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?