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Archive for the ‘Modeling’ Category

Locking Eyes

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A couple of weeks ago, I posted about an article I read on President Bill Clinton’s charisma and someone’s attempt to model a bit of it. I also mentioned that I’d be playing with it. I thought I’d update here.

According to the original article, there are three things Bill Clinton does that make people feel as if a “reality distortion field” has wrapped around them:

  1. Eye contact;
  2. Judicious manipulation of interpersonal space; and
  3. Focused attention.

I’m pretty good at the second one, though there are a couple of aspects of it that I could improve. It isn’t so much the actual space, but the way the other person perceives it. There are things one can do to make interpersonal space seem smaller or larger without actually moving toward or away from the other person. I think that’s an interesting idea. I’ll play with that last.

The third one? I’m horrible at it. Nearly 25 years of security and Emergency Medical Services work have required me to habitually cast my attentiveness as wide as I can. It looks like I’m easily distracted, especially in unfamiliar places. I’m really not, but there’s no way someone talking to me can tell that. I’ll play with that next.

What I’m playing with now is eye contact. I’ve always been really bad with it. When I lock eyes with someone, I get the same feeling I get when I look into someone’s living room window. Sure, if the curtains are open, you can’t help but notice it in passing, But to really look? It feels invasive to me. Like I’m violating someone’s privacy.

Irrational, I know. I’m hoping to find someone who can offer me a better way to think about what I’m doing. In the meantime, I’ve been doing it anyway. Looking into people’s eyes and keeping it.

Two things have surprised me.

The way other people respond to it is a surprise. Most of them genuinely don’t mind, and some of the rest really seem to appreciate it. Those who (apparently) feel like I do simply look away quickly, but they don’t seem offended.

Many of the first group suddenly find me a better conversationalist. Not that I say anything. They do a lot more talking to me. I guess if I appear fascinated, they must assume they’re fascinating… which does make sense. A number of people have found it difficult to go on about their business. One deliciously beautiful woman actually accused me of preventing her from leaving.

The other surprise was my own internal responses. Absolutely nothing bad has happened, and sometimes I feel surprised at that. On occasion, when I lock eyes with someone and they look away quickly, I feel a small, but primal, sense of power that I’m not at all happy about in retrospect. With many, I really am a better listener; I want to listen, I actually crave it. And the most unusual response of all: one particularly blue pair of eyes actually fascinated me… and I mean that in the original sense of the word: “to cast a spell which renders one unable to move.” I have studied hypnosis long enough to be able to break that “spell,” but for the few seconds that I was there, I went meta to it and wondered how something like that could happen to a grown man.

I learned, as well, that there are times when I need to not make or hold eye contact.

In a restaurant, for example, no matter which staff member I looked at, they stopped what they were doing and asked what they could do for me. I was actually interrupting them without meaning to. Not polite.

I spoke with the CEO of the hospital for which I work a couple of days ago, and I intentionally did not lock eyes with him. I won’t tell you the circumstances (no, I wasn’t in trouble; far from it) but somehow I felt it wasn’t appropriate at the time. He’s the type of guy that I could connect with that way if the context were different, though.

Tonight, I made eye contact with a co-worker, and I quickly broke it. I believed that if I held it, he’d ask me what the heck I was doing. I didn’t feel like explaining because I was ready to go home. You know how it is.

It’s been interesting and pleasant so far, and I think it’ll continue to be.

If you have a good, strong belief that allows you to make and hold eye contact comfortably, would you mind sharing it with me in the comments? I’d appreciate it.

Written by Michael DeBusk

December 6th, 2010 at 3:24 am

Hacking the Clinton Charisma

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Bill’s, not Hillary’s. Um… obviously.

I wasn’t a fan of Bill. But there’s something to the fact that I feel comfortable calling him “Bill” in my own mind. I don’t think of any other President by their first name. His personal power is undeniable. And Michael Ellsberg has been studying it:

“I have a friend who has always despised Bill Clinton,” a person at a cocktail party told me during the time I was writing my book [...]. “Yet, somehow my friend found himself at a function that Bill Clinton was attending. And, within the swirl of the crowd, he was introduced to Clinton.”

“In that moment, face-to-face, all of my friend’s personal animosity towards Clinton disappeared, in one instant,” my new acquaintance at the party continued. “As they were shaking hands, Clinton…”

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a charismatic guy; I’ve actually taught myself to not be, though I didn’t realize I have been doing so. Ellsberg’s three-step model looks like it’d be very powerful to me. I’m going to play with it.

Read more at How It Works: Clinton’s “Reality Distortion Field” Charisma

Note: I searched for a while for a candid image of Bill Clinton looking at the camera. I found only one, and it was unflattering. Isn’t that weird?

