How to manipulate a group“Hang on a minute John, what do you mean manipulate a group? Where are the ethics in this?”

How many times have I upset someone by using the word manipulate?

Is it bad to manipulate someone? Before we explore the subtle ways you can influence, let’s explore the word ‘manipulate’.

  • When you go to have a sports massage you are saying, “Manipulate me to feel better”.
  • When you go to the doctor in pain you are saying, “Manipulate the chemistry of my body to help me feel better”.
  • Music and films, manipulate your emotions.
  • What do the great teachers, speakers and trainers of the world do? Yes, they manipulate your thinking, hopefully to have insights and to learn.

By reflecting on the points listed here you can see that the ethics are being used as a positive benefit of manipulation. It is often said that NLP manipulates people – I agree, but in an equally positive way.

Let’s explore how we can prime the mind to achieve different effects.

Priming the mind for engagement

Before we can think of using techniques to prime the mind, you will need to determine a goal in relation to the effect do you want to achieve with people. Let’s consider the following examples:

Do you want to ….

  1. Create a child-like mind?
  2. Generate action in the room?
  1. Create an emotion, like excitement?

The human brain works through association and so all you need to do is trigger the right type of association.

Let’s explore our examples individually:

(i) Create a child-like mind

This is easy; all you need to do is read to the group. This can be from a book, from a slide presentation on screen or any other material. This works well because it’s highly likely that the last time someone read to them in this way was during childhood, consequently, not only does the group enter into a child-like mindset, but they also become submissive.

(ii) Generate action in the room

This is useful if you have a relatively quiet and non-participative group. When talking, simply increase your use of verbs. As we know, verbs are action words and this will not only change their state, but you will also come across as more dynamic speaker.

Furthermore, if you know that you are likely to be working with a quiet group, the placement of posters on the walls showing people taking action will also generate more activity in the room.

(iii) Tap into the unconscious mind

The unconscious mind is associated with darkness and slowness (a slowness that is taken from hypnosis). If you purposely darken the room and ensure the lighting is dimmed, you will notice people tending to slow down and gradually move into a trance.   Similarly, by slowing down your voice will reduce the pace, but the downside to this is that you may come across as being boring.

(iv) Create an emotion, like excitement

This is subtle as you would use words that are associated with the word ‘excitement’. I would suggest that you don’t directly use the word ‘excitement’ and that you don’t tell people to become ‘excited’. So what sort of words might be appropriate?

  • Eager
  • Enthusiastic
  • Thrilled
  • Animated
  • Motivated

So let’s put this into practice with an example: “I’m thrilled to be here today. Simon is eager to get started and that type of motivation is important to our topic today. Malcolm Gladwell is an enthusiastic speaker, who will give his animated talk later this evening.”

Association is a powerful tool

This type of manipulation via association takes a little thinking about and yet it is quite natural. You may have heard of Dr. Roger Sperry, a neuropsychologist and neurobiologist who won a noble prize for his insights into the Left and Right brain theory.   Much nonsense has been written about the two hemispheres of the brain, but the original research is sound. Each hemisphere specialises in different sets of operations – working independently, but in concert with each other:

The Left Brain The Right Brain
Logical Association
Analysis Big picture
Facts Meanings
Has the language centres Has no language centres

So the type of manipulation we have been exploring above is based on the ‘Right-brain’ processing. What can you do to design and create your own positive persuasion?

Designing your own form of persuasion

As this article is about manipulating a group, I will assume that this is how you want to apply it. You may have already guessed that you can use this concept in many different areas of your life:

  1. Decide on the effect you would like to have on the group
  2. Brainstorm all the associations you can think of
  3. Choose which one works best for your group and apply it

It is that simple.

Derren Brown puts this technique into action

Derren Brown is an English mentalist and illusionist whose shows include the use of hypnosis and psychology. In one of his early shows he asks some marketing guys to randomly draw a picture for a product. Once the drawing had been completed Derren opened a sealed envelope which contained the exact same picture that the marketing guys had drawn.

Derren had tapped into their right brain for this trick and the marketing guys had been unaware of the images which had been previously and deliberately planted along their route to work, i.e.

  • Posters on walls
  • Images placed on children’s lunch boxes as they passed across a zebra crossing
  • Posters on the side of buses

Very cool stuff.

What I have shared with you here in this article is profoundly simple and yet powerful. I trust you with this information on the understanding that you will use it ethically.

Please do let me know the positive ways you have put this technique into practice by posting your comments to me via the link below.

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