a pattern interrupt. This is something from NLP that goes way back. What is likely the most taught, or talked about, or referenced example is the handshake interrupt.

Milton Erickson, the famous hypnotherapist invented this, mostly by trial and error. He would walk up to somebody, stick out his hand, and right in the middle of the handshake, he would suddenly shift into hypnotist mode, and pretty soon the person would be standing there staring at his or her hand.

The way it works is like this. The brain is a very lazy organ. Perhaps lazy is the wrong word. The brain is a very efficient organ. It doesn’t want to waste a bunch of energy figuring out the same things over and over. The brain likes to find patterns, so that it doesn’t have to expend a lot of energy. Most people are surprised when they find out that the brain burns over twenty percent of your daily energy. So it makes sense it wants to make things as efficient as possible.

So the way it does this is it looks for patterns whenever possible. Like when you first learned how to open a door, you pretty much knew how to open all doors. And when you first learned the alphabet, you could read any font, regardless of how esoteric or flowery it was.

If your brain had to stop everything, and spend all its energy trying to relearn how to open a door every time, then you wouldn’t get much accomplished.

One of the reasons, according to many evolutionary biologists, for the reason of our powerful brain was because we had to develop all kinds of complex social skills as we evolved on the African plains. So a large part of our brain goes into reading body language, and trying to decide who to trust and who we can take advantage of.

So it makes sense that patterns involving other people are very important to the brain. Once we figure out certain behaviors that we do over and over again, it can potentially save a lot of energy.

Meeting somebody for the first time is one of those patterns. If you can imagine what it would be like if we had to invent ways to get to know somebody every single time we met somebody new, it would be an extraordinary burden on our brain. Meeting somebody for the first time is extremely important, because how accurately we judge them can have a profound effect on our future safety, especially when you consider what it was like back in the caveman days.

If you made the wrong impression about somebody, perhaps thinking if they were harmless when they were really a wolf in sheep’s clothing, it could be devastating later on. So when you meet somebody for the first time, you need as much brainpower as possible to “feel them out,” so to speak. Which makes the handshake interrupt very powerful.

The automatic portion of the handshake, where you respond by sticking out your hand when somebody sticks out there, grab it and pump it a few times, and say the automatic “My names Jack, nice to meet you, nice to meet you too…” is rarely given any conscious thought.

So when Erickson would stop right in the middle of the handshake, people were completely thrown off balance. The mind is do entrenched in the automatic behavior that there is a complete and total shutdown of all thought for a few moments as the “targets” tried to figure out what was going on. And during this brief window, Erickson would see how much he could get away with.

A typical interaction would go like this:

Erickson (sticking his hand out) “Hi!”
Mark (Responding with his hand) “Hi.”
Erickson (freezing the handshake in the middle) “Nice to meet you my name is….”

And then he’d quickly grab the other guys hand with his non shaking hand, gently turn it and lift it so the other guy was staring at his palm. He would do this in less than a second.

“..as you look at your hand you can start to wonder about all those things you’ve forgotten, and you’ll be surprised how easy it is to stand here and think of all those wonderful things…” or something similar, that would take up as much of the guys brain CPU as possible.

Then he would walk away and leave the guy staring at his hand.

I think the reason my friend was so funny when he was so spontaneous, was that everybody was busy caught up in their pre-programmed “behavior” and they would be shaken when he started to act out his bizarre behavior. If you take any popular joke, a key element is something that is completely unexpected, especially if the joke is a play on words or something, and delivers a punch line that completely shakes up the imagine that you were led to automatically think.

The old Groucho Marx joke comes to mind:

“Last night I shop an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas I’ll never know.”

Or the famous linguistic example of ambiguity:

“Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.”

I’m sure you can think of many others.

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What To Do About Self Manipulation

Eviction Party

“Get! The! Fuck! Out!”
“Wait, what?”
“Don’t make me say it again! Get Out! Now!”
He picked up a baseball bat and came after me; I wasn’t sure why he was so angry. I’d been saying the same things to him for the past several years, pretty much this guy’s whole life. Most of the time he just took it, without doing anything. Other times it had the effect I’d intended. To manipulate him into action.

But not today.

I turned to walk out, pretty sure he wasn’t serious. Until I heard things start to break. First a lamp, then he flung the clay ashtray that he’d made at summer camp at me, barely missing my head. Then I felt the air whoosh by the back of my head as his baseball bat barely missed smashing my skull in like that one time we threw a two day old pumpkin off the top of the library at school. Those were good times. This wasn’t. I knew I had to get out of there.

Quick.

“If you come back, I’ll kill you.” It wasn’t a threat, or a warning, merely a statement of factual cause and effect. If it rains, I’ll get wet. If the Dodgers lose, I’ll be sad. If you come back, I’ll kill you.

So what happened all of a sudden? He’d never exhibited any behavior whatsoever that indicated he was the slightest bit angry at me, despite my crafty manipulations to get him to do exactly what I wanted him to.

Most people aren’t aware of how easily you can manipulate people. You just go to know what buttons to push. Which ones feel good. The one’s that they are desperate to have pushed by others, but spend a lifetime without experiencing it. And the ones they are terrified of having pushed, and spend their whole lives cowering in fear of somebody uncovering their horrible secret.

