Social Skills – Language – Influence

Friday, January 8th, 2010 at 8:00 am.
by pre.

Last month we addressed how to influence others, and this month we’ll be discussing language. Language is, as far as we can tell, the most incredible tool for influencing other creatures that has ever evolved on this planet.

Think of it, just a few words uttered to you can transport your mind through time and space and have it simulate experiences in as much detail as the speaker can summon. Even impossible and incredible events can be played through in your mind just by speaking the right sequence of syllables.

This is truly a great trick which evolution as stumbled upon. Parents can teach their children about dangerous things without having to put their offspring in any actual danger. Friends can relay the experience of the day to each other and thus each of their minds can adapt and change as though they had experienced the full extent of both days.

More than this, language can pull out just the salient details of an experience, and so express it more quickly than the actual experience could have possibly happened. Look:

“I sat and watched for two full hours as the flower’s petals opened up around dawn and began to slowly track the sun, shining it’s bright yellow face into the sunlight.”

How long did it take to read that sentence? Ten seconds? Fifteen? Yet by allowing yourself to imagine the scene as it’s described your mind can simulate it and so gain the experience of a full two hour’s watching in just fifteen seconds!

Understanding this is the key to realizing how to use language most effectively in trying to influence others. We talked last month about syncing your emotional states, becoming of one mind, and then leading the people you seek to influence through the emotional journey which led you to your own position on the issue.

Building rapport and syncing you mind-states is only a part of the real skill though, to truly master the art of rhetoric, you need to pick the words you use to take people on that emotional journey carefully, cunningly, expertly.

In short, you need to use evocative language

Evocative Language

It’s tempting just to say visual language, flowery descriptive word-pictures of the way things in your story look, but you will remember, people have many thinking styles. Perhaps people predominately think visually, but they also think kinaestheticly, audibly, and perhaps most importantly emotionally.

To have maximum emotional impact, and so have your stories have their maximum effect, you really need to get your listener to simulate the experience in their own brain. You need to describe that experience in some detail, with words which provoke the appropriate sensations, and emotions in order to take them on a roller-coaster ride of emotional significance.

This is how you will have maximum influence.

Very occasionally, and usually just in technical issues where you’re trying to get someone to simply understand rather than agree, the most useful linguistic skill is to shorten the meaning into the smallest possible sentence. This is a great and useful skill, but do not use it when trying to enthral or convince. You need instead to take your time, to express the detail, the nuance, the emotional resonance of your story.

Usually the point of a conversation isn’t just to express meaning efficiently, it’s to take someone on an emotional journey, to make them feel what you felt, to create actual pictures in their mind, have them hear the sounds that you heard, have them experience the story the same was you did.

If you do this well, if you spin a good yarn, you will not only have a bigger influence on others, you will also gain their willing and eager cooperation in leading them on this emotional journey. You will receive their admiration because even if the story is sad people like to feel and they admire anyone who can help them to do it.

How to become more lucid

Guess. Go on!

Yep. Obviously: Practice

You can of course practice when alone, in front of a mirror or to a Dictaphone or into a sock-puppet. We encourage you to do these things, but that kind of excercise will not help you nearly as much as practice at real people, in real situations.

What you really need to do is to remember to try and use more evocative language at the time you are talking to people, any people, at any time. To keep that thought in the back of your mind so that your language selection will naturally become more ornate, more descriptive, so that you’ll learn to ponder on thoughts and mention the way things looked, they way they sounded, the way they made you feel. To do so using words and phrases which encourage your listeners to actually simulate the experience in their minds, to see what you saw, to feel what you felt, to touch what you touched.

The Meditation

In this month’s lucid dream you will dream that you are talking to someone, and that you are remembering, and succeeding, in using that more flowery and descriptive language. We’ll throw in some stock phrases and expect you to finish them. Things like “picture the scene, I was….” and “Try to imagine how I felt as I….

These stock phrases are useful not only to plant the explicit suggestion into your listeners minds that they will indeed run a detailed simulation of your description, but also encourage you, the speaker, to fill in the blanks. They will remind you that your language is supposed to be evocative, not just efficient.

You’ll be encouraged to work these phrases into your conversations, and to invent others like them.

In this way you’ll not only be practising as you dream, you’ll also be encouraged to pay mindful attention to the fact your are practising as you talk to people in waking life.