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Archive for the ‘Persuasion’ Category

Nine Nonverbal Communication Channels

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Kendra Cherry gives a very nice overview of nine distinct communication channels apart from the words we choose:

Nonverbal communication plays an important role in how we convey meaning and information to others, as well as how we interpret the actions of those around us. The important thing to remember when looking at such nonverbal behaviors is to consider the actions in groups. What a person actually says along with his or her expressions, appearance, and tone of voice might tell you a great deal about what that person is really trying to say.

I love the fine distinctions. Master these and send ten different messages at once.

Types of Nonverbal Communication

Written by Michael DeBusk

February 27th, 2017 at 10:17 pm

The Poor Man’s Polygraph

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Dr. Jack Schafer is a psychologist and a retired Special Agent for the FBI. He specializes in what he calls “narrative analysis,” which entails examining the other-than-conscious motivations people have for choosing a particular word or phrase in a given context. He trains peace officers and others in this skill for interviewing suspects. He’s started to teach Just Plain Folks like you and me, though, and he’s taken a blogging spot (Let Their Words Do the Talking) on Psychology Today.

Every article I’ve read there has been awesome in its usefulness. (Cops aren’t big on theory. Theory can get you shot!) What got my attention, though, was his five-part series called “The Poor Man’s Polygraph:”

  1. The Well… Technique
  2. The Land of Is
  3. Forced Response
  4. Why Should I Believe You?
  5. Parallel Lie

Short, to the point, extremely useful, easy to learn and implement. Go check it out!

Written by Michael DeBusk

January 14th, 2011 at 5:23 pm

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

Changing States

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I recently got ahold of Jonathan Altfeld’s “Automatic ‘Yes'” CD set, the subject of which is the powerful skill called “state chaining”. (I won’t define or describe it here. Hit the link for a full description of the course, and buy your copy before the special sale ends.) I was fortunate enough to have been exposed to the basics of Jonathan’s approach in the Master Practitioner training he co-trained with Doug O’Brien a little while back, and it was something I wanted to play with and get better at doing. Before the end of the training, I realized I’d been doing it in certain contexts all along, in shorter chains, and I hadn’t realized it.

Listening to the CDs reminded me that I’d never really spelled out how I think about how I do it, so I resolved to put it here. I’ll start with one particular aspect: how to shift someone from a high-energy unresourceful state, such as anger, to something a little more flexible.

Many years ago, I was an Emergency Medical Technician working for a private ambulance company, and I was stationed at a state psychiatric hospital. I happened to walk in on a training they were having for their nurses and technicians: Bruce Chapman’s Handle With Care Behavior Management System. I was immediately captivated by Master Bruce’s teaching style and his philosophy. I arranged to take the training for myself. What I’m about to share here is roughly based on something I learned in that class and in much subsequent reading of Chinese philosophical work such as the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu and The Art of War by Sun Tzu.

Tai Chi Tu (click image for SVG source)

Tai Chi Tu (click image for SVG source)

Here we have the Tai Chi Tu, commonly known as the “Yin/Yang symbol”. This is the Taoist in-a-nutshell representation of the way the universe works. You’ve seen it many times, no doubt, but I imagine nobody’s really explained it. I’ll give it a shot.

First, you’ll notice that it’s a circle. No beginning, no end. Now, pick a spot, either at the top or the bottom, where either the black or the white is almost non-existent. Moving clockwise, you’ll see that the color you chose increases while its opposite color decreases… and that as soon as it gets to the point where it can’t hold any more, you’ll see that the opposite color starts to kick in, PLUS, there’s a little “seed” of the opposite color contained in the fullest part of the swell.