It’s an art form, actually. You don’t really ever have to actually push their buttons. You don’t even have to pretend you are about to push them, like the amateurs do. All you have to do is to allude to having the knowledge, and the will to push them. That is where the skill lies. In alluding to pushing them with the complete and honest capacity to have no idea what they are talking about should you get called on it. To act and communicate in such a way as to have several different interpretations, one of which is that there buttons are going to get pushed.

That way you can leave it to them to imagine what might happen, and be manipulated by their own fearful hallucinations and worst-case scenario interpretations of what you mean. Kind of like in baseball, where you throw an inside out curveball, which looks like an outside in curveball. The only intention of a pitch like that is to confuse the batter into leaning into the pitch. It’s one thing to throw a fastball at a batter. Everybody knows what’s up. That’s why both benches always clear, and there’s always a fight. Clear and obvious aggression.

But an inside out curveball that you trick him into leaning into, is not only aggressive, but it’s aggressive with covert intentions. The worst kind. The kind you’d have to have a lot of chutzpah to retaliate against. Because any retaliation would be met with plausible deniability.

“What? You think I did that on purpose? I would never do that! What kind of person do you think I am?”

That is the secret to pure manipulation. The tone of voice, the presupposed meaning of your sentence.

“Oh, you’re wearing that tonight.”

That way you can get somebody to change their whole outfit, or feel self conscious about it without even coming up with a reason.

“What, what’s wrong with it?”
“Nothing, its..fine..I guess.”

A few short words can elicit a lifetime of shame and embarrassment, and make most people question their own decision. Since most people are motivated by fear, you almost never have to seduce the other way. Most everybody can easily be corralled their whole lives by the thought of their worse fears coming true.

Which is why when I got chased away with a baseball bat, I knew the jig was up. Because, you see, how I have nowhere to go. Since I’m not really a person.

I’m just a voice in that guys head.

Was a voice in that guys head.

Sometimes his second grade teacher, sometimes his mom, a couple of times his boy scout leader, once some pretty lady that worked in the ice cream shop downtown that yelled at him for spilling ice cream on the recently mopped floor. Being a voice in somebody’s head gives you great access to horrible memories, and you can pretend to be many different voices. You almost never get caught, and you always can trick your host into doing, or not doing, whatever you want.

Except the rare occasion, when you get caught. Most of the time when you get caught you are only questioned, sometimes argued with. But rarely threatened with a baseball bat.

Now that I’m out on the street without a host, I will probably die soon. We can’t switch heads. Once the jig is up, it’s up. When we’re gone, we’re gone. Does he have any idea how he will survive without me? I was only protecting him, after all. Protecting him from making foolish mistakes. Protecting him from embarrassing himself in front of his friends. Protecting him from doing something that he’d regret.

I’m starting to feel faint. Maybe I’ll sit down for a spell. Maybe he’ll come to his senses.

Wait, where am I?

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Social Manipulation Or Shrewd Marketing?

Beware The Door Buster

I was waiting in line down at this new electronics shop last weekend. They had this massive grand opening, and they were going to give away this really cool flat screen TV along with a home theater system. They said they’d give out free raffle tickets to the first five hundred people that showed up, and then they’d draw later on in the afternoon to see who won. The catch, of course, was you had to be there to claim your prize. And since they gave out the free raffle tickets at eight o clock in the morning, they were assured that five hundred people would not only likely buy something that morning, but make plans to come back later. Marketing plans like this are fairly obvious. Give somebody a gimmick to get them in the door, and then do your best to up sell them while they are there.

Car dealerships are notorious for doing this. They’ll run an add in the paper for a certain make and model for a ridiculously low price. Of course they’ll say in the small print that there is only one particular car at that price, you can tell as they list the VIN, or Vehicle Identification Number of the car in question. Sometimes they’ll have three or four at that price. People see the ad, and mistakenly believe (to the hopes of the dealer) that all of the cars are at that price.
Then when they show up, they’re told they all sold out. When that happens, the dealership has two powerful tools of influence naturally working in their favor.

The first is something called “Commitment and Consistency,” as pointed out in the often referenced “Influence, Science and Practice,” by Robert Cialdini. When people make a public commitment, they are much easier to be persuaded to do something that is along the lines of that commitment. Political campaigners know this. When they phone people the week before an election and ask them if they are going go out and vote, most people naturally say yes. Since they’ve made a public commitment, even to a complete stranger over the phone, they are much more likely to vote than the average citizen who hasn’t made such a commitment.

By going to the car dealership in search of a good deal on a car, you make a certain commitment. It’s not like the car salesman pulled you in cold off the street.

Another powerful factor they have working for them in this case is social proof. As much as we’d like to think otherwise, we humans are pack animals and are extremely susceptible to crowd behavior. We love to follow fashions, stick to the status quo (unless you are a singing basketball player), and follow the crowd. So when you show up, and the car you wanted is “all sold out (all one of them),” it gives the impression that many people are after the same car, which makes it more desirable.

So by putting those cheesy ads in the paper, and getting you to make a trip to the dealership, just by showing up you have two powerful forces of social influence guiding you to buy a new car.

It’s no wonder that stores use the same tactics. They work, and they work beautifully. Stores use them so much because they work so well. All those incredibly insane “door busters” that you see the day after Thanksgiving, or black Friday, are carefully designed instruments of social manipulation. In case you are unaware, the reason it’s called “Black Friday” is in reference to the black ink bookkeepers use when they are making a profit. In this case black is very good.

