Social Skills – Social Perception – Social Perception

by pre., Friday, August 1st, 2008.

We are a deeply, intrinsically, social species. We operate as a group, teach and learn from each other, help and assist each other, exploit and use each other. None of us can even survive without help from others, let alone transcend.

The oil which greases the wheels of cooperation is our ability to understand each other. To see what others think and want and need. Our ‘social perception’ skill is our ability to understand the intentions, emotions, communications, even deceptions and hidden motives of other people. We each use all of our physical perceptive skills to see subtle signals given off by others and combine them into new abstractions in ways which are as indescribable as trying to use words to reproduce a Rorschach inkblot test.

Understanding “Non verbal communication” is, of course, a major component of social perception. Interpreting body language, seeing what a person’s ticks, posture, tells and mannerisms can tell you about a them. But this is far from the whole story because context also matters. A person’s body-language is modulated by their emotional state, situation, stress and pressure, individual differences. Even clothing matters: A uniform affects how you perceive someone and even how they perceive themselves, the authority and social status it can convey.

Perhaps even more obviously, social perception involves listening to and understanding verbal communication. Quite often understanding people well is simply a question of asking them and listening to their reply. Literally taking people at their word (and knowing when not to) is the most basic social perception skill of them all.

Verbal communication contains more than just the text of the message. Just as every tic we unthinkingly act out comes in a context, so every word comes in a context, and with a subtext, and with meaning on more than just the surface level.

Beyond even that the voice used to articulate the words matters: Tone, stress, emphasis, the look and softness in the eye while the words are spoken.

Your amazing brain takes in all this information, processes it and categorises it and seeks patterns in it before signalling it’s conclusions, mostly subconsciously by just changing the way you feel, your mood, to your higher consciousness.

Improving Social Perception

Given how indescribably complex all this neural processing and pattern recognition is, how can you improve your abilities?

The first way, of course, is simply though practice. Though talking to people, trying to guess their meaning, their mood, their motives and desires. Ideally consciously paying attention to the list of signals described above as you do so, and watching for those patterns, remembering that they will differ from one person to the next, from one social group to the next, from one neighbourhood to the next, from one county, country and culture to the next.

Just reading that list above will have already primed you to improve the quality of the benefit from the practice you get from every interaction you have. Upcoming articles will deepen that understanding and simply thinking about these things will improve your understanding more.

This Month’s Guided Meditation

As you listen to our meditation this month, you’ll be asked to use visualisation and association techniques to ensure that you begin to pay more attention to your social exchanges, that you remember which kids of things to look out for during those interactions and it will encourage you to recall past interactions and reinforce the perception patterns which you found successful.

You’ll notice more often that you’re noticing yourself in those situations, and thus they will stick more clearly in your memory. You’ll enjoy those conversations more, and spend time imagining yourself seeking out more social interaction.

You’ll be asked to notice your improvement, suggesting that very improvement as you measure it.

Guided Meditation File 7 – Social Skills – Social Perception

Social Skills – Social Perception – Tells

by pre., Friday, August 8th, 2008.

In poker, a “tell” is detectable change in a player’s behaviour or demeanour that gives clues to that player’s assessment of his hand, but more generally we can say that a “tell” is a change in a persons behaviour that gives clues to their emotional state or awareness.

As mentioned last week, there is no substitute for practice when it comes to spotting tells, and thus being more aware of the emotional state, desires, drives and prejudices of the people you interact with. The clues you’re looking for are simply too complex and even unique to every individual to describe here in a useful way. You will likely never be fully aware of the clues which lead you to an inkling of someone’s emotional sate just as you’re never aware of the signals that you processed to enable to you catch a ball.

Like catching a ball, practice is the only way you’ll really improve your ability to spot tells, to decode and read body language.

However, you won’t learn to catch a ball by watching the grass move under it. You won’t learn to catch a ball by paying attention to the way the wind whips your hair. You really need to be looking at the ball, and just as we can say “Keep your eye on the ball” to help you to learn the art of ball-catching, so we can direct your awareness towards the kinds of things you should be paying attention to while practising your tell-spotting ability in order to make your improvement more efficient, to make that practice more worthwhile.