Written by Michael DeBusk

November 23rd, 2010 at 5:55 pm

Implicit Modeling? Watch out for this.

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I’m a bit of a money geek. Not too crazy, but I like to keep an eye on what I have. So I read a couple of personal finance blogs. Recently, Monevator had an article titled, “Keep It Simple, Stupid,” and it pointed me to an interesting group of articles of interest to implicit modelers:

Appearing this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the mystery of overimitation has been a long-standing one in developmental psychology. How is it that young children, who are able to learn and reason in so many impressively agile ways, can be utterly stumped by something as simple as the transparent Puzzle Box shown above? Specifically, when kids see an adult getting a prize out of that box in a way that adults — and even chimpanzees — can easily identify as clumsy and inefficient, they seem to lose the ability to figure out how to open the box “correctly”. Watching an adult doing it wrong, in other words, effectively blocks children from figuring out how to do it right. Children become stuck overimitating — or copying the adult’s wasteful strategy, even when doing so leads to bad outcomes.

We humans are too smart for our own good, and make things harder than they need to be. There’s nothing particularly revolutionary in discovering that. But I hadn’t heard of “overimitating” before. I’d heard that implicit modeling is the way we all do it from birth; it’s the way babies learn practically everything. At the same time, we forget how long it takes for babies to get it right. We don’t want to take seven to eight years to, say, learn a language… we want to hold a coherent conversation in a few weeks.

It’s important, then, when we model by imitation, to remember to take the model apart and find out what needs to be there and what doesn’t. We don’t want to have to tap stuff with a feather just because that’s how we learned to do it.

Read it all at The Mystery of Overimitation over at Hello Felix, a childhood development blog for parents.

Written by Michael DeBusk

July 4th, 2010 at 9:34 pm

Posted in Modeling,Psych

Modeling Great Teachers

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Amanda Ripley, author of the truly excellent book, The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes – and Why, is, it appears, also interested in the education of children. In a very recent blog post titled “What Makes a Teacher Great?“, she refers us to some conclusions on the subject:

Finally, we can identify extraordinary teachers—with data, not hearsay—and investigate what they are doing differently. We can even make more of them. The question is, Will we?

Her blog entry points to an extensive and well-written article in The Atlantic, also written by Ms. Ripley.

(See also: Teach for America)

Do you know any teachers like this?

Written by Michael DeBusk

January 6th, 2010 at 2:33 am

Modeling Mom

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I read an article today on Stepcase Lifehack and found myself impressed. The author, a teacher, developed a model of how to help children be happy:

…every Mother’s Day I would ask my students to give me advice on being a mother. They were to think about things their mother or guardian did for or with them that made them feel happy or loved. The classroom would go silent as the students wrote intensely for longer than they had ever written before. Often smiles would appear on their faces as they reflected on the happy experiences they were remembering. After reading their responses I would add to my list all the ideas they mentioned. Surprisingly, many of the responses were the same. Year after year, in every country I taught, and in every type of demographic, the students were saying the same things and had the same message…

It brought to mind the woman I love. One of the things I find so compelling about her is her focus on her kids’ happiness. They’re lucky to have her.

The Top 10 Things Children Really Want Their Parents To Do With Them

Written by Michael DeBusk

December 30th, 2009 at 12:21 am

Posted in Modeling,Values

A Revolutionary Approach to Learning Languages

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A January article from the Victoria News, published by the Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, shares some research by Paul Sulzberger, PhD into the teaching of languages:

Dr Sulzberger has found that the best way to learn a language is through frequent exposure to its sound patterns – even if you haven’t a clue what it all means.

“However crazy it might sound, just listening to the language, even though you don’t understand it, is critical. A lot of language teachers may not accept that,” he says.

Now, people who are good at learning languages have long said that immersion makes a massive difference, but they’ve never talked about why that’s the case. Dr. Sulzberger asserts that aural exposure to the language actually changes the brain, re-wiring it to understand what is being said:

Dr Sulzberger’s research challenges existing language learning theory. His main hypothesis is that simply listening to a new language sets up the structures in the brain required to learn the words.

“Neural tissue required to learn and understand a new language will develop automatically from simple exposure to the language—which is how babies learn their first language,” Dr Sulzberger says.

It’s an interesting idea, and it makes a lot of sense to me. You can read the rest of the article here.

And in the spirit of this snippet from the article:

“Teachers should recognise the importance of extensive aural exposure to a language. One hour a day of studying French text in a classroom is not enough—but an extra hour listening to it on the iPod would make a huge difference,” Dr Sulzberger says.

…by way of Lifehacker, here is a master list of free online language lessons.

