I just finished reading this fascinating book by Steven Pinker called “The Blank Slate.” In it he challenges the popular notion that people are blank slates when we are born, and are easily shaped by our environment, parent, religious upbringing and childhood. It’s a fairly controversial idea, as many people think that the idea of people coming into the world with some kind of pre set nature will lead to discrimination, or something like eugenics, (or worse, nazism) which was all the rage at the beginning of the last century.
He touched on several hot button topics in the book, ranging from politics to race to feminism. Most of his points were well argued, and he had plenty of data to back up his claims.
One hot button topic he spoke about at length was the influencing factors that contribute to an individual’s behavior. There’s always been the old “nurture vs. nature” debate. Are we the way we are because of our genes, or because of our environment? The answer, according to a growing number of social scientists is both, which makes sense. Our collection of behaviors as adults is due more or less to fifty percent genetics, and fifty percent environment. Of course some behaviors will be influenced much more than others than environment, so not every individual behavior is fifty-fifty. But taken collectively, our general behaviors, beliefs, ideas, and personalities all mashed into who we are (or who we think we are) is roughly fifty percent from our genes, and fifty percent from our environment.
But the shocking part (for some) is the particular environment that we are shaped from. When they say fifty percent of our behaviors are due to our environment, they are referring to our non-family environment. That means our behavior is determined much more by our peers than our parents. Who we are has nothing to do with how we were raised, by how we related to our friends and our peer groups growing up. What roles we played in the group, whether they were a positive influence, or a negative influence.
Study after study after study, involving twins raised together, twins raised apart, adopted kids raised in the same family, non twin siblings raised together, and raised apart bear this out.
This makes sense when you consider the social influence factors described by Cialdini in “Influence, Science and Practice.” Two of the biggest factors of influence are authority, and social proof. Authority is pretty much anybody who knows what they’re talking about, and is generally respected as such by those that he or she is talking to. Social proof is simply going along with the crowd. Of course, these two can powerfully work together, as authority of any one person can be greatly enhanced by social proof.
Anyone who studies covert language and hypnosis for sales or seduction knows one of the key skills to have is to gain rapport with your target before persuading them. By gaining rapport, you show that you are one of them. You are part of their social group. But gaining rapport is only the beginning. You’ve got to not only pace, but eventually you’ve got to start to lead if you want them buying your product. You’ve got to convince them that you are an authority in their world enough so they’ll feel comfortable buying your product, or doing whatever else it is you want them to do.
And if you’re a kid growing up, who do you have the most rapport with? Your parents? Your teachers? Or your friends? And who them, has the most authority in your world? You may fear punishment by your parents or teachers, or you may crave the rewards, both emotional and otherwise, from your parents and teachers, but he “leaders” in your peer group have the most juice when it comes to real authority. If you’re a parent, you how seemingly impossible to fight peer pressure. Often times a threat of severe punishment is the only way to persuade. And if you’re in sales, using a threat of punishment in order to persuade somebody usually doesn’t work so well.
In NLP, there are a lot of procedures to change behaviors based on re engineering your past. There’s even a procedure called “Perfect Parents.” It’s a popular notion that if you are “messed up” as an adult it’s due in large part to your parents not doing such a great job bringing you up. But what if the most influence your parents had on you was by giving you their genes? What if those that influenced you the most were the kids you hung out with while growing up?
All those procedures in NLP to change the way your parents brought you up may actually be barking up the wrong tree. It may be helpful to reengineer your historical peer group, or our place in your peer group next time you try on a different history to see how it affects you present.
When trying to learn a new skill, it can help to remember times in your past where you exhibited some aspect of that skill while you were with your friends, and there weren’t any adults around.
These ideas may turn out to be completely full of holes, but at least you’ll gain some flexibility when looking into your past to understand your behaviors and beliefs in the present. And as a general rule, the more flexible you are, the easier it will be to come up to a solution to any problem that may come up, and a way to conquer whatever obstacles you may be dealing with.
It’s a sad truth that many adults carry around a deep resentment for something their parents did to them, or didn’t do to them when they were kids. But it may turn out that whatever they did, or didn’t do, has no impact whatsoever on your life today. Anyone harboring any deep-seated resentment for their parents would do well to remember the words of Nelson Mandela:
“If you hold a grudge, it’s like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies.”
To learn powerful skills to re-engineer your life and build it exactly as you like, check out the link below: