Tag Archives: TV

How to Avoid Being Manipulated

I was reading this interesting book the other day on the train. It was a really good book, one that I’ve read several times. It’s one of those non-fiction books that is so packed with fascinating information and new ideas that every time you read this you can find something interesting and worthwhile.

The book is The Red Queen, by Matt Ridley. It addresses the issue of the evolution of sex. Why sex? Why are there two sexes, instead of reproduction without the need for two genders? How and why did humans evolve such a big brain compared to all the other mammals? What is so special about us?

The more questions Ridley asks and answers with evidence and theories, the more questions are seemingly brought up.

One interesting paradigm that grabbed my attention was the idea of verbal communication. One of the arguments behind humans huge brains (compared to the rest of the animals) is the evolution of language. What then, was the driving force behind language? What is the purpose of language?

Most people will automatically say to communicate. Ok, so why communicate? Why did those who were able to communicate with words better off than those than weren’t? Monkeys and other apes are still doing fine without the need for exchanging thousands of words on a daily basis.

One reason that was suggested is that the reason for language is to not to simply convey information, but to persuade. Children cry because they want their mothers to perform a certain action. You tell your husband the garage door is open because you want him to perform a certain action. Kids come home from school and shout, “I’m hungry!” because they want their moms to perform a certain action.

Politicians give long and eloquent speeches about health care because they want people, (and other politicians) to perform a certain action.

TV is filled with programs designed to keep you sitting in front of the TV long enough to watch the advertisements, which in turn will do their best in thirty seconds to convince you to perform a certain action (BUY NOW! OPERATORS ARE STANDING BY!)

When you consider that the all of the language that comes out of your mouth, and all of the language that goes into your ears is designed to persuade, then it makes sense that you should learn certain techniques.

Techniques to persuade others, in an ethical, win-win manner, and techniques to guard against the inevitable persuasive messages you hear on a daily basis.

One way to guard against persuasion is to ask yourself “How will I benefit?” and listen for the answers. Be careful, because one powerful way that persuasion works is to convince you that you have a need, when you really don’t.

If, when you ask yourself “What’s in it for me,” the answer is to fulfill a need that was only recently generated, watch out. Somebody is pulling your strings.

The best defense is a good offense. Be clear on what you want, and when you plop down in front of the TV, be clear of your intentions. Passive entertainment is fine, so long as you don’t open your mind to easy manipulation by advertising Jedi knights.

If you have a list of solid goals, both short term and long term, this can be very powerful in resisting temptation. Just ask yourself, when presented with an opportunity, “Will this help me get closer to my goal of…” and listen for the answer. If it does, then by all means, buy that product. But if it doesn’t then be careful.

The unfortunate truth is that most people simply do not have a list of solid goals, so when they hear those persuasive messages, all they have to go on is basic human needs: Food, sex, companionship, feeling appreciated, moving away from pain and toward safety.

These triggers are all too easy to manipulate when you don’t have a solid idea of how you will fulfill them.

When you make a solid decision to figure out a list of powerful goals that you’d like to achieve in life, it will be much harder for you to be persuaded by unethical marketers. Keep that in mind next time you switch on the TV.

The Incredibly Gorgeous Hollywood Movie Star That Was

“So what do you want to try?”
“I don’t know, man, whatta you think?”
“How about….”
“Wait, I know, we could…”
We sort of knew what we wanted to do, but we weren’t exactly sure how to go aboug doing it. Across the room, in the bar where we had amazingly slipped past security, was the incredibly hot actress that we heard hung out here from time to time. How to approach her? Luckily, perhaps because she thought she was in a safe location, apart from dorky fans like us, she wasn’t surrounded by deadly bodygaurds. Should we approach? Should we attempt to sit closeby and impress her with our witty banter that she would hopefully overhear?

I remember once I was in the movies, waiting for it to start. It was one of those theaters where they have the trivia questions on the screen to keep you entertained. The couple behind us were speaking, and we couldn’t quite make out what they were saying, but we were pretty sure it sounded non-trivial. We heard a stray word here and there that wasn’t too garbled, you know, when it is easy to understand something, right? So we strained to hear, and the more I tried, the more I was able to decide that they were probably talking about something really important. But I wanted to be polite, and not appear overly rude.

Reminds me when I was a kid, and I had this old black and white TV. And I knew when the TV shows I liked were on, but my TV was so cheap that the reception didn’t come in very well. You know, when the TV is so messed up you have to make up your own story? And sometimes when you see the real thing, you kind of wish you didn’t, because deep down, you know that your story is better. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen very often, and usually something happens that you miss, because you are focused so much on your own story, you forget to focus on what is happening. Because I’m sure you can understand where I”m coming from, you can probably remember how easy it is to do that now, right?

Potatoes. That’s what they were talking about. It seems they were old neighbors, and they used to share a potato plant that spanned both their backyards.  I guess what’s really important to some people, isn’t that important to others, and if all you have to go on is the tone of the conversation, it’s easy to fill in the blanks, with what you think is important. And the interesting thing about that is, the more you start to think of things in terms of what is important to you, the easier it is to find ways to get there.

So we started talking about our jobs, and how cool and dangerous they were, hoping the beautiful young starlet would notice us. It took us about 20 minutes before we got up the courage to glance over, only to realize that it wasn’t her. It didn’t even look like her. Funny how your mind can make up things that aren’t there, isn’t it?