Just suppose this were true….

I have spent the last couple of weeks reading a lot of literature about techniques for influence and persuasion. For me, this is an absolutely fascinating topic, with so many wildly different opinions on it. Ranging from social and cognitive psychologists, to sales people, to absolute Muppets promising gold and delivering dung, there is not much I have not read. Yet, in all these books, there is one idea lacking, that is actually one of the most powerful and easy things to do….

As there is so much information coming at us all the time, and we can only (consciously) cope with so much, we tend to take a lot of things at face value, meaning we do not look behind the facade of a nice sentence to see how it came into being. This sounds very abstract, so let me give you an example:

Joe went quickly to the store – In order for this sentence to make sense, there are certain assumptions we make, i.e. Joe exists, the store exists. We never really question these things though, as they are inherently assumed. So, what, you might wonder, does this have to do with you becoming a cunning linguistic influencer?

Well, here is the punchline: Since, in general, those assumptions just happen, imagine what you would say if the person you want to influence would naturally assume that something was true. So instead of asking:”Would you like to do this now? ” you might ask “How quickly would you like to do this now?”. What is the difference? Well, the first sentence asks a questions directly, while the second already assumes that action is imminent, it is only a matter of time.

“Presuppositions” (as they are known in some jargon), represent one of the most powerful tools of influence at your disposal. If you want to move someone to a certain action, just ask yourself: What would I say if (certain action) was certain to happen….and move from there!

On the flip side, you can also start paying attention to the assumptions inherent in other people’s communication. What are they assuming to be true, what are the things they are accepting without questioning them. This will allow you to get a much deeper understanding of your fellow humans….

So, when do you think you will start noticing those assumptions, sooner or later?


9 thoughts on “Just suppose this were true….

  1. what is the difference between the spirituality and religion .

  2. Phantomias says:

    hmmm, interesting you should ask that here, where there is not a mention of either word…?

    what is the difference for you, if you were to guess?

  3. Pia says:

    Interesting. I’ve never thought about it…

    Are the “presuppositions” really used often? I’ll have to listen more carefully to people around me in the next coming days.

    The first thought that comes up in my mind; is that I find assumptions a little rude, egoistic,…

  4. Phantomias says:

    Pia, you have a very interesting point of view. To think of assumptions as rude and egoistic is a first for me. Indeed, “presuppositions” or assumptions are part of natural language, without which no communication could occur.
    There is so much information flying at us, we have to take some things for granted in order to make sense of what is happening around us.

    See, you are presupposing that you have not been listening carefully to people until now (and this “until now” presupposes that this is about to change).

    Of course, if you use this knowledge in an egoistical manner, it will not work as often as it could if you were genuinely looking and creating win win situations for everyone involved. Karma is always waiting around the corner…

  5. Pia says:

    Well. When I said I thought it’s rude and egoistic I meant in situations where you assume somebody will do something, but this person actually hasn’t said (s)he will do it. “When will you clean your room?” instead of “Will you clean your room?”.

    You wrote the word “influence” several times in you post, and for me that word has a negative tone. Most of the times. I did read it as “manipulate”.
    But perhaps I just misunderstood you.

    I agree about that many assumptions are necessary.

  6. Paul Mischel says:

    Hi Phantomias,

    Firstly, nice blog. I have enjoyed what I have read so far.

    I like how you have linked the use of presuppositions for the purpose of sales. This is an area I also have a keen interest in and am exploring with a voracious appetite.

    Here’s a great line that I was introduced to in recent times.

    “When would now be a good time to make a decision?”

    To Pia,

    Depending on the context and the intention of the person doing the manipulation, I personally enjoy being manipulated. For instance, the chiropractor I go to often helps get the little kinks out of my neck which have a tendency to restrict my movements. After being manipulated, I find the range of movement I am able to achieve comes as a great relief. Not only am I thankful for the skillful way he has influenced my spinal alignment I am more than happy to pay him. 🙂



    P.S I will be adding your site to my blogroll.


  7. Don Kon says:

    Thank you for this brief but important insight.

    I think that presuppositions are very effective when you just got to know a person, but you don’t know him/her too well.

    A good friend would immediately “scent” the manipulative character of a phrase “so, when are we going to meet tomorrow?” even if you haven’t agreed on the date at that point. The response might be, “why tomorrow/don’t know/whateever”.

    If you don’t know the person too well, you don’t only overwhelm her (let’s assume, we’re talking bout girls) but the direct and dominant appraoch might also leave her in a slightly spacy state of mind.
    And this opens the gate for even more suggestive measures…..

    I was quite surprised, how a friend of mine, a naturally skilled sales man, swathed entrepreneurs, lawyers and routined businessmen with very superficial information and suggestive talking….

    To put it into one sentence, he put his filter of reality on to the others perceptions, only by using this approach.

  8. Phantomias says:

    Don Kon,

    Thank you very much for stopping by. I do think you have a very valid point: With friends, utilizing language patterns can be less than easy, and sometimes even plain wrong. It is always important to know how to act in different situation…

    At the same time, we use presuppositions all the time, the question is if we are consciously paying attention to the anymore or not. In the sales context they just appear as a little more obvious than in a personal setting!

    At the end, it is all for fun and games, and noticing what impact you have and utilizing it for good means!

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