Reading Tells

The first thing you will need to become aware of, is that everybody is different. Many books on body-language will have chapter after chapter of detailed description on what this particular hand-gesture signifies or what some other sweep of the leg will mean but this is clearly nonsense. Every person has a different brain, a different mix of cultures, differing levels of control over their body, different gait and posture and, in short, base-line activity. Some will fidget more, some less. Some blink faster, some slower. Each will have a different pitched voice. Even the same person in two different situations will behave differently. You don’t have the same tells in front of your boss as you do in front of your lover. You don’t have the same ticks in a life-threatening situation as you do in relaxed comfort.

The key to learning to understand body-language and tells better is to watch for changes in behaviour rather than some particular semaphore-like signal. You’re not looking for whether or not someone blinks, you’re looking for a change in the rate of their blinking. Touching the nose may just mean they have an itchy nose, but suddenly changing to touch the eye may have more significance.


You know how to identify an angry person by a photograph of their face. But people can fake an angry expression as easily as they can fake a smile for a photographer. Looking at the expression on a person’s face is certainly useful, but it’s also more or less under their conscious control.

Sometimes, however, a microexpression may cross a person’s face for a tiny instant before they regain full conscious control of their facial muscles.

It takes a lot of training, and often video-processing, to notice these expressions. They may be gone in as little as a twenty-fifth of a second. Less than a single frame of cinema. Microexpressions are so fleeting that you will certainly miss most of them consciously.

However, we’re not trying to learn to notice these things consciously. We’re trying to learn how to feel the truth of the signals we’re given. We’re not trying to learn to do ballistic motion equations, we’re trying to learn to catch a ball.

So pay attention to fleeting glimpses of expression of people’s faces, but don’t expect to consciously read them.


Looking into someone’s eyes gives you more information that simply which direction they’re looking, if their eyes are open or closed, though these pieces of data are incredibly important. Eye contact also helps you to become aware of tiny movements of the muscles around the eyes, the focus of their attention, the rate of succade movements, the dilation of the pupil, the blinking rate, the shine which is proportional to the wetness, the shape, even where things are laid out in their imagination. All these things and many nameless combinations of them combine to reflect someone’s state of mind.

Some are under conscious control and may thus be deliberate mis-information. Remember that a change in the pattern is more likely significant than any given action.

NLP practitioners may tell you that looking upwards indicates visual thinking, that briefly glancing downwards indicates auditory thinking or emotional states of mind. This may even be occasionally true, but it’s unlikely that these kinds of generalisations apply to everyone, in every circumstance. You need to pay attention to these kinds of signals, but remember that they do not necessarily mean what others will tell you they mean. You need to simply learn to assimilate the information and let it inform your pattern-matching memory, just as you just need to watch enough balls to learn to catch them.


Particular gesticulations can be very significant when trying to read body language. If a person is talking about a problem and pointing at something, they may be pointing at the problem. Or a symbol of the problem. Or the location of the problem in their own imagination. You should watch where a person is pointing, what they are miming, look for symbolic meaning in their gesture.

If they are touching you, or indeed something or someone else, notice where and how the touch happens, how intentional it seems.

As relevent as, maybe even more relevent than, that though is the amount of gesticulation a person is doing. How animated they are will often correlate to how strongly they are feeling the emotional state induced by the things they are taking about.


Pay particular attention, sometimes, to the way a person’s feet are moving. The rate they are tapping, or even if they’re pointed open or closed. Often, particularly if trying to hide something, a person will have great control over the more obvious sub-linguistic signals but forget entirely that their feet will be giving the game away.


Shoulders can give away more than a shrug of indifference or uncertainty. They can be a part of a signal which indicates hierarchy, or confidence, or discomfort at a topic. Watch how high a person’s shoulders are carried if they’re hunched or spread, these may all be keys to help learn a person’s state of mind.


