This past two months, I’ve spoken about a coworker who greatly exaggerated his own abilities.
Quick recap: He promised all kinds of great rewards and, even early on, before anyone knew of his capability (or lack thereof), we could all smell the distinct odor of, as mentioned, bullshit. He agreed to something, a bit of a test, that would, if he truly was as good as he’d boasted, be possible, if challenging.
But I’d also mentioned that this guy had been using this strategy for a long time. “He’d lined up his excuses and scapegoats early.” What do I mean by that? Knowing he would be unable to deliver, he preplanned the excuses he’d use. There’s an interesting phenomenon in which we humans develop clustered behaviors–things we group into a single procedure. NLP calls these “metaprograms”. The gist is that we don’t think of a handshake as a series of sequential and coordinated movements. They merely become a “handshake”. Metaprograms are useful, though they can be exploited. If you’ve ever observed the famous “Handshake Induction” (aka “handshake interrupt”), you know how fluid this can be.
We are also accustomed to agreeing to a request when the person asking seems polite enough and offers a reason. As Robert Cialdini documented in his classic book, “Influence”, the reason can even, if delivered well enough, be irrelevant. In this way, excuses, delivered well, often will work. If you develop a smooth delivery, you can often cite a reason for a failure and pull it off. I’m not advocating this, to be clear. And most people will, as they review their actions, catch on. That’s one of the reasons this fellow’s strategy doesn’t tend to work for long.
I previously mentioned that the twin NLP models, The Milton Model and The Meta Model, figure into this. The former leverages artful vagueness to create ambiguity. That, when delivered with skill, can create a mild trance state. We are as humans even more apt to respond favorably to a scam when in trance. It’s for that reason that an ethical hypnotist (including yours truly) begins with a suggestion that as the trance subject’s unconscious mind reviews each subsequent instruction, it will screen out any that don’t serve the subject. In essence, the subject is entrusting us to only give the subject what they want. But also to invite that subject’s own mind to scrutinize each suggestion to ensure only “approved” material goes inside.
Since the purpose of this trilogy of articles is Ethics, I again clarify: This is not merely because I’m such a decent, nice guy. This is because “What goes around, comes around.” Buyer’s remorse is real even when no money has changed hands. If you use your skills to trick someone into a sale, into bed, into a friendship, or an agreement of any kind, they will eventually review the decision, and if it’s one-sided in your favor, they will come to resent you. Create too many of those (and sometimes, all it takes is one) and you have a reputation as untrustworthy, indecent, slimy–pick your term. You don’t want that.
Further, some people don’t fall into the trance at all and see clearly what you’re doing. If what you’re doing is aboveboard, no problem. But if they spot something unsavory, you have an issue on your hands.
I also shared previously that the guy in question used the “excuses and scapegoats” strategy. This leverages that process where an excuse, a reason, is connected in our minds to calming any objections, explaining away the failure to meet the goal. But there’s something else as well. Since I mentioned the “reason” can even be irrelevant, Milton-model, “artfully vague” thinking can gloss over questions and challenges. But all it takes is introducing Meta-model precision. That is, directing the topic away from vagueness, forcing specificity.
Let’s look at one of the guy’s “reasons”, “Legal.” He said that he was doing everything right, but that his company’s Legal department was holding things up. Really? Meet some “Meta-model” challenges to that:
“Oh? What exactly is the holdup on our end?”
“With whom have you already spoken in Legal?”
“When exactly did you begin the request of Legal?”
All of these, and many others that might come to mind, pin the reason down, illuminate what has already taken place, what must, and there is no room to hide from the truth. This sort of thing did happen and the BS artist flailed. “Um, I don’t really know her name in Legal…uh, it was, like, either last week or maybe this week…and I don’t know–you know how lawyers are! They always slow things down, you know!”
Something similar happened with the “reason” that they lacked “Enablement”, the ability to onboard new customers. And that “Marketing” hadn’t created materials he could use…
It all came down to his finding “reasons” for simply not meeting with customers, doing his job, Sales, ultimately advancing any deals.
When things got really stressful for him, he sustained a mystery injury which required immediate medical attention. A diversion. It got even more interesting from there. He contracted Covid-19 a second time! So it would seem cruel to keep him in the hot seat as he “recovered”.
The saddest part of this is that he seems to really believe that these diversions and vague promises will actually work in his favor. He’s admitted that he was “really sweatin’ there” for a moment. But that once the attention moved to something else, he felt relief. The truth is that such things don’t go away. And he’s formed a very negative impression in the minds of his peers and supervisors. Looking at his job history and speaking with a few former coworkers, it’s clear that this reputation has followed him for awhile.
I hope his story has addressed the question about Ethics. I am regularly asked to coach people to help them get away with things that, like our example above, will catch up to them after. I reject such requests because I look several steps ahead and recognize the damage I’d be enabling clients to do to themselves, including to their personal lives or their careers.
I also value my repeat clients. When I help you to achieve something exceptional, you will likely return to me with future needs. If I help you shoot yourself in the foot, you logically will assume that I deserve some of the blame. Frankly, if I’d done that, I would agree with you.
Not understanding this, a casual friend of mine reacted with horror to what I do. She was concerned that I was doing some form of voodoo or magic, “mind control”, and teaching others to use such covert arts. Once you understand the structure of what I do, and yes, I teach that, you’ll see that this is rational, practical, and useful. But to anyone not understanding that structure, I agree, it can seem like magic.
Still, as magical as it can seem, it’s important to recognize that nothing can prevent universal laws, and karma, whatever it is, is real. What goes around really does come around.
Use your “magic”, your superpowers and skills with respect and decency.
To your success!