Mystery of the Mind Trick: Can You Get Someone to Say “We Should Cancel Thanksgiving Because It Is Cruel to Turkeys”?

Recently as I was parked outside of a client site, I was approach by a man who gestured to me to roll down my driver’s side window. He commented that I looked stressed. He started to indicate that I was a nice man, a good man, but that I should not let things distress me so. Was I thinking too much about the upcoming client meeting? Probably, I thought. It was very difficult to understand where this man was going with his banter, and I was starting to feel a little uneasy. He started to get out a pad of paper and started to talk about different philosophies while scribbling things on a piece of paper. He was rambling all over the place incoherently (perhaps three to four minutes), and he indicated that 2008 was good year for me but that 2009 was not and that 2010 was going to look much better. Somewhere during his rambling, he told me that I was not a rich man, but that I was a good man, and I did not like people who took advantage of me or who were disloyal. As he continued to scribble somewhat mysteriously on his slips of paper, he deftly took a piece of paper, crumpled it up, and then handed it to me. At this point I was very reluctant (half thinking that this might be some crazy trying to slip me anthrax or something), yet I accepted (by involuntary reflex) the mysterious piece of paper. The man continued to ramble. At some point, he asked me if I could name a flower. Struggling to think of a flower, I thought of a rose, and said “rose”. The man continued to ramble about my future. At some point, he asked me to open up the crumpled piece of paper. On it was written the word, “Rose”. The man closed off on the path to my future and then proceeded to go into a pitch if I could spare a few dollars, at which point I rolled up my window and drove away.

So why is the second portion of the title of this post named, “We Should Cancel Thanksgiving Because It Is Cruel to Turkeys”? It is actually related to an exercise that I recently failed, and it is about interpersonal skills, building on ideas, and influencing others. In the exercise I failed, my designated objective was to walk up to a party of people talking, innocuously merge my way into the conversation, and get one of the people in the conversation to eventually say my assigned phrase (the one above about turkeys) without directly asking the person and without letting him/her know what I was doing. Some of the concepts involved in completing this test successfully are based on conceptually using the conversational sentence construction “Yes + (sentence fragment of prior person), and (your idea)”. This is in contrast to using a “Yes, but” conceptual sentence construction. The use of the word “but” tends to create a lot of friction & animosity (plus overengages the “analytical” brain), and some people claim that use of the word “but” negates everything that precedes it. It is said that the word “but” tends be a barrier to effective communication, and many sentences in interpersonal conversation can be replaced by using an “and” construction.

So how does one pull off this influence technique? Well, it can be done, and it can be done by using the concept I talk about above potentially augmented by other techniques (which I invite readers to contribute their knowledge of the subject of interpersonal influence and communication). That said, can you convince your colleagues and friends to give up turkey this close to Thanksgiving?

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