When people are in agreement, they often mirror each other’s actions. The closer two people get, the closer their movements become. Pay attention to who is copying who in a conversation, who drinks at the same time, who’s pointing and gesticulating in the same direction as each other, who’s mimicking each other’s mimes. The more closely two people mirror, the more likely they are to be thinking in step, to be strongly empathising with each other.


It’s easy to concentrate too hard on the words that someone is saying, but if you’re to understand the full set of signals you’re receiving you have to ‘keep your eye’ on more than just the semantics. Changes in pitch, speed, tone and timbre can all modify the meaning of words or give away unintended subtleties. How colourful the language or embellished the story gives clues to state of mind. Remember to spend some time paying attention to all these things so that you can learn to gather the whole range of information available to you.

A New Sense

When you are well practised, on your way to transcending, you will stop paying attention directly to these signals, just as you stop paying attention to the individual lines, or letters, or punctuation, when you’re reading a sentence. It’s not that you will look at all the tells we’re describing, think about them and come to a conclusion. Just as you “see” colour without knowing the wavelength of the light hitting your retina, or the exact proportion with which it excites the various colour receptors there, you’ll learn to ‘see’ someone’s intention without knowing exactly why you know it. Consciously knowing if a person’s statement is a lie or an honest expression of their emotional state does not require knowing why you know. It doesn’t mean you’re aware of which combination of signals lead you to that belief. It certainly doesn’t require being able to explain it in words.

You’re not trying to learn to concentrate on these things, you’re concentrating on them so that you can later let the sub-conscious take over, just as we had to pay attention to learn to drive but can now turn the radio and chat to a friend and eat crisps at the same time.

You’ll likely also develop a sense of how trustworthy your sense is in any given case. Bare in mind that this too can be a false signal, you can be more convinced of a lie than of the truth sometimes. Always doubt yourself, always continue to collect evidence, to refine your sense.

Social Skills – Social Perception – Hierarchy

by pre., Friday, August 15th, 2008.

Most social animal species organise themselves into dominance hierarchies. The Alpha Chimp gets the most respect, the king of the seals gets a harem, the top dog is leader of the pack and even chickens spontaneously order themselves into a pecking order.

Human beings, of course, are more complicated than chickens and our social structures are more convoluted and tied in knots than even those of dolphins and chimps. Human beings don’t have a simple pecking order, we have a multi-dimensional system of different interconnected hierarchies. The boss at work may not be the boss of his own family, the father-figure of a family may be the butt of the jokes in his English class, the towering matriarch can still be bottom of the list at her bridge club. Not only does every individual carry their own subjective hierarchy, but we each carry multiple hierarchies for different contexts, different topics, different scenes.

Calculating Hierarchies

Now when a group of monkeys are first thrown together, they do not need to fight it out in every combination possible to each know the ranks of themselves and others within the dominance hierarchy. Monkey A doesn’t have to fight each of Monkeys B through Z in order to figure out his position. He can assume that the dominance is more or less transative, that if some monkey who beat him in a fight loses to another monkey then that money would probably beat him in a fight too.

More than this, as each individual in the group begins to figure out their own position it effects their behaviour. Displays and signalling can avoid the need for a test-fight between individuals if one has already worked out he’s high and the other low.

A well trained zoologist can tell just by looking as two animals interact which of them is higher in the social hierarchy than the other. No doubt the animals can tell even more easily. Not just primates, not just mammals, every animal down to a fish can interpret the range of signals they see and combine the information to get a good idea of their relative positions in the social hierarchy in just a few moments.

Of course, the fish likely aren’t conscious of it in the way that the zoologist is. But then, people do the same thing, and they mostly aren’t conscious of it either. People can tell who’s important by who acts important but they’re not in general conscious of what behaviours they’re interpreting to come to that conclusion in the way a trained zoologist is when examining fish. They just get a sense of importance from this person. A feeling that they should defer or overrule.