To make matters worse, sometime they’ll have free giveaways, but the “winner” is actually a ringer. A plant that works for the store. Even though this is clearly immoral and unethical, it’s pretty hard to uncover and prosecute. The only danger lies in a store being found out, and it’s business getting a bad reputation. Even when people have a suspicion that the winner may indeed be a “ringer,” they still line up, “just in case.” We humans can be terribly easy to manipulate sometimes.

If you can figure out a way to get the free stuff, without giving in to the temptation to buy whatever they convincing you to buy through their masterful social engineering, so much the better.

One thing I usually do in a case like the free TV giveaway is only take five dollars with me, and leave all my credit cards at home. That way even I’m persuaded by the slickest of salesman, I won’t be able to buy anything. Hopefully by the time I race home to get my credit card, I’ll stop and wonder if I really do need that beef jerky machine. It’s not like I eat beef jerky every day, or even once a week. Why in the world do I need to cook the stuff?

So as I was standing there in line, looking at all the awesome electronic gadgets that I would surely buy if I were rich enough, I started talking to the guy behind me. He was involved in several MLMs and told me places like this were a great opportunity spread his business. People were surrounded by all this stuff that they wished they had enough money to buy, so naturally they would be open to opportunities to make more money, at least in principle. This guy said that he had great success recruiting people for his “downline,” at these “free” offerings. He scans the paper every week, and goes to as many as these as possible. He said the best time is right before the actual drawing, when people’s interests are the highest.

He said he was kind of “piggybacking” on the social manipulation of the business. He would show up in the morning, talk to a few people in line, and not mention anything about his business. Then he would come back that afternoon, strike up a conversation again with the people he already met, like he was an old friend. Then while the excitement and expectation was high, he would slowly ease the conversation into his well-crafted sales pitch.

He said that if he only gets one person per “giveaway,” then it is well worth his while, because in the long run, each person that joins his “downline” is worth potentially thousands of dollars, if not more.

And, of course, I didn’t win the TV, and I bought this cool little vacuum cleaner for my keyboard, that plugs into my USB port. And a new computer mouse, because my old one, was, kind of, you know, needed replacing. Or something.

Beware Of Covert Persuasion

Three Types Of Sales

If you’ve ever bought a car, then you are familiar with something called “sales resistance.” As soon as the salesman or saleswoman came walking up to you, your defenses automatically went up. Another name for this is “conscious resistance.” It is widely believed that one of the functions of the conscious mind is to prevent extraneous and harmful ideas from invading our brains. To protect us from getting duped.

There is lot of information regarding the so-called “conscious” and “unconscious” mind. Sometimes the second is referred to as the “subconscious” or the “non conscious” or even the “other than conscious.” Talk about these things can tend to get fairly esoteric and metaphysical in a hurry, which can be less than helpful if you are looking for a specific solution to something. Think of your conscious mind as things that your brain has decided that you “need to think about” and the unconscious (or whatever else you want to call it) everything else. These things you’ve either done them enough times, or God or Mother Nature has decided through evolution that we needn’t worry about these things.

Your heartbeat, your breathing (most of the time), driving to work, scratching your nose, that memory of that time back in third grade when that girl did that thing that you thought meant one thing, but really meant something else. All of these are considered “automatic” and no needing conscious thought, until something specifically calls them to mind.

There’s nothing mystical or metaphysical about it, it is just a conservation of brain bandwidth. If you had to think about all those things, all the time, you’d go nuts, and end up in the corner babbling to yourself. Maybe there were some people who walked around holding all those thoughts in their minds all the time, but they likely were to busy thinking about all those things to reproduce, so there genes didn’t get passed down.

The commonly accepted belief is that we can pretty much hold between 5 to 9 things in our conscious thought at any given time. Once something new comes in, the oldest one drops off into unconsciousness. It’s still there in our brains; it’s just that we don’t access it because our brains have decided it’s not important enough to keep in our memory.

There are plenty of cases where witnesses to crimes supposedly couldn’t recall certain events, but under hypnosis they were able to come up with enough information to help get a conviction.

Back to the approaching car salesman. As soon as you see him coming up, your brain goes into defensive mode. He represents a threat, because his overt intention is to get you to give him a bunch of money. His job is to convince you to believe him enough so you’ll hand over a stack of cash (or sign a lengthy finance contract) based solely on his description of this item for sale. Since this represents quite a large amount of money, or resources, you are on high alert, as there is a potential for serious damage.

Those 5 to 9 things that you can hold in your brain suddenly are cleared and room is made to scrutinize his offer with as much brain bandwidth as possible. You suddenly forget what you want to eat for dinner, that report that you were worried about that you forgot to write before you left for work on Friday, and which of your kids’ friends house he wants to sleep over at tonight.

If you’ve ever sold anything, and felt that huge anxiety that comes with trying to persuade customers, this is why. They are looking at you with much more scrutiny that most people face. Even public speaking, while terrifying for many, doesn’t involve as much scrutiny as trying to sell somebody something. Especially a big ticket item like a car. Unless you are selling from the podium, there’s a good chance that while most of your audience is sitting there politely listening to your speech, they are also planning their shopping list, wondering what to buy their boyfriend or girlfriend for their next birthday, and so on.

The whole of sales strategies is designed and developed to overcome this “sales resistance” and convince the customer that they would be better of giving you their money in exchange for something than they would be to keep their money and get nothing. This can be incredibly difficult, but if can also be incredibly lucrative if you can figure out a way to do it consistent. There are three basic strategies that sales people use.