Now, I can’t find the citation at the moment, but there’s an old saying that hard winds don’t blow all morning and heavy rains don’t last all day. Physics tells us that energy constantly changes form. Biology tells us that we change or we go extinct. It isn’t just that change always happens; it’s that it must happen. So when I’m in front of an angry person, I know I don’t have to do anything at all to get them to stop being angry. All I have to do is get rapport, pay close attention to when their angry state changes to another state, catch the transition point, and steer it to where I want it to go. The best part is, if I can figure out what the “seed” of the next state is, knowing that it’s already there, I can speak to it… drawing attention, and therefore the other person’s energy, toward it… making sure that it really is what’s next.

Anger, and most other high-energy emotional states, cannot last long. It’s physically impossible to maintain it. It costs too much. Anyone who claims they’ve been angry about something for years and years… they aren’t angry. They may be bitter, but they aren’t angry. Anger is a flash, not a smoulder. (This is one of the ways the psych nurses know when someone is faking a condition, and why we keep people for observation for up to 72 hours.)

Jonathan suggests in the Automatic “Yes” CDs that, to move someone out of a high-energy unresourceful state, we should turn it up rather than try to turn it down. I agree. Several times I’ve been called to the psychiatric unit where I work because a patient is scaring the staff and the other patients despite the fact that he isn’t actually doing anything. He’s got a clenched jaw, closed fists, and knitted brow, and he’s pacing, and he’s been doing it all day. When I respond, all I do is engage the guy in some sort of conversation and then do something that I think will annoy him. Not anger him; just irritate him. It adds energy to his stuck state, and then he has to choose which side of the fence he’s going to crawl off on. Is he going to start throwing things and kicking walls and cursing, or is he going to start talking? As soon as he gets to the decision point, I lead him to the state I want him to have. Usually I just tell him what it is: “It’s gotta be frustrating,” I say, or “I’d be scared too if I were in your place.” Sometimes I offer a path to follow instead: “You just have to wonder what’s going on, but the more questions you ask the more answers you get.”

(Of course, I’m ready if he decides to go the other way, too. It’s never actually happened, but if it does, at least he’ll have resolved his stuck state and can work from there.)

I can take these more energetic states and ride/drive them to something a little more useful for the other person and a lot safer for those around them. Which is, essentially, what state chaining is about.

I strongly recommend Jonathan’s “Automatic ‘Yes'” CD set to you and to anyone else who wants to take their social skills to the next level. And I want to thank him publicly for helping me to think more clearly about one of the things I’ve been doing without realizing it.

The US Federal Trade Commission requires that I add: While Jonathan did ask me for a product review, it should also be noted that I bought my copy of this audio program directly from his Web site, and that my recommendation is not a form of payment for the product.

Written by Michael DeBusk

October 31st, 2009 at 6:17 pm

Negotiation and the Art of War

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I’ve long loved Sun Tzu’s book, The Art of War. It’s a book on conflict resolution, not specific to war, and I’ve learned and used a great deal of its wisdom in my work.

Today I read an article by blogger Anil Polat at the foXnoMad blog, a blog about travel. Apparently, dealing with difficult airline ticket agents is an art form, and Mr. Polat has used Sun Tzu’s work to increse his own success:

Sun Tzu’s book, The Art of War, written more than 2,000 years ago is one of the world’s most famous books on strategy. While Tzu was writing for generals in the army, the fundamentals of his wisdom can help you overcome even the most stubborn airline representative.

I enjoyed the article tremendously, recognizing my approach with angry customers in it.

Read the full article, Use Sun Tzu’s The Art of War To Win Battles At The Ticket Counter, at the foXnoMad blog.

Here’s Lionel Giles’ translation of The Art of War at the Internet Classics Archive. (Free, but not prettily formatted.)

Here’s Thomas Cleary’s translation at (If you want to buy it, though, I encourage you to get it by way of the link in Mr. Polat’s article, so as to thank him for writing it.)

Written by Michael DeBusk

August 26th, 2009 at 8:08 pm

Can I make some copies? Maybe.

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Remember the story about how giving someone a reason, even if it’s a nonsense reason, gets them to say “yes”? We got it from Robert Cialdini, if I remember correctly.

