Tag Archives: NLP

The Formula for Brainwashing and Manipulation

Picture via UCreative.com

Yes, after so many posts complaining about how people are manipulated, I’m going to give the actual process that’s being used… by damned near everyone. The basic formula has been used by cult leaders, the Nazis, etc… all the way down to the modern media and political parties on ALL sides. Once I explain the pattern for you, if you truly look with an open mind, you’ll see it used everywhere.

It’s been a while since I mentioned it, so just to establish my “credentials” here, (as it were), I’ve had a decades long interest in the fields of human behavior, hypnosis, neuro-linguistic programming, etc… While I’m not a professional, I am very well read on the subjects.

The Actual Four Step Formula:

First, let me say this is a fairly basic formula. There’s ways to add to it via things like body language, faked evidence, quoting (or misquoting) experts or otherwise respected people, hypnotic language and other “slight of mouth” tricks, etc…

  1. Allow Your Voice to Go Up and Down; Modulate Your Tonality and Volume.

Seem silly? Anyone who has attended a single public speaking class will tell you that a speaker’s voice is what leads an audience down a path. In clinical hypnotherapy, a calm monotone will lull a person into a relaxed state and make them more susceptible to the hypnotist’s words. In this case, it’s a similar goal with opposite means. The speaker wants to captivate the audience and play on their emotions. The more the audience is led through emotional highs and lows, the more wrapped up they’ll become. The more they’ll shut down their logical thinking too.

Note that this can be as subtle as the nuanced changes in tonality seen with newscasters and YouTube pundits, to as dramatic as a stereotypical Southern preacher’s sermon.

2. Tell a Happy or Sad Story to Knock Emotional Consciousness Off Balance

The classic political examples here are the hometown hero, or the poor victim of a natural disaster, poverty, etc… There’s a million ways to do this however, especially if the storyteller is crafty. The idea remains the same however; use the combination of verbal tonality and tone of the story to capture the target’s imagination and get them thinking on an emotional level.

3. Induce feelings of Guilt, Fear and/or Anger

Here’s where the real manipulation begins. The story leads down a path that creates negative emotions in the audience. There’s a problem; suffering of some sort, another group trying to harm the audience, etc…

Ever seen an ASPCA commercial? They are MASTERS at this part of the manipulation game:

Not only is there a bad problem, you’re clearly made to feel like a horrible human being who is allowing it to continue if you don’t give them money. Nevermind that the ASPCA is horrible at supporting local SPCA organizations and spends it’s money on other projects. That’s another post however.

That video is Textbook manipulation though. While this is the most blatant example you’ll likely see, other examples exist everywhere you look. Those liberals are out to steal everything you own and destroy your way of life. Those conservatives want you kept in chains and to starve to death in the gutter. That other race is the cause of all your problems and they’re ALL alike.

Yes, the VAST majority of it all nowadays is divide and conquer. If you’re focused on the evil of that other group, you’re not paying attention to the game in front of you. Even worse, as we frequently see in politics, the same evil the other side is doing is excused when it’s “our” group. It wasn’t the same situation, or it was a frame up, etc…

So, now that you’ve got the group all whipped into a frenzy and feeling bad about something, what do you do?

4. Offer Them a Way Out

Here’s where control gets locked in, and you create an action or desired result. Now you simply give the group a solution that will lead them to a better life. Lots of examples here; Drink the Kool-Aid and the aliens will take your spirit to a better world ala Jonestown cult. Yes, younglings, that’s where the phrase “drinking the kool-aid” came from.

On the more extreme end of things, there’s the frenzy that numerous dictators have whipped populations into. Everything from Hitler’s speeches capitalizing on the German peoples’ misery to communist leaders like Lenin and Mao, on down to banana republic dictators.

Make no mistake though, it’s everywhere. Newscasts that subtly imply that something happened because of this group or that… Hell, it’s not even subtle in the case of COVID (for example). Depending upon who you listen to, the entire planet is going to die or suffer forever, OR we’re all going to end up in chains because we’re asked to wear a mask. It’s even the basic pattern for commercials. Their basic message is always the same; you’re currently somehow less than ideal, BUT the solution is OUR product. It will make you a success at work, popular, the dream of every member of the opposite sex, etc…

And there you have it. That is the basic, bare bones outline of how everyone from cult leaders to advertisers and the news media manipulates people. As I mentioned before, there are numerous ways to add onto the basic framework. With emotional or physical torture, for example, giving in to what the torturer wants and accepting their words that somebody else is responsible for the torture (ie your allies that abandoned you) is the offered way out. What Palpatine put Anakin through in the Star Wars prequels is a perfect example of this kind of emotional torture scenario.