The Hard Sell

This is the most belligerent of the three. The salesperson hammers away at the prospect, and through brute force of willpower, overcomes the potential buyers resistance. This is the most confrontational, the most anxiety producing, and requires the most amount of mental energy. This is why most normal people loathe going to a car dealership. They fear, many times rightly so, that they will be hammered until their resistance is futile, and the best choice is to accept the salespersons offer, and then slink home, convincing themselves they made a good deal.

The benefits of this, from a sales perspective, is that most people really don’t have that strong of a resistance. After only twenty minutes or so, most people start to show signs of starting to cave.

The drawbacks are obviously a huge amount of stress and pressure, which can lead to health problems such as high blood pressure, not to mention to coping strategies salespeople are commonly known to adopt to deal with this stress, like smoking or drinking.

The Logical Sell

This is just laying out the features and benefits of your product, and hoping the customer decides to buy your product. Many times people that use this strategy are referred to as “order takers” because there’s not a lot of persuasion going on. Most retail outlets rely on this method. Give the customer as much information as he can handle, and hope he buys your product.

The main benefit of this is this is not confrontational in the least. Even if the customer decides not to buy your product, he will likely remember you as a helpful and friendly salesperson.

The main drawback is you likely won’t make a great deal of money using this strategy. You may very well eke out a living, but in most cases the pay is not that spectacular. Jobs that are highly paid that use this method are hard to come by, and usually involve working for a company whose reputation is doing a lot of the convincing for you. In order to make money this way, you need to get yourself in front of a lot of prospects, which can produce stress and anxiety almost as much as in the hard sell scenario described above

The Covert Persuasion Method

This is by far the most lucrative, and causes the least amount of stress and anxiety. This is based on the idea that all decisions are made on an emotional level, rather than a logical level. And by structuring your communication to elicit the proper buying emotions, the sale is easy. Probably the most surprising thing to most people is that you don’t really need to talk about the product at all to elicit the customer’s buying emotions. This is why it is referred to as covert persuasion.

The main drawback is that this takes quite a lot of face to face practice, and requires a lot well developed skills, like reading body language, facial expressions, using specific language patterns and using your mannerisms and gestures in specific ways.

There are a few people that are really good at this, and they make tons of money, and work a lot less often, and lot less hard than most people. If you’ve ever wandered into a store, not really sure if you wanted to buy something, and just from asking a few questions, and getting a few answers, you felt really compelled to buy something, you’ve likely experienced at least one aspect of covert sales.

Any method that is designed to move your emotional mind, rather than your logical mind, is using these methods.

These are much easier to do in a TV commercial, or a well-crafted newspaper or magazine add than they are face to face. The difference is that ads you see on TV are designed to hit the emotional hot buttons that we all have, like sex, safety, belonging to a group, etc.

To use these face to face, you need to elicit the individual hot buttons of the person you are speaking with, and then covertly fire them off while talking about your product, and then covertly connecting those emotional hot buttons to your product or service.

If you want to have some fun, next time you see a particularly persuasive ad on TV, try and figure out what emotional hot buttons the writers were trying to hit, and how they did them. Be careful, because many times their intention is only that you remember their product name, so next time you are in that market for that particular product, theirs will be the first one you think of. If that happens, they’ve successfully snuck their products name past your conscious resistance.

Be careful. It can be disheartening to discover that a many of your decisions and desires were covertly put there by skilled advertisers.

The best defense, of course, is a good offense. Before you buy something, make sure you have a clear, logical reason, and that it satisfies your criteria that you decided on before going to the shop or the dealership or website.

The Power Of Influence – Tool Or Weapon?

Do You Know When Your Strings Are Being Pulled?

There are two laws of influence that can be used in a particularly powerful combination. These two laws have been identified by Robert Cialdini in his bestselling book, “Influence, Science And Practice.” If you are interested in influence at all, and would like to either become better at it, or just to understand how pretty much everybody around you is using these techniques, you should read this book.

There is a vague belief that persuasion is kind of an “art,” and that people that are good at it are like musicians or painters who are born with some natural talent. But Dr. Cialdini has shown beyond a shadow of a doubt that persuasion is indeed a science, rather than an art. A science that can be learned and applied either to benefit an individual, a company, or the leader of a nation.

There are several examples of how these principles of influence have been used without much concern for ethical considerations, but they still work nevertheless.

There is one fantastic example that comes to mind, which I’d like to share with you today. This was illustrated in “Influence.”

The first principle this involves is one of “commitment and consistency.” This is the idea that people are much more willing to do something if they have already publicly stated they will something, or have done something before that is similar.

A great Internet example is “click through.” If you visit a website of somebody trying to sell you something, you’ll likely have to click through several different pages to actually get to the point where you type in your credit card number. The reasoning behind this is people are much more likely to take the next step if they’ve already taken several previous steps.

If you land on some web page, and read some advertising text, and there is a button at the bottom that says “Buy Now!” The percentage of people that click on it is fairly low. But instead, if you shorten your sales page, and on the bottom is a button that says, “Click to Read More!” You’ll get much more people clicking through. Once you get visitors to click through three or four pages, they’ll be much more likely to click on a “Buy Now” button.