All the tells we have discussed, people’s posture, clothing, manner, the way they hold eye contact and the firmness of their grip are the signals that we use to gain that sense off importance. These signals are produced and perceived almost entirely subconsciously. Reading that behaviour, knowing where someone believes themselves to be from their unconscious signalling, is the Social Perception skill of Hierarchy Determination. Becoming more conscious of these signals, and how you subconsciously interpret them, will improve your skill and thus make your ability to spot false signals (like when an actor puts on a white coat to sell you washing powder), the utility of which is obvious.

Improving Social Hierarchy Determination

As you listen to this month’s guided meditation file pick a situation in which you judged someone’s status, decided they were more or less important than either you or someone else. Try to pay particular attention to how you decided, what lead your subconscious to make you feel that way.

Social Skills – Social Perception – Network Effects

by pre., Friday, August 22nd, 2008.

Imagine for a moment that you’re standing talking to a friend, with your back to the door. The door opens and you see your friend look up at the door and her expression changes. As you see the smile on her face you know instantly that whoever has just walked in behind you is friend, not foe. You know more than this really, the complex set of signals your friend is giving both to you and to the new arrival behind you reflect both your friend’s relationship with the person in the doorway and your relationship with each of those people. If you know the person to your rear well, you can quite probably guess who they are just from your friend’s reaction, before she says a word.

This is the network effect in social perception. Reading someone reading someone, reading the second (even third, forth etc.) order signals reflected from one person in your community to another. Your subconscious is processing these kinds of signals and influencing your mood all the time, at least all the time you’re not alone.

Last week we mentioned that hens can establish a “pecking order” without each having to interact with every other member of the brood. The network effects of social perception play a great part in how this is achieved. Charlie the Chicken can tell by watching Carl the chicken when he’s around Conan the chicken that Carl thinks Conan is higher in the chain, thus Charlie only has to beat Conan (or lose to Carl) in order to know the positions of all three. Charlie doesn’t have to actually see a fight between Conan and Carl to know it’s happened, to read the result from their behaviour towards each other.

The network effects of social perception play an even more complicated role in human hierarchy than they do in chicken consecution. Chickens just need to establish their linear pecking-order while you have to establish your position in a multi-dimensional array of differing orthogonal social scales. So you do this all the time, processing people’s opinions of each other, collating them, taking them into account.

When people talk about the ‘vibe’ at a gathering, a party perhaps, a conference or a meeting, they’re mostly talking about these network effects. About how the mood of each person spreads to those they interact with, how their impression of the mood of the people around them spreads similarly. This constant exchange of information, of mood and impression, is mostly subconscious, so people can perhaps be forgiven for thinking the feelings it pushes up into their consciousness are “vibrations in the astral plane” (which is what ‘vibe’ means), but of course there is no astral plane to vibrate. There’s just people, interacting.

Similarly, these network effects lead to what some call the “contact high“. If everyone around you is happy and friendly towards each other you will in turn subconsciously trust their judgement and assume everything is happy and friendly. Incidentally, you will also be entirely right, they ARE all friendly and happy — even if it’s just because they’re reading the same thing from everyone else.

Your Aim

Which brings us nicely to the usefulness of our social perception of network effects. Clearly it’s useful to pay attention to these things, and thus to learn to perform them better. But it’s also useful to know where this information comes from. If you understand it’s a reflection of the opinion of the people around you then you will treat it with a more appropriate level of scepticism and distrust than if you think it’s information coming direct from the Elder Gods in the Astral Plane. You may even see ways to subtlety influence key people and have the effects of that influence cascade around the network, multiplying as they go. We’ll expand on that in our second lap around the spiral.

In the mean time, as you listen to the “Social Perception” track, try to concentrate on occasions when you noticed the network effect taking place. Likely when you were talking to someone about a third party, either present or not. Try to recall how that person’s body-language was effected by their opinions of that third person. Try to guess the opinions based on those tells.

Guided Meditation File 7 – Social Skills – Social Perception
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Social Skills – Social Signalling – Introduction

by pre., Friday, April 3rd, 2009.