Thanks to a recent post on Language Log entitled Generalization and Truth, I’ve learned that the cited study is here: “The Mindlessness of Ostensibly Thoughtful Action: The Role of ‘Placebic’ Information in Interpersonal Interaction”, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 36(6): 635-42, 1978.

I’ve also learned that the study didn’t exactly say what we’ve been told it says:

What I discovered was frequent misunderstanding of the 1978 paper’s results, involving both a different conclusion and a strikingly overgeneralized picture of the observed effects. Kahneman 2003 was merely the most prominent of these. So as part of my on-going exploration of scientific rhetoric…

For the details, go read Generalization and Truth at Language Log.

Written by Michael DeBusk

May 3rd, 2009 at 3:05 pm

Best article ever

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Do you want to read what I think is the best newsletter article I’ve ever read?

I don’t know what it is about it, but I think it’s amazing. It may be the fact that I just finished listening to a lecture series on rhetoric by Professor Michael D. C. Drout; it may be that I’ve been leaning a little farther to the political right over the past few months and therefore finding Winston Churchill interesting; it may even be the mood I’m in.

Go to the Essential Skills blog and read Tom Vizzini’s article, “Tom, have you seen the chemtrails in the sky?” and see for yourself.

Written by Michael DeBusk

February 25th, 2009 at 2:17 am

Posted in Persuasion,Values

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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

I’m rich. It’s official. Really.

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I’m loaded. It’s official. I’m the 68,695,653 richest person on earth!

How rich are you? >>

Written by Michael DeBusk

January 24th, 2009 at 2:18 am

Ticking off the pros, the third

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I remember the Psychiatric Social Worker as being a wonderful lady, and I liked her a lot. Smart, curious, well-educated, and really easy on the eyes. Sometimes I wondered about her street smarts, though.

The night I’m thinking of, she was evaluating a big, burly, truck-driver-looking guy because he’d threatened to kill himself. She’d decided he meant it and needed to stay with us for a few days. Under state law, we have to give everybody a chance to sign themselves in, and she was going to do that… and if he refused, she’d have him committed against his will.

(We do it more often than we like. It sounds mean, but, really, it’s not. Most people in that position end up glad we did it.)

She was worried that he’d react violently when she offered him this apparent Hobson’s Choice, so she asked me to be close by. I stood just out of sight and listened. He didn’t react violently, but he did do something interesting.

He repeated, “I’m damned if I do, and I’m damned if I don’t.”

She did her best to assure him that it was his choice, and he’d say, “I’m damned if I do, and I’m damned if I don’t.” Then he’d ask her what she thought he should do, and she’d repeat that she couldn’t choose for him, that it was his choice. And again he’d say, “I’m damned if I do, and I’m damned if I don’t.”

This went on for, I’m guessing, FIVE STRAIGHT MINUTES. He couldn’t choose, she wouldn’t help. (She couldn’t help. I’m not blaming her for this. He was in a bind, he knew it; he wanted out of it, and she had no way of figuring out how to help without appearing to lead or coerce him. So she was in a bind too.)

I decided I’d stood there long enough, feeling sorry for them both. So I walked around the corner and “listened” for a couple of “I’m damned if I do, and I’m damned if I don’t” rounds. Then I said:

“Look, man… you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t, right?”

“Yeah!” he said. Frustrated. Wanting help.

So I said, “Well, you might as well get it over with.”

He tilted his head, went inside for a second, nodded, grabbed the clipboard, and signed himself in.

The Social Worker was shocked, but didn’t say anything to me.

I’ll only point out to her, if she’s reading this, that I didn’t tell him which choice to make… I only suggested that he make one. Choosing to be committed would have been every bit as valid a response to my statement as signing himself in, and I would have found it every bit as respectable. The truth is, though, signing himself in was in line with his values and being committed was not, so he chose to sign.

Written by Michael DeBusk

September 24th, 2008 at 7:09 pm