Another example is in jury trials. When they finish a trial, and the jury convenes they will often conduct a “straw vote” meaning that just give their first impression, guilty or not guilty, before the jury starts to discuss the case. Here’s the interesting part.

In jury deliberations where each juror publicly states, out loud, whether they feel the defendant is guilty or not guilty, the deliberations last more than twice as long as those where they jurors submit their initial guilty or innocent vote via anonymous slips of paper.

When people state their opinions out loud, they are much less likely to later change them. But when they submit their opinions in private, on an anonymous slip of paper, they later change their minds rather easily.

Another principle is one called scarcity. I’m sure you are well aware of this. Limited supply. Sale only lasts for two days. Only the first one hundred customers.

Study after study shows that people will give something a much higher value when they think it is scarce. A group of researchers did an experiment where they had people sample a cookie. In one case, they convinced the samplers that there were plenty of cookies, and the test would be going for quite a while, etc etc.

Then they told a different group of testers that the cookies were a limited batch, and it was a recipe that was only being tried out for a short period of time, and the testers were lucky to be in on the experiment. Keep in mind the testers or samplers were never sold anything, so there was no buying pressure.

The results? The samplers who were told there were many more cookies of the same kind gave it an average rating. The testers who were told that it was a small group of cookies, and they were a select group of testers gave it an excellent rating.

But they were the same exact cookie. Simply by telling people it was scarce, it made the cookie taste better.

Now for the powerful, Christmas time combination. I have no idea if this still happens today, but this story was illustrated in “Influence,” the book I mentioned previous.

There was a toy manufacturer. They made a toy, and put all kinds of TV commercials on, directed at little kids. They used all kinds of marketing tricks, mainly scarcity. Only a limited number of dolls made. Get yours today. Everybody wants this doll for Christmas.

Only when the parents went to the store to get the doll, they were all sold out. So they had to get a substitute gift for their kid. Then, a couple months after Christmas, they somehow found a hidden warehouse filled with these dolls. Of course, the kids saw this, told their parents, and their parents were pretty much obligated to buy the toy, as they had promised to buy it at Christmas but couldn’t find it.

Here’s how it works. Kid sees toy, bugs parent. Parents promises kid to buy them that particular toy. When buying time comes, toy isn’t available. Parent buys replacement gift. Two months later, toy reappears. Kid says, “But Daddy, you promised!” Daddy now has to go and buy gift.

Simply by manipulating the supply of the toys (scarcity) to increase demand, and depending on commitment and consistency (Daddy, you promised!) the toy company was able to double it’s Christmas sales. They sold a slew of replacement gifts (jacked up in price because of daddy’s guilt for not finding the promised toy) and then again a couple months later, when the original gift magically appeared, they had an increase in sales when all their competitor were suffering from a post Christmas slump

The beauty (or evilness, depending on how you look at it) of a plan like this is that this is almost impossible to defend against. What parent is going to tell their child they can’t have what the TV has said every other kid is getting? What parent is going to break a promise to their kid?

Everywhere you look, there are advertisements developed by companies who know and apply these principles on a daily basis. It helps to understand these principles so that you can use them yourself (in an ethical, win win scenario, of course) and to defend against them when they are used against you.

Are You Influenced By Social Proof?

The other day I was waiting on the corner for a light to change. At some intersections in my city, they two way traffic for cars, and four way traffic for pedestrians. So if you are a pedestrian, you have to wait until the traffic going both in your direction and perpendicular to your direction have a chance to go, before you can walk. But when you do cross, you can either cross directly across, or diagonally. It’s a pretty good system, which many cities use, at least in some of the larger intersections.

I was reminded of back when I was in first grade, and our class was out walking around on the streets outside of school. We were crossing a major intersection, and the teachers (we had a couple of classes joined together) were telling us the importance of staying inside the lines on the crosswalk. This was a long, long time ago, and I’ve killed many brain cells between then and now, but I’m pretty sure one of the teachers put the fear of death into us to keep us inside the lines. We were told that if we stepped outside the lines while crossing the street, we were likely to be run over, as cars only had to stop if we were inside the lines.

And as I walked across the street, my mind drifted onto another conundrum. When does social proof overcome childhood conditioning? I’ve noticed that many times people here will stay firmly inside the lines of the crosswalk. No doubt that people around the world were taught a similar lesson about staying between the lines.

But sometimes, during say a nice Sunday afternoon when there are many people out window-shopping and such, the streets can get pretty crowded. And a large crowd can cross at once. And I’ve noticed while there is a big crowd, even though there is enough space to stay inside the lines, people seem to drift out and walk completely out in the open. Keep in mind that traffic is stopped from all directions; it’s even illegal to make a right or left turns at this point.

In a book on social influence, experimenters went out and stood in crowds waiting to cross a street. They would cross while the light was still red, and more often than not, people would join in. A few times, nobody crossed along with the experimenter disguised as a crosswalk rebel, but usually at least a few people did.

The funny thing is, that when asked about it afterwards, when it was explained that it was a social research experiment for a local university, even the people that didn’t cross when the rebel did explained that they felt an unconscious urge to do so.

Which again, begs the question I posed above. When does social proof, the unconscious desire programmed into our brains by evolution to go along with the crowd, override the messages taught to us as children? Obviously, everybody knows that you have to stay inside the lines, and wait until the light turns green.

Buy why do people feel such a strong pull to overcome these truths taught to us by our parents? At what point do we disregard what we’ve brought up to believe is right and correct, and simply follow the crowd without question?

