Covert Persuasion: Real Life 'Inception'
If you've ever done something for someone then you have done so because you were persuaded in some way, shape or form.
Persuasion is one of the most powerful skill sets you can ever possess. Just think about how persuasion pervades every aspect of our lives. Whether we are getting a friend to do us a favor, a child to eat something, or a stranger to lend us a hand, we have successfully persuaded someone to do something for us.
Just imagine if there was no persuasion. Essentially no one would be doing anything for each other. Everyone would be doing things for their own self-gain rather than working together towards common goals. There would be no cooperation, no sense of community, and none of the cities we see today would exist.
The world around us is formed based on the connections we have to each other. Since humans are social mammals underlying the success and quality of life of a particular person is their ability to persuade others to do things for them.
Essentially we could go as far as to say that persuasion is the force that binds and builds the world we live in.
Persuasion alone is not an unstoppable force that can achieve anything we desire. Persuasion occurs often only in specific conditions. In reality our persuasion attempts are mostly ineffective especially when dealing with people outside our social circles.
So how can we solve this issue of inconsistency and inefficacy? The solution is to go below the radar and influence people at a subconscious level. This is the whole basis of covert persuasion, the ability to persuade others without them even realizing that they are being persuaded. Through covert persuasion (as opposed to normal persuasion) you bypass their defenses and influence their beliefs, values and actions directly. (For those familiar with the movie 'Inception', this was the basis for the whole plot.)
Thus, it is through covert persuasion that if used morally can dramatically improve the quality of lives around you and yourself.
Through this multi-part series we will go in depth and explore the various ways to become a master at covert persuasion.
Covert Persuasion vs. Manipulation
There is a vital distinction that needs to be made when talking about influencing people on a subconscious level within the realm of emotions, beliefs, and behaviors.
Covert persuasion uses a set of positively reinforced psychological and behavioral skills and tactics to influence others to create a mutually beneficial outcome for all parties. These are mainly positively associated tactics such as giving compliments, seeking to understand, validating, sharing etc.
Manipulation on the other hand also uses mostly negatively reinforced psychological and behavioral skills and tactics to influence others for self gain. These are mainly negatively associated tactics such as lying, guilt trips, shaming, evasion etc.
Mind you the tactics used may overlap especially in the case of a manipulator posing as a friend to get what they want.
The major difference can be seen by simply looking at the outcome. Manipulators use these skills and tactics purely for self-gain at the cost of the other person(s) involved. Covert persuasion is purely for the betterment of the other person and/or mutual benefit.
Although the very nature of this topic may be morally contentious I assure that every care will be taken to ensure that covert persuasion remains distant from any forms of manipulation.
Why Covert Persuasion?
Our behaviors are driven by our beliefs. Everything we do is a based on a belief or set of beliefs. Now if I wanted to persuade someone to do something that was against their beliefs what do you think would be the reaction? The person would most likely oppose or ignore your persuasion attempts and a heated argument might ensue.
Our beliefs become our brain child that we defend and grow at almost whatever cost necessary. They are the cornerstone to our identity that defines us and without it we lose our sense of self .Just think about some activists and how they are willing to sacrifice themselves because of their strong beliefs. This is the power of our beliefs.
Now if you wanted to persuade someone with strong beliefs to do something that clashed against their beliefs what would you do? You would probably beat them with a giant stick until they listened to you. Alternatively you could employ the subtle art of covert persuasion and plant a new belief in their minds that allowed them to do what you intended them to do.
So what do I mean by this. All our beliefs had to come from somewhere. If we were able to plant a new seed (an idea) deep enough into the other person’s subconscious mind it would essentially grow into a new belief. You see, beliefs are just plants that grow in the fertile realm of the subconscious mind. Some of these beliefs may be weeds that are destructive to a person whilst some may be giant Red Oaks that tower over all other plants and are almost impossible to remove. Whereby the more you nurture and defend a plant the stronger it becomes.
Covert persuasion’s magic lies in going under the radar and defenses of a person and planting a new idea in their fertile subconscious garden. The idea will eventually sprout and grow as a belief and with time and care the belief will define the person’s behavior indefinitely.
In general, I believe you cannot change people unless they want to be changed – with covert persuasion you can help change people by implanting positive ideas that become empowering beliefs that they defend and nurture. You create robust positive change without the person even realizing it was your idea(s) to begin with.
Building Foundations: Rapport
The very first component before any covert persuasion attempt is rapport. Rapport is the critical foundation for all covert persuasion it’s like trying to build a house without a foundation, it’s almost impossible. Just like how it would be hard to get a complete stranger to do something for you, rapport is required before anything else can be accomplished.
You can think of rapport simply as another word for connection or relationship with another person.
There are situations when rapport is not required to persuade someone, for example when an authority such as a policeman makes a direct order for you to do something. This would be in the case of ‘overt’ persuasion such as making demands or using force to get what you want from someone. In this situation, it is only a matter of time until you meet opposition or resistance to your overt persuasion attempts especially when the demands are unreasonable or clash with the subject’s belief and value systems.
Covert persuasion creates a foundation for long-term persuasion influence almost instantly with zero or minimal resistance. The beauty of this type of rapport is that you can achieve far more than using overt persuasion alone. Just think back to a time when you did something truly self-less and amazing for someone you had great rapport with – i.e. your family member, best friend etc. With strong rapport like this there are no real limits with what you can achieve.
Let’s focus on building this type of robust rapport since it builds on the foundation of all covert persuasion attempts. In the next article, we will focus on various techniques to build robust rapport (Part 2).
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(price as of Sep 7, 2016)