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How to influence people (winning friends is optional)

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How would you like to increase your influence in all areas of your life?

If your answer’s ‘Yes, please’, first we need to dispel a common myth. Thanks to the personal development movement, it’s commonly believed that humans recall between five and nine associated pieces of information at a time before either committing them to long-term memory or letting them go — often referred to as ‘7 +/- 2’ theory.

Newsflash! The theory is wrong!

In fact, the 7 +/- 2 theory is an inaccurate urban myth propagated by a man named Miller.

George A. Miller published it without doing any actual research.

It wasn’t until Alan Baddeley came along and exposed Miller’s theory as mere conjecture — not credible research — that the facts became clearer. And more useful.

To test Miller’s theory, Baddeley conducted a long series of studies on memory and information processing.  Baddeley concluded that:

  • The actual number of pieces of associated information retained is only three to four — not five to nine as was previously assumed.
  • We can only remember three to four pieces of information for around 20 seconds before ‘losing’ them unless we make room in our long-term memory via techniques such as conscious effort and repetition.

Next time you start barking orders to your staff or overloading your prospects with too much information, are you now likely to think twice?

What have rhythm and patterns got to do with influence?

Have you ever had to memorise a nine-digit number? Can you remember your own natural default setting? You will have ‘chunked’ information into groups containing three to four pieces.

Most times, you’ll probably be able to hold three to four complete phone numbers in your mind this way, before making a more permanent record (either in your notebook, or your long-term memory).

Next time you’re up after midnight with nothing to do, tune in to the late night shopping channels. (It’s the only time I’ll suggest you subject yourself to this torture, I promise!)

After a while, you’ll notice how the linguistic formula they apply to mesmerise you is chunked into the same three to four pieces of easy-to-remember, digestible information (i.e. ‘Shed weight, look fantastic, feel fabulous’, or, ‘Melt fat, get ripped, boast rock hard abs this summer’.)

These linguistic patterns make it easy for the general public to retain the key selling attributes of a product/service that influence them to buy (‘And BUY NOW!’)

The three to four pattern is also rhythmically pleasing to the brain – like a kind of ‘mental music’.

Political figures follow this formula. Observe the speech patterns of your political leaders: the way they speak is expressly designed to influence the masses.  I have no doubt Barak Obama or Julia Gillard would do a phenomenal job for Danoz Direct promoting the ‘Ab Rocker’ considering their foundation training in persuasive linguistic patterning.

Three steps to instant influence

Next time you want to convince someone you’re the perfect choice for a job/promotion/payrise:

  1. Get clear on the three to four key reasons why you truly believe this to be the case
  2. Be aware that there is a point of no return in every conversation after which you will have over-exposed yourself and overloaded the other person with too much information
  3. Stick to your two to three pieces of information. After the fourth piece it’s time to shush — at least that’s probably what the people around you are thinking.

So much magic happens in the silence after a powerful message has been delivered.

Don’t squander it!

Ben Angel is author of ‘Bigger, Better, Harder, FASTER! Sleeping Your Way to The Top’, containing over 50+ scientific studies on human behaviour. Jacket-copy: “It will show you how you can; achieve more in 30 days than in 3 months, decode the ‘X’ factor , unlock your potential and discover the secrets to INSTANT influence.”

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