What is it that makes us resist out-of-the-box messages? I believe it is at least in part because we are all creatures of habit. In fact we are more “creatures of trance”.
Real thinking requires enormous concentration and energy. Our brains are set up in such a way that they identify patterns, routinize thinking, and then go into a kind of autopilot mode as we go about our business each day. The common examples of this are driving to work, or brushing our teeth in the morning. What is a little more disturbing is that this autopilot approach extends to our work, our social life, even our relations with those we love most.
Underpinning this robotic structure is a set of beliefs. Anything that in some way threatens the validity of these beliefs simply does not compute”. This is because if we were to engage with these possibilities, even if for only a second, we are breaking the trance that supports our existence. How then do we communicate anything new?
For this we need to take a page from the handbook of the masters of persuasion. These are none other than those master manipulators who shape our world, the Players. Persuasion, in its most distilled and potent form is a kind of hypnosis or entrancement. Even though hypnosis is usually shrouded in mystery and hocus pocus, it can be broken down into a sequence of five simple steps. These steps are:
1. Establishing rapport
2. Focusing attention
3. Deepening the trance
4. Implanting the message
There is a Chinese proverb –the way to topple a giant is to strike him below the knees. If you wish to persuade someone of something they are disinclined to agree with, look at the presuppositions which lie behind those beliefs.
It is analogous to a commander confronted with a bastion which will not yield. Instead of attacking the castle via the main gate, where all the defenders need do is pull up the drawbridge and they are safe, dig your way in by going beneath the foundations.
Of course this is easier said than done, and requires both subtlety and a degree of deception. Finally, it is important to remember that not all castles can be breached, nor does the treasure within always justify the effort!