In the first loop around the spiral we talked about social perception. The many and varied social signals which people are sending, mostly unconsciously, all the time. We talked about tells and the way the social hierarchy is encoded within the posture, gait, tone, speech patterns and actions of the people of the world. We mentioned how these signals are not only transmitted directly by observation but also indirectly through an entire network of people. Finally we presented the guided meditation designed to help you to pay better attention to these signals and so learn to interpret them more easily.

Of course social signalling goes both ways. While you have been learning to consciously notice other’s signals, you’ve also been (mostly unconsciously) sending signals for others to read. This, then, is social signalling and this lap around the spiral we aim to help you increase your conscious control over the signals you, yourself, are sending out.

The unconscious signals you are sending to other people are essentially similar to the ones you’ve been learning to recognise in others: micro-expressions, eye contact and direction, the gestures you make with your hands and feet, the set of your shoulders, the way you stand and move, the tone and content of your speech, the extent to which your signals match or mirror those of the people around you etc.

Self Signalling

The signals that you send out in this way aren’t just interpreted by the people you interact with. Perhaps the most important recipient of these subconsciously transmitted and interpreted social signals is in fact you, yourself. For you don’t simply passively send these signals and wait for others to receive them. Your posture, movement patterns, expressions and gestures physiologically affect your body and mind. Your subconscious interpretation of these signals effects your own belief of your intention, motives and power.

Improving your social signalling abilities will change your own opinion of yourself as you subconsciously interpret those signals. It will change the opinions of others as they interact with you, subconsciously following your signalling lead.

Furthermore, though social networking effects it will change your position in the social hierarchy. As others come to believe your newly controlled and directed social signals they’ll reflect that changed belief back at you, and at others in your social group, feeding back into the changes you’ve made.


Next week we’ll discuss ways to increase your awareness of the signals you are sending out, to notice and understand the messages that you are subconsciously sending to the people you interact with.

After that you’ll learn how to increase your conscious control of those messages, to actually direct and change them to project an integrated set of signals sending the message that you want to send.

Finally, at the end of the month, we’ll present a guided meditation to increase your social signalling skills, helping you to improve and take conscious control of your own social signalling.

Social Skills – Social Signalling – Awareness

by pre., Friday, April 10th, 2009.

In the Social Perception section during the last lap around the Transcendence Spiral, you learned that most of the signals people give out during an interaction are unconscious signals. That while people may have a good idea what words they’re saying, they don’t always know exactly how they’re saying it, and the non verbal parts of a conversation may make up the majority of the communication.

People are good at paying attention to and remembering their words, their intentions. They’re good at manipulating the conscious signals which they are sending to each other. They can deceive, manipulate and hide their true intentions.

Yet their deception, manipulation and true intention are often given away by their inability to consciously control, or even notice, every aspect of their total communication. They forget parts of their body language, their tone, the subtle signals of their mood. In short, they are not aware of all the signals they are giving out.

The same is, of course, true of you. As you sit reading these words you’re no doubt fidgeting, letting your attention (and thus the direction of your eyes) fade in and out. You’re being distracted by memory and the things around you. You’re likely also unintentionally signalling these things to those around you. Even if there is nobody around you!

Increasing Your Awareness Of Your Social Signalling

Obviously becoming more aware of the unconscious signals you’re constantly sending to others can only increase your self awareness, self understanding and facilitate better communication with others.

Assuming you have been practising our meditations, learning to increase your transcendence skills, you will have already become more aware of your social signalling than you were before you started (though you may not yet be aware of your increased abilities).

From the begining of this loop around the spiral, and for each meditation during this lap, you have been improving your body awareness. Learning to be more conscious of the set of your shoulders, your gait, the way you walk and move and slide. You’ve been improving the feedback from your muscles, increasing your proprioception and your kinaesthetic sense. All this is valuable information when trying to increase your awareness of the signals you’re sending. Before you were as keenly aware of the position of your arms, feet, shoulders, neck and head, it’s hardly surprising you were unaware of the signals those positions were sending to the people you came into contact with.

