I was asked recently about the concept of “influence” and whether it was somehow a bad thing. In my mind, the words may have well been, “Effectiveness–isn’t that somehow a bad thing?” Influence is no more good or bad on its own than is “ice skating” or “spelunking”. Although you might disagree if you truly dislike spelunking–which I can appreciate. The first comparison I made was to “effectiveness” and that was for a reason. After all, isn’t being effective a bad thing? If you’re a psycho killer, an embezzler, a con artist, and you are “effective” at your task, isn’t that bad? Well, sure it would be, to anyone but you! But if you’re a parent, a manager, or a physician, who would argue that your being “effective” in that task is a positive thing?
There’s a point here: some adjectives require context before a judgment of their quality can be given? What do I mean? Some things simply cannot be evaluated as “good” or “bad”. They just don’t fit into that type of categorization. Context gives it a level of meaning that sure, we could call “good” or “bad” based on that context and how we feel about that.
“BS”, I hear some of you say. “Influence is manipulation and THAT is bad!”
A hypnotist I knew years ago told me that the difference between “manipulation” and “influence” to him. He said that he used a simple question to differentiate them: “Would I object to some technique, some method, being used on me? If I wouldn’t object, it’s influence. If I would object, it’s manipulation.” Let’s agree to disregard whether he’s right or not, and that his differentiation is at least a place to begin. If you’ll agree to that differentiation, we can build on it to create something useful. Something I’m convinced will help you.
Think about this for a moment–is a hammer a good thing or not? If you’re building a house, it’s not just good, it’s invaluable. But can it be used destructively? Even dangerously? Of course, and that’s because it is effective.
You might argue that if we don’t teach bad people to wield influence well, we limit their damaging efficacy. I would argue that a bad person will always find a way to do bad things. Making him less effective with one tool does not mean he can’t simply pull another from his arsenal.
“That’s all well and good,” I hear you say, “but subconscious influence? That just sounds insidious!” (Arguably, more sinister still by contracting the two words… “Sublinfluence™.” Whoa…
Pause for a second and consider your choice of laundry detergent. Your choice of juice? Soda? Movie? We make choices all the time. Life, you might say, is all about making decisions. How certain are you that you or I make every single one of those decisions entirely consciously? Fifty percent? Twenty? Ten? To be fair, how could you consciously make all those decisions?
Some of us recall the Pepsi Challenge, in which people were asked to try Coke and Pepsi, not knowing what was in each cup, then decide which they liked best. Once they did, and many of them chose Pepsi, we were being influenced to believe that Pepsi was better. The “social proof” of seemingly everyday people preferring it was enough to convince many of us that it was better. If that was conscious, those of us who were curious may have bought a bottle of each and tried them back-to-back so we ourselves could decide. But doing a comparison test for everything would be tedious, and arguably impossible. Remember that our resources are relatively limited. Harvard’s George Miller famously determined that seven is a “magic number”–our conscious minds can track seven–plus or minus three pieces of distinct data at a time.
To process as much as we do, to accomplish as much as we do, we need shortcuts, shorthand, categories into which we can organize information. We would otherwise become overwhelmed daily with the sheer magnitude of facts and data confronting us each moment.
This is also what leads us to follow what in NLP we call the Milton Model–so named because of its source, Dr. Milton H. Erickson, MD. Though for now, let’s stick with our primary topic, influence.
We must do a good portion of what we do with our subconscious minds. There’s simply too much to do, too much to think about, too much to consider, to do it all consciously.
Subconscious influence therefore is not an innovation but rather an observation. We already do it, we already depend on it. The question is whether you want to consciously direct it or not. My practice is based upon my belief that you do, at least to some degree. I hope you don’t want to undo the entire useful process that you already use. Though learning a little more about how you do it, and therefore to take some of the chance out of it, seems like a good idea to me. Though even following it blindly is better than trying to control every aspect. How would you like to do a comparison test every time you had to make a decision? Probably not the best use of your time, would be my guess.
So in the course of our exploration together, you’re going to learn a lot about how you do what you do, and quite a bit of it will not be conscious. My hope is that you will embrace your excellence and the awakening of new levels of greatness with the help of your own subconscious mind. I don’t know what that greatness will look like to you–it may be in your relationship with your spouse or partner. It may be with your family. It may be at work. With investors, politicians, your customers. It could be anywhere and with anyone. Only you know where you could use an edge. And I’m going to bring every skill I have to bear to ensure that you find it.
It’s only manipulative if the other person doesn’t benefit as well. But they will. It’s only wrong if you don’t want to improve. And you will. It’s only you, your own mind, your own process, and you are about to begin taking charge of it. Let’s go!