One LAST Twist However:

A quick addenda here that deserves mention. There’s a PARTIAL truth passed around the psychological and hypnosis communities. That being that you can’t get a person to do something that’s against their will or inherent nature. I say it’s a partial truth because the truly scary elements of both those communities figured out a way around it a long time ago. NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) calls it reframing. 20 years ago political pundits called it spinning.

Simply put, all you have to do to get a good person to do something incredibly evil is convince them it’s actually a good thing. Let’s take something along the lines of an old movie plot where a husband is hypnotized into killing his wife. Not possible according to some. However, if the husband were hypnotized to believe she’s really a burglar breaking into the house with intent to kill him (instead of his wife)… then he very well might kill her.

That’s an extreme example simply to provide clarity on what reframing is. You’re far more likely to encounter reframing in the form of something being presented as a necessary evil for the greater good, the ends justifying the means, or something balancing out another wrong of some sort. Reframing is everywhere nowadays also, and is a frequent part of this whole manipulation pattern. Everything from politics to a guy at a club trying to reframe a girl’s initial negative reaction to him.

How to See Past It All:

image via salesman.org Ironically part of an article on how great salesmen persuade, not manipulate… ignoring that persuasion is indeed manipulation.

There’s a ton of books out there on seeing through and overcoming manipulation. Let me give you a few basic tips however.

FIRST: is probably the most cynical, yet valuable piece of advice I ever got. My old High School sociology teacher told the class to always assume somebody is lying, and then ask ourselves what they get out of that lie. The reasons here can be as numerous as there are people. Breaking up a couple to take a partner away, selling a product, gaining personal or political power, etc… That last part includes network ratings AND YouTube followers by the way.

Again, this IS a fairly cynical approach to life. My personal twist on that advice is to ask “COULD they be lying and what might they gain?”. That applies mostly to strangers, but even with friends, etc… you should ask yourself if they got bad information or are otherwise being misled.

SECOND: Actively look for the emotional manipulation. Is what you’re being told making you feel a certain way that you weren’t before? Is it playing on existing feelings? Is it being implied or outright stated that those feelings are the fault of someone or something else?

If you’re looking for it and are aware of it, you’ll see it for what it is and be FAR less likely to be controlled by it. Fear and loathing are POWERFUL motivators. They’re also widely used tools nowadays.

THIRD: Apply logic and look for supporting evidence. This is where the YouTube crowd fails even harder than the mainstream media (who is BAD anymore). Show me proof of something; actual PHYSICAL EVIDENCE that amounts to more than hearsay quoting of somebody who knows somebody who saw something. “Everybody knows” is not proof either, it’s manipulation.

Basic logic (sadly) seems to be tricky for most people nowadays. I don’t have enough blog space to try to teach common sense either. If you follow the second piece of advice however, it’s FAR easier to apply critical thinking to a situation.

Let me also say this much; beware of quantum leaps in logic. For example, just because politicians are corrupt and power hungry does NOT mean they’re all also lizard people from outer space. Take the time to rationally digest what you’re being told and analyze it. That above example is a great example of escalation of control.

FOURTH: Set ego aside when assessing things. That includes group identity think also. Just because somebody wants you to wear a mask doesn’t mean they’re trying to enslave you. just because somebody is NOT wearing a mask doesn’t mean they’re trying to kill you. Both of those examples are unsubstantiated jumps in reasoning based on fear and ego. Or, as they used to say in the old lawyer TV shows; “assumes facts not in evidence”.

Long story short: You’re not perfect, neither is any group you identify with. Likewise any group you disagree with is NOT all evil either. Every group has good and bad elements within it. That’s just human nature.

I hope that helps and enlightens those who actually read through the article. 🙂

If you found it at all moving, feel free to repost with credit given to me. This is one of those things that I’d REALLY like to see become widespread knowledge.

The Art of Persuasion Hasn’t Changed?!?

I’m writing this in response to an article I came across on the Harvard Business Review (HBR).  They sometimes have some good stuff, but I think this particular article was a little short sighted

The irony here is that the author is a Harvard professor in communications.  He had a point about the basics not changing since Aristotle.  His list of the five basics are:

  1. (Establishing) Character
  2. Reason
  3. Emotion
  4. Metaphor
  5. Brevity

The only one I could argue with is that I think establishing character is now often replaced with establishing some sort of (often imagined or exaggerated) expertise or credibility.  Morals don’t matter so long as you’re an expert, a victim or better yet both.