The study of Social Perception mentioned at the beginning of this article, and during our last lap, will have helped you to become aware of the types of movement and expression which others are using which unconsciously signal their intent, emotions and states of mind. The tells they use, the patterns of movement which are used for these signals. They are, of course, exactly the same patterns and movement which you are using to show those same intentions. Otherwise communication couldn’t work. Combining these two improvements — being more aware of your own body, and the meanings of a body’s movement — already means you’ve improved your awareness of your own social signalling no end.

When learning to pay more attention to your own self awareness, you’ll have learned to notice more easily the internal states which these unconscious signals are communicating. This increased awareness of the current state of your being will automatically have been included in the intuitions you’re constantly building about yourself, the way you behave, what those behaviours mean.

Finally, simply reading about the connections mentioned in this article, considering them and recognising them, will have helped to bridge the gap between those skills so that in future you’ll notice yourself learning to understand your own social signalling more thoroughly.

However, you will want to spend some time deliberately focusing on nothing but improving your awareness of your social signalling

This month’s meditation

In this month’s meditation you’ll use pre-visualisation techniques (that is, imagining a future event) to influence your behaviour during that event.

You’ll spend time focusing your brain on the same social signals you’ve previously, in the last lap, tried to focus on from other people. You’ll ponder what those signals mean, and in doing so learn to recognise them when they happen in your life. Thus, you’re awareness will increase, your consciousness be raised and your transcendence be more complete.

Social Skills – Social Signalling – Control

by pre., Friday, April 17th, 2009.

Last week we looked into ways to become more aware of the signals you’re constantly sending to the people you interact with, the subconscious and subliminal messages that you send through your posture, gait, voice, tone and expressions (both verbal and facial). As you become more aware of these signals, you’ll likely find more and more that they are not what you intended. This week we will examine how to not only become more conscious of those signals, but to take conscious control of them. To actually improve.

How Improved Control Will Help

Improved control over your social signalling will primarily help by reducing miscommunication, by ensuring that you less often appear to be saying one thing with words and another through action. It will help you to stay ‘in sync’, so that your meaning is conveyed less ambiguously and more precisely. People will understand your intent more often, and more clearly.

Building relationships will become more straight forward when your aren’t signalling your every doubt and worry to the people you are communicating with. When your communication is more coherent, you’ll appear more trust worthy, more likeable.

Finally, while the Transcendence Institute isn’t really in favour of deception in general, there will inevitably be times in life when deception is necessary — if only when organizing surprise parties and the like. Having better control over your social signalling will help in these few occasions when it’s necessary to lie. The victim of your deceit will more likely fall for it if you can avoid tells, and fake sincerity.

How To Improve Control

In truth you have likely already improved your control of your social signalling no end simply by observing others. Last lap around the spiral you concentrated on improving your perception of social signalling, and you’ll have therefore been paying attention to the way others do it. You have been learning by example the best ways to convey the desired messages without any extra prompting or encouragement from the Transcendence Institute.

Your own awareness of your social signalling, discussed last week, will also inevitably lead to better control of it. Anything in your environment which you pay more attention to, which you focus your awareness on, your brain learns to understand more completely. This understanding will, in turn, produce better control. So just by paying more attention to your social signalling you’ll certainly become more competent at it.

As usual though, the best way to improve any skill you wish to master is through practice. We encourage you, during your social encounters, to deliberately experiment. To see what people think when you stand up straighter, or slouch more. When you shape your face and body differently. Eventually to consciously try to convey an emotion or intent without using words, and to test: To see if your conversational partner picked up on that intent. Try simply walking up to a friend, with intent on your mind, and ask if they can read it: “Do you know what I want to talk about?” When they do, you’ll know you’ve improved immeasurably.

This month’s meditation

You’ll use pre-visualisation to prime your mind to better control the signals you’re sending during a social encounter. You’ll imagine an encounter you’re expecting, or just a random happenstance meeting and practice and concentrate your mind on social signalling issues.