In the past, our distant, pre-agriculture past, following the crowd meant safety. But what about today? Is it always a good idea to follow the crowd? I doubt a German Jew from the last century would agree that it is.

Usually, you won’t get into too much trouble by simply allowing yourself to be persuaded by the behaviors of large groups. You might buy some junk product that isn’t all that, or be caught on video doing the Macarena at a baseball game, but you usually won’t get into too much trouble.

But one powerful question to ask yourself, if you ever find yourself blindly following the crowd is:

“Would I be doing this if nobody else was?”

And really be honest with yourself, you may be surprised what happens.

I was once in High School, sitting and talking to a friend of mine in algebra class. The teacher usually had us work by ourselves in the last ten or fifteen minutes of class. My buddy and I were talking about the mindless sheep attitude of most people (we were both in our high school rebellion stage). We decided to give the system the finger, break from the crowd and stand up to leave before the bell rang.

Much to our surprise, as soon as we stood, so did everybody else. And while everybody filed out of class before the bell rang, the teacher didn’t even blink.

When you choose not to follow, you’ll be surprised how easy it is to lead.

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How To Get To The Bottom of Vague, Manipulative Communication For Instant Emotional Rewards

When humans communicate we rarely are upfront and clear about our intentions. Many times, most times in my opinion, we don’t even know the full extent of our intentions. How many times have you gotten into a fight with somebody, and after wards you were wondering why in the world you said what you said?

It’s hard enough to clear air after a particularly nasty fight, even harder when you aren’t sure why you were fighting to begin with. Underneath our words and sentences are emotions so deep and complex many are afraid to even acknowledge their existence.

It’s no wonder that communication can sometimes be difficult. Sometimes the words themselves with are seemingly impossible to argue with, even though they give you a deep “icky” feeling inside. Many times we unconsciously try eliciting an emotion in somebody else through manipulative tactics because we aren’t willing to address, or even understand our true needs.

For example. Lets say your girlfriend or boyfriend says to you:

“If you loved me, you’d know when I was angry.”

If you address this accusation at any logical level, you are doomed from the start. Simply by engaging in the conversation, you will be at an emotional disadvantage.

If you disagree, and try to assert that you do indeed love them, you are admitting you don’t know when they are angry. There’s just another reason. So you are admitting that you can’t read the emotions of your partner.

If you disagree, and say you know when they are angry, you are tacitly admitting that you aren’t being clear, because they don’t feel that you know. Another defensive position.

If you agree, then you are tacitly admitting that you don’t love them, because the “If you loved me..” is in the second conditional, meaning a description of an event that isn’t likely true. Yet another defensive position.

No matter how you respond to the actual words or logic in the sentence above, you are doomed to fail. The sentence is constructed to elicit a defensive emotional position, no matter how answer it. Of course, you will feel obligated to apologize for your horrible actions, thereby making this an extremely useful manipulative tactic to solicit an apology or admission of wrongdoing, or an admission of responsibility for your partner’s cruddy emotions.

However, there is another way. Ideally, you want to let your partner know that while you acknowledge their emotions, you are not responsible for them. They are. To do this in the above example, you need to keep your cool, and not get drawn into an argument, no matter how covertly it has been set up.

There are a couple ways of doing this. One is to simply be vague, and not give credence to what they say. This is good for dealing with people that you don’t really have a vested interest in creating a lasting emotional relationship with (like a coworker or somebody else you are kind of forced into dealing with.)

In this case you just pause, as if you are thinking and say:

“Hmm, maybe you’re right.” And then go on about your business. Because the above claim (if you loved me, or cared about me you’d..whatever) has many different levels of meaning, it puts the ball back in their court to explain exactly what they mean.

If you are interested in keeping a health relationship, you’ll need to ignore the surface language, and address the likely underlying emotions. In this case they are either feeling unloved, or they are feeling angry. Just pick, and carefully ask for more information. Be sure to keep an even keel, and not get drawn into an argument.

“What is it about me that makes you think I don’t love you?”
“And why does that (whatever that is) mean that I don’t love you?
“What is it about me that makes you feel angry?”
“Why does that (whatever that is) make you feel angry?”

The trick is to let them know you are interested in them feeling better, while at the same time making them aware that they are responsible for their own emotions.

This can take some practice, but it is very powerful in getting to the bottom of difficult emotions and feelings that can clutter up an otherwise health and rewarding relationship.

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Are You Committed To Powerful Persuasion And Influence?

To those of you who have emailed me privately asking for more tips on how to easily persuade others, this article is for you. If this is your first time here, you will find a great and easy to apply tip to use in your persuasive endeavors, be they job interviews, first dates, sales calls or any other instance where you’d like to covertly influence somebody.

The human mind comes pre programmed with various “hot buttons” that were extremely beneficial to humans in the days before agriculture. Decisions had to be made quickly and effectively. Whoever happened to feel a need to sit around and analyze every situation before acting usually didn’t live long enough to pass on that characteristic, so we are left with a predisposition for quick thinking.

If you were a caveman, and took three hours to decide weather or not to throw your spear at a wooly mammoth, you would never eat. If it took you several minutes to contemplate which direction to run if a tiger started chasing you, you wouldn’t last very long.

If you are ever conflicted in a decision, it’s only because today’s society presents us with a multitude of element that push those few “hot buttons” that we have built into our thinking process.

