Influencing Instinct & the Heresy of Hearsay

Those of us who work with influence, particularly the unconscious variety, know that we are all being influenced all the time – often without our explicit agreement. Advertisements don’t just clearly spell out their message, such as, “Buy our product!!!!” Rather, they show us someone having a problem with which we can identify, reacting to that problem in a manner familiar to us, then show us how the product in one fell swoop solved that problem. By extension, we are “learning” that so too will the product solve our problem. We are unconsciously being directed to buy the product. This has been going on for a very long time, and if you were not aware of it, you are in for a very eye-opening experience.

“Okay,” you might say, “I’ve heard that advertisers, politicians, clergy, and others use unconscious influence to motivate our action.” But what does this have to do with our “gut-level” decisions? Is it possible that when we ignore advertisers, or whichever canned message we are fed, we are immune from this, using our gut to make that decision?

Absolutely not! Our “gut” is just our unconscious mind. And it is our unconscious that is being targeted by advertisers, along with all the other people and institutions around us trying to influence us. Let’s say you are at the store, looking at all the different choices for a product you need. Different colors, shapes, logos, and more, all beg you to consider the superiority of any of a number of options. You could rationally compare the features, ingredients, brand name, and so on. What have you heard about the products? Do the notorious body known only as “they” say (“’They’ say, you should always go with the blue box…”) to select one over the others? No? Okay, so the advertising programming has not sunk in deeply enough just yet. Now we are left, in the absence of social proof (what you have heard from others) and rational evidence (whether one item is superior to the others when logically compared), with only our instincts. But wait, haven’t we always been told to trust our instincts? If so, by whom? (Oh no, not “They” again!)

Isn’t it possible that when you access your “gut” or your instincts, you are in fact just asking your unconscious mind? The same part of our mind that is continually measuring and deciding, and the intended target for unconscious influence!

Remember though – even if you are not being directly influenced at the unconscious level, your gut instinct is still subject to social proof (even when it’s wrong, commonly referred to as “hearsay”). Instinct can be a great way to let your unconscious mind, which absolutely has our best interest at heart, guide us. Just bear in mind that we are constantly being targeted by those around us who wish to influence and direct our behavior, our choices, our thinking. Instinct can no longer be trusted to remain pristine and above such influences. It too must be maintained, just as we maintain our conscious processes, and every other facet of our lives.

And above all, beware the heresy of hearsay! Those around you, passing on “conventional wisdom”, are often not wise enough to be trusted.   

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