The meditation will also, of course, include lots of suggestion to ensure that you think about these things more, so that your attention is on them during your social encounters, ensuring that you learn more quickly and more deeply while the social interaction is actually taking place.

Social Skills – Social Signalling – The Meditation

by pre., Friday, April 24th, 2009.

Introducing the social signalling meditation

Our meditation this month is designed to focus your attention on your social signalling, and thus help you to learn to understand it and thereby improve those social signalling skills.

The meditation should be practised in the hours before some social gathering or event, perhaps a party, a date, a job interview, a hospital appointment, or if you can’t think of a future event perhaps a chance meeting with a random stranger at a bus stop. Any place and time where you expect to encounter others. You will have that event in mind when you listen to the meditation, pre-visualising it as strongly as you can, in as much detail as you can. The meditation will prime you to pay particular attention to your social signalling during the coming event, and as you attend more closely to those signals you will understand them more and thus become a more effective communicator during all future interactions too.


Like all the meditations in this lap around the spiral, our Social Signalling meditation is based around our now standard low-impact light excercise routine. This routine should help you to focus on keeping your core muscles engaged and your arms and shoulders relaxed, improving your posture and body awareness. These things are of course key in effective non-verbal social signalling.


As you imagine, pre-visualising the expected social encounter, your attention will be drawn to some typical elements of social communication. You’ll be encouraged to think about them in turn, which will prime you to pay more attention to them during the encounter itself.

You will spend time imagining the pitch, rhythm and timbre of your voice. Which syllables you are putting stress on, the way your facial expressions shape the sound. Of course you’ll also pay attention to the words you’re using, looking out for hidden subliminal dual meanings, entendre, and how emotionally and visually evocative the language you are using is.

You’ll be primed to think about your eyes. Their blink-rate, which can signal excitement (or dirt in the eye). The direction they’re pointing in, the object of focus. Probably most important, you’ll think about eye-contact. You’ll be primed to use eye contact to both read the signals sent by your conversational partners and to send your own signals in reply.

You’ll think about the expression on your face, how it reacts to the words you hear and how it gives inflection to the words you speak. You’ll think about tiny micro expressions, priming you to notice them and the mask you quickly cover them up with.

You’ll be primed to spend some time with your attention on your limbs. On the gestures you make and the things you point at and touch, in particular if you touch the person you’re talking with. You’ll also put some attention into your legs, how you’re sat or stood, which direction your feet are pointed in, if you seem restless or relaxed.

You’ll be encouraged to focus for a while on your stance, or your gait if moving. On the set of your shoulders, the angle of your chin, how you’re leaning or how tall you are standing.

You’ll also learn to focus on synching your movements with your conversational partner, increasing rapport and emotional empathy though getting your bodies, and so your minds, closer together through mirroring.

As you pay more attention to all of these signals you are giving out, you will learn to control them more, to ensure your words and your non verbal communication are matching, coherent. You will become a better and more effective communicator, so people will understand you more clearly.

Self Signalling

Of course these more effective signals are not only being interpreted by those you are communicating with. You are also constantly and subconsciously analysing your own signalling behaviour, especially as you become more conscious of it. As your skills improve, so your own opinion of yourself will improve.

These self signalling effects work not only through subliminal analysis of the signals themselves, but actually physiologically. It’s been shown that as you smile more, your dopamine levels increase. As your posture signals higher social dominance your body will react, producing more testosterone or oestrogen, changing the way your mind works. The more time you spend getting close up with people, bonding with them the more oxytocin your body will create, improving the bonding process effectively.


As usual, the meditation is phrased suggestively. It will implicitly suggest that you’ll pay attention to the right things in the right context. Not just “How are your shoulders positioned” but “Are your shoulders showing that you’re relaxed?”, implicitly suggesting that your shoulders should be relaxed, encoding the ideal state within the question that you’re learning to ask yourself.