These “hot buttons” have been demonstrated beautifully by Robert Cialdini in his book “Influence – Science and Practice.” It is likely the most referred to book on influence and persuasion.

The topic of today is something called commitment and consistency. Basically, you tend to do things the same way you’ve done them before, or you tend to choose things the same way you’ve chosen them before.

Brand loyalty, staying in relationships or jobs that seem contrary to our best interests, and taking the same route to and from work area all based on this principle. Humans like what is comfortable. And when we do something, and it works, we usually do it over and over again.

Sometimes this can have a negative effect. If you try something, and get a little bit of a benefit, but not quite the benefit you were after, it can be hard to try something new, as we want to hang on, sometimes subconsciously, to that small benefit that we got, whatever it was. It may even be something that we are completely unaware of.

There are a couple of interesting experiments presented in Cialdini’s book. One is that they went through a neighborhood, and asked people to put up a huge sign in their front yard. Most, of course, said not.

Then they went through another similar neighborhood, and asked neighbors to put up a very small sign in their yard. A few said yes. They came back later, and the people that had allowed a small sign in their yard (no big deal) overwhelmingly said yes to a large sign. Because they had already committed to putting a sign up, agreeing to put up a much larger sign was simply behaving in a way that they had behaved in the past.

So how can you use this to influence others? There are two. One is similar to the sign experiment. You simply get the person to do something that seems no big deal, on a small scale. Then later, you ask them to do something much bigger, but seems to be similar to the smaller thing they did.

Salespeople do this all the time. They get small commitments to follow them from prospective customers. (Follow me, sit here, etc) and then slowly build up the level of compliance, until signing a contract is simply the next step in the process.

Seducers use a similar strategy. They meet a girl, buy her a drink, convince her to go to a different area of the bar or club, where they can “talk.” Then they go to another bar in the same neighborhood. Then they go to a small café somewhere closer to the guy’s apartment. Before you know it, they are in bed together. A string of small commitments, slowly growing in size and importance until going home with some guy she just met only three hours ago seems like no big deal.

Another, trickier way to do this is to find things in the persons past that they have already done, and convince them that their previous behavior is very similar to the behavior you want them to perform. This has to be done very carefully, and not blatantly. It takes practice, but once you get this down, you can be powerfully persuasive.

One way to do this (As described beautifully by Cialdini, Goldstein, and Martin in “Yes,” the follow up to “Influence”) is to assigning a positive label to your “target” because of their previous behavior. Then simply imply that if they choose not to comply with your request, they will lose that label.

Again, this can be tricky, and takes some practice to do conversationally, but it can be extremely powerful. Once you convince somebody that they will lose something they like (the positive label you gave them) they will do almost anything to keep it.

One extremely important caveat. Although these techniques are very powerful, if you use them without the other person’s interests in mind, they will backfire horribly. You will be despised more than the most unethical car salesman there is. But when you do this with the utmost sincerity in helping the other person achieve their underlying needs, you can’t go wrong.

Embedded Commands for Powerful Persuasion

One powerful tool that you can use in your toolkit of persuasion and influence is the embedded command. An embedded command is likely the most popular, easiest to learn, hardest to detect (and therefore one of the most powerful) ways to influence others.

They do take some time to learn, but once you have them down, you’ll notice that you are using them in your everyday speech. When you combine an unconscious skill of embedded commands with a strong win/win intention or outcome, you can be a powerfully unstoppable and charismatic force.

It’s no secret that most people would rather rally around a strong, charismatic leader than step up the plate themselves. Humans are designed to follow one leader in every group of people. Many studies of psychology and sociology have been done that illustrate this simple point. If you’ve every been in a business meeting, you know that most people would happily submit to a powerful, authoritative leader than take responsibility for themselves.

When you develop the use of embedded commands, you will be tapping into peoples deep evolutionarily based need to follow directions, and become incredibly influential. And the great thing is that they are very simple to use and apply.

First, take a short sentence, which is in the imperative form. A short command. Some examples.

Eat sushi.
Drink CC Lemon.
Watch Television
Add water.
Buy my product.
The structure is the first word is a verb in its basic present tense form. Then you have two or three words after it, that go along with the verb.

Next, you need to say them with the right tonality. Pretend you have your own personal robot. They will do everything you ask, and their feelings won’t get hurt. Say each of the above sentences with a slight downward tonality.

Ok? Ok. Next, take the above small snippets of speech, and put them into a larger sentence. This is where it gets tricky. You’ll need to say the command part a little bit different from the rest of the sentence. But make sure not to linger too long when you say the command, otherwise the people you are talking to will know that something is up. Pause just a little bit before the command, and a little bit afterwards, and then continue on with your sentence as if nothing happened.

This way, even if the person you are speaking with suspects something is up, by continuing on as if nothing happened, they’ll quickly forget their suspicions. Even if they notice something is up, they likely won’t know exactly what it is (other than maybe, you are talking funny, but this rarely happens.)

For example, let say you want to convince your girlfriend to eat sushi. You could try looking at her like Rasputin, and say EAT SUSHI! But she’ll likely think you are a nutcase. Or you could say something like this:

The other day, I was listening to this doctor on a radio talk show. He was discussing a study about people who eat sushi, and how they are healthier. He says that when you eat sushi, you get lots of good monounsaturated fats, and people that eat sushi on a regular basis tend to live longer. Hey, I’m getting kind of hungry by the way; do you want to get something to eat?