Re-reading the article, maybe it’s fairer to say that while I agree those key foundations haven’t changed much, I’ve seen a great deal of change in the nature of persuasion.

Misrepresentation and half truths have always been a tool of the unscrupulous.  Nothing new there.  I’m seeing them used FAR more often nowadays though.  The media and politicians on both sides do this constantly anymore, to the point I don’t believe anything they say without extensive fact checking.  There’s a HUGE difference between “unarmed man shot by police” and “unarmed man high on drugs shot by police while trying to wrestle gun away from officer”.  The former gets far more ratings than the latter though.

Combine that with sarcasm and you’ve got the play book for all the late night talk shows.  A far cry from the days of Carson.

As I mentioned in a reply to another blog, I also see deliberately vague communication being used much more frequently.  Typically with the goal of creating some sort of deniability on the speaker’s part if they’re called out on anything.  I miss the days when  “establishing Character” and speaking plainly yet in a civil manner was considered a virtue.

The biggest change in persuasion specifically that I’ve seen is the use of manipulative language.  Without getting into politics, let’s take another look at the news.  We’ve all heard the term “collusion” tossed about in excess the last few years.  It sounds horrible and it’s used to provoke a strong negative emotional reaction.  Yet, there’s no LEGAL basis for the term.  It was used in place of the proper criminal term of “conspiracy” because then the media and various other people can’t be sued or prosecuted for making false criminal charges.  The Left did it with Trump and the Right did it with Hillary.  That was just an easy and blatant example.  I’m not taking sides at all here either.  I think we all would have been better served by honest discussions about what may have been illegal and what may have been legal but was certainly bad form or outright immoral.  The lesson here remains to be aware of the manipulative use of language.

Persuasion has become far more of a science today also.  People know that if they can get a peer in a group to say something is good or bad, the rest of the group is much more likely to follow suit.  That’s the whole trick to selling Tupperware or Mary Kay.  I could go on for quite a while here, but there are dozens of websites devoted to revealing sales tricks like that, push-pull techniques, take aways and imagined scarcity, etc…

Probably the most insidious form of persuasion is Neuro-Linguistic Programming or NLP.  I’ve mentioned this a few times in previous posts.  NLP was first created in the late 70s with the goal of figuring out how the best in any given field do what they do and making it repeatable.  NLP quickly became focused on communication and persuasion, and borrows heavily from Ericksonian Hypnosis.  It’s used in everything from selling to seduction too.

To over simplify it, NLP persuasion (at it’s most basic levels) relies on subtle “hypnotic” commands and catch phrases to trick people into thinking they want to do or not do something.

For example; “what was it like when you…” will get a person to recall a specific experience.  Anything from sex to the first time they saw and fell in love with their dream car.  Don’t believe me?  Ask yourself about something that way and see if your mind doesn’t begin recalling that experience.

There are dozens of phrases like that also.  “What would it be like if…” for example.  The whole idea being to capture and lead the target’s imagination toward a desired result.  There are other tricks used along with those phrases, such as the human mind’s inability to process a negative.  Phrase anything as a “don’t want to” and the other person’s subconscious will process it as a “want to”.  Which sounds more sincere?  “I don’t want to have sex.” or “I just want to cuddle and relax.”

It’s not necessary for you to immediately realize just how twisted this can get.  If you think about it though, you might find yourself aware of just how great the potential for abuse here is.  😉

Presuppositions are another NLP trick used by nearly everyone today.  A presupposition is something stated as fact and used as a premise for an argument / persuasion attempt.  Let’s avoid politics and the media for this example.  If I said “It’s going to rain today, so you should take your umbrella.”, the presupposition there is that it is indeed going to rain.  That may or may not be true, but by stating it as fact, the debate on if the umbrella is needed is derailed unless the likelihood of rain is challenged.  That challenge is less likely since the rain was stated as a matter of fact.

Again, if you pay attention (an NLP embedded command to do so), you’ll see presuppositions used everywhere.  Anything from you need something being sold, and that it can be a benefit to you, so something that “other” group over did was evil and clearly motivated by malice.

So yes, the very basics of communication may not have changed much, but I think it’s easy to see that the science and morals of how one goes about persuading have changed a great deal.