The meditation contains implicit suggestions that you’ll find reduced amounts of miscommunication, that people will see your intent more often. That you’ll appear more trustworthy and likeable. Many of these placed subliminally in the implications of the text of the meditation rather than explicitly where they may provoke a disbeliving reactance from your mind.

Download The Meditation:

Guided Meditation File 15 – Social Skills – Social Signalling
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Social Skills – Language – Influence

by pre., Friday, January 8th, 2010.

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.

Social Skills – Language – Brain Programming

by pre., Friday, January 15th, 2010.

There is no other creature on this planet which can communicate with the same depth, the same level of abstraction, the same amount of detail, as human beings. Our languages are really the pinnacle of communication techniques developed by evolution. There is nothing in the animal, mineral, vegetable, fungal or micro-biotic worlds which even begin to match it.

A wolf may bark to his pack-mate during a hunt, a monkey may have a different call for “Danger! Run up the trees!” to “Danger! Get on the ground!”, a starling may shout at the top of his voice to help the flocking swarm move around him, and a bee may be able to dance a description of where the food is, but no other animal can describe the events that happened to it during the day in such detail that the lessons learned can be passed to another member of his species.

If a monkey wants to teach another monkey how to use a stick to dig up termites, he needs to actually show it happening, actually grab the other monkey’s attention, and a stick, and have one watch him poke the other into a hole. If a person wants to teach another person how to build a festive Christmas candle-holder he can just give a lecture. He can record it and put it on Blue Peter and teach a million kids at once.

As language evolved it enabled people to do something very special, something very evolutionarily advantageous, it enabled them to program each other’s brains.

Programming brains

Before language, learning was a time consuming process. To learn something about the world a creature would have to experience that thing, probably many times. It would have to physically witness it, likely suffer (or enjoy) the consequences of it.

Before language there was no way for one creature to download the result of it’s experience, the contents mind, into the mind of another creature.

Language changed all that, and it made our species incredibly powerful.

Now, rather than every individual in a tribe having to carry around in their skulls only their own experience of the world, every individual of a tribe can learn the experience of every single member of the tribe.

By telling each other stories about their experiences, the members of the tribe can have the other members of the tribe run the same thing in their minds. Learn the same lessons. Understand the same solutions. Furthermore, since language can be transmitted to many people at once, a single telling of a story can put that experience into a hundred different people at once!

Continually repeating the story allows it to be even more deeply embedded into the mind of the listener than it would be from merely one experience alone. Actually affect a mind more than participation. Language can actually be more powerful than experience itself. Stronger than reality!

Time Binding

More than even this, our language enables us to learn from the experiences of people long dead. As soon as one elder tells a growing youth in a tribe about the adventures he heard explained to him as a nipper himself, the experience of a person long dead has been allowed to alter and shape and benefit the mind of someone with a whole life still to lead.

This transmission of information from one generation to the next, and through them to subsequent generations, shapes the language itself. Languages evolve, they grow, and as each new generation learns that language they learn the gradually developed concepts, ideas, beliefs, archetypes, and embed them all into single phrases, single words. Entire generations worth of experience can be whittled down to just a few syllables worth of sound.

This is what Alfred Korzybski called Time Binding and Robert Anton Wilson refered to as the Jumping Jesus Phenomenon.

Every generation, every new human, takes a streamlined and abridged version of the entire history of human kind since the first human understood another’s utterance as a word, and adds to it their own experience before teaching it to their own children. Our language itself encodes the rapidly accelerating growth of knowledge which our cultures possess

Fictive Intercourse

Language allows something more than just the dry recitation of things already experienced, or heard. Those tellings, those utterances, can be changed by Chinese whispers or by errors and mistakes. Even by simple imagination. Impossible and incredible experiences can be generated in another human’s mind just by making up a story. Language gives us power, and it gives us fiction.

Language gives us culture, it gives us art, it goes us the very society in which we live, for all these things are passed from one generation to the next by the words we use, the words we invent, the sentences we utter to each other.

This is, of course, incredibly powerful!

But it also has dangers. We’ll speak of some of those dangers, and how to overcome them, next week.