I remember when I was a kid; I went to some amusement park. In the amusement park they had this animal show, where they had a dog and a cat do a bunch of tricks. They had a sort of joke trick, where they would pull a kid out of the audience, and the trainer would tell him to whisper an article of clothing in the dog’s ear, and then he would go and get it.

Every time they kid would whisper women’s underwear, and the dog would come back with a bra, and you could hear a woman scream from backstage. They called me up on stage, and sure enough, I chose to whisper in the dog’s ear a woman’s bra. I thought it was my own choice to choose a woman’s bra, but my brother later explained what was up.

He would describe all the things I could choose, but he always used embedded commands (although at the time I had no idea what they were) when he mentioned to “choose a woman’s bra,” so inevitable, all the kids that went up on stage would choose that. And that was the only thing the dog was trained to go and get from back stage. It was a pretty good way to set up an easy trick.

These are great to use over the phone if you are in sales, or are talking to your girlfriend or boyfriend. They are particularly powerful if you start with a command that is easy to accept, and slowly lead to a more powerful command that you’d like your listener to perform.

For example

Become interested.
Get curious.
Get excited about this.
Want this.
Make a decision
Get this.
Buy this.
Do this.
Choose now.
Be happy.
Share with your friends.

Whatever it is you are talking about, if you start slow, and work your way up to a big finish, this can be very powerful. At first you’ll have to think these through before you deliver them, but after a while (with practice) you’ll be able to choose a destination and then automatically give people easy steps to get there by following your commands.

Of course, like any other powerful persuasion techniques, these should be used with caution. The quickest way to make a bad name for yourself is to convince somebody to commit money or emotions to something that isn’t in their best interests. The reasons powerful leaders are so powerful, and that people trust them is because they truly have the people’s interest at heart. You don’t have to look back through history to find reviled, hated and despised dictator that took advantage of their leadership.

When you use these ethically, they can be a lot of fun, and make a lot of people (including yourself) very happy.

Social Proof and Authority – Powerfully Persuasive, Or Horribly Evil?

Two of the most powerful and effective means of persuasion are social proof and authority. Social proof and authority are responsible or some of the greatest marketing stories of all time and some of the most horrible acts of cruelty perpetrated by societies led by evil and charismatic leaders.

Due to hundreds of thousand of years of evolution, the human brain has developed several “short cuts” in thinking. If you were a caveman living a hundred thousand years ago, it wouldn’t have served you very well to sit back and contemplate all your options when your whole tribe was on the move. Those that had a compulsion to follow the crowd generally lived long enough to reproduce, and pass on this compulsion to their offspring. Rebels didn’t.

Despite our tendency to fancy ourselves as independent thinkers and individuals, we are very strongly influenced by group thinking. Fashion, movies, bestsellers, product endorsements all make it much easier for us to make decisions. Our modern thinking brains are the same brains that kept us alive and thriving on the plains of Africa for hundreds of thousands of years, and they still operate on the same principles, despite what modern science may try and lead us to believe.

The other factor, authority, is as equally as powerful, for the same reason. Most ancient tribes had a single leader, or small group of leaders. When they made a decision, you followed it, or you were banished or shunned by the tribe. Those that had the compulsion to follow orders from those that had demonstrable authority usually did better than the rebels.

The most famous experiment that demonstrated this was one you’ve likely heard of if you’ve studied psychology. Researchers set up an experiment where they would ask a test subject questions, and then have another test subject give him an electric shock if he got the answer wrong. (This test was performed several years ago. Today if any scientist even proposed such an experiment he would be shunned from the scientific community.) The inside scoop of the experiment was that the leader, dressed in a doctors white coat, and the person receiving the “shocks” were both in on the experiment. No actual shocks were given, and the receiver only pretended to be in pain.

The person giving the shocks, however, didn’t know this. The test was to determine just how far they’d go in listening to an “authority” figure. Much to the horror of the testers, the test subjects (the people giving what they thought were real electric shocks) went much further than anybody expected.

A huge percentage of the test subjects continued to give “shocks” despite the receiver begging them to stop. Only a small percentage refused to do so. At one point, the receiver even pretended to be having heart difficulties. Even so, shocks were still obediently delivered.

If the shocks had actually been real, and not pretend, the voltages would have been enough to kill the test subjects.

Let’s recap, just so you understand the significance. Normal, everyday people, just like you and me, were persuaded to give a potentially lethal electrical shock to a complete stranger, despite his pleadings against it, simply on the word of an authority figure.

The test designers were so horrified by the results, they made sure an experiment of this nature was never performed again.

When you combine social proof, described above, and authority, you get a persuasive message that is virtually impossible to resist. Cult leaders, dictators, and unscrupulous marketers have known this, and have used this.

Jim Jones persuaded people, mothers with their children, to kill themselves. Adolf Hitler persuaded a whole country to willingly murder six million Jews.

These two can be used together to persuade people powerfully. If you are a salesperson, or somebody that persuades others for a living, these two tools can be extremely useful, if used ethically.

When you persuade using these to influence factors in a win-win situation, you will be unstoppable. You can make more money, and attract more lovers than you ever thought possible.

However, be careful. Just the slightest bit of unethical behavior can quickly turn against you. If you use these two techniques to persuade or manipulate people against their best interests, you will soon find yourself as hated as Adolf Hitler.

Be careful.