Written by Michael DeBusk

April 5th, 2009 at 2:45 pm

Confessions Corrupt Eyewitnesses

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Security guru Bruce Schneier brings us one of those things that flies in the face of conventional wisdom:

People confess to crimes they don’t commit. They do it a lot. What’s interesting about this research is that confessions—whether false or true—corrupt other eyewitnesses…

Yep. People will believe someone’s confession over their own experience.

How can we put this to work?

Schneier on Security: Confessions Corrupt Eyewitnesses

Written by Michael DeBusk

February 4th, 2009 at 1:33 pm

Put More Water in the Soup

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Many years ago, I went into (high-interest) debt to help a friend keep her home. She was battling a Worker’s Compensation insurance company for the settlement to which she was clearly entitled, and they were jerking her around, making her sue them in court every time they owed her something. Anyway, it was my first taste of living with massive debt.

When they finally paid her what they owed her, she paid me back. Instead of blowing that big check, I paid off my massive debt.

It felt so amazingly good to be free of it that I haven’t had any long-term debt since. (Long-term debt is a contract for more than a year. I bought a new vehicle in 2002 and financed it for twelve months.) And I’ve been saving a large portion of my paycheck for years, too.

So the $4-a-gallon gasoline didn’t bother me. The current “credit crunch” can’t really touch me. I didn’t buy a poorly-built, overpriced McMansion with a subprime mortgage, either.

All around me, though, are people who make two to five times my annual salary and who don’t have a pot in which to urinate. And people who are absolutely flat broke who trade their food stamps for snacks and sodas and spend their government stipend on expensive skin care products and cell phone contracts.

The only thing I can think of that separates me from them is that I’ve been where they are, I’ve been where they aren’t, and I know which one works better. They’ve just been where they are.

In times like these, get-rich-quick schemes really do well… for the grifters who purvey them, that is. And I’ve been active in online NLP forums for ages, so I’ve seen hundreds of “How can I use NLP to get rich?” messages. I just recently responded to one about that so-called “Law of Attraction” nonsense, and since I didn’t get a response I’m guessing I wrote something the poster didn’t want to read. I wish they’d include a disclaimer that said “Only reinforce my delusions, please. No reality checks welcome.”

The funny thing is, even if it all worked, even if all this “huge income with little effort” stuff actually paid off, it wouldn’t help. If you make a million dollars a year and you spend a million dollars and fifty cents, you’re still broke. No matter how big your bucket or how cool and sweet the water with which you fill it, if there are big holes in it you’re going to be thirsty all the time.

So for a little while, let’s put aside our money-making strategies and work on some money-keeping strategies.

There’s a blog called No Credit Needed and I encourage you to read it all. The author started from debt-plus-no-savings and worked his way to financial stability, and he chronicled his journey. Excellent stuff. First-class exemplar of the skill. In a post today, he offers up the10 basic steps he followed to escape the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle.

There are good books, too, like The Millionaire Next Door and The Millionaire Mind by Thomas Stanley and The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. (FYI: those are Amazon.com links.)

Shop around at local or regional banks, too, for your banking services. They’re less likely to have been caught with their scruples down and are doing a bit better right now.

If we’re going to fix this economy, we have to do it the way we do everything else: go first.

Oh, by the way: stay safe at work. Being screwed by Worker’s Comp is no way to live!

Written by Michael DeBusk

December 4th, 2008 at 1:52 pm

The Skills You Need to Succeed

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It’s been a while since anything at Lifehack.org caught the attention of the NLPer in me. Don’t get me wrong — it’s always good — but this one is truly excellent:

Success, however it’s defined, takes action, and taking good and appropriate action takes skills. Some of these skills (not enough, though) are taught in school (not well enough, either), others are taught on the job, and still others we learn from general life experience.

Dustin goes on to elaborate on the following ten skills:

  1. Public Speaking
  2. Writing
  3. Self-Management
  4. Networking
  5. Critical Thinking
  6. Decision-Making
  7. Math
  8. Research
  9. Relaxation
  10. Basic Accounting

Now, those are all modelable and learnable skills. And each of us probably knows someone who can do each of them well!

Go read the full article at 10 Skills You Need to Succeed at Almost Anything.

Written by Michael DeBusk

August 3rd, 2008 at 10:52 pm

Body position helps you remember

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Once again, we find Milton Erickson was ahead of his time:

A new study adds an unexpected method to the list of ways to spur memories about our past: body position. That’s right: just holding your body in the right position means you’ll have faster, more accurate access to certain memories. If you stand as if holding a golf club, you’re quicker to remember an event that happened while you were golfing than if you position your body in a non-golfing pose.

Cognitive Daily: Body position affects memory for events

Written by Michael DeBusk

June 6th, 2008 at 12:42 pm