"Renaissance Thinking About the Issues of Our Day"
Thom wrote his book "Cracking The Code" on the air: This was the seventh week, covering "speaking directly to the unconscious mind, no/know, you".
For the last couple of months we've been working on this chapter by chapter here, doing something to the best of my knowledge never done before; writing a book on the radio; our book which will either be out this fall or next spring, we'll see how we pull this thing together but it's moving along fairly well. It's going to be titled "Cracking the Code: The Art and Science of Political Persuasion" and this week's chapter: "speaking directly to the unconscious mind".
Now, there's two really primary dimensions to this and they both come out of the fact that the unconscious mind, unlike the conscious mind, doesn't filter information. Our conscious mind is actually a fairly competent filter of information. If I say 'don't do something', you know, you can process the not doing it, you know. "Don't run out into the street", the conscious mind says, "OK, don't run out into the street". The teacher says to the kid, "Don't speak out during class", the kid doesn't speak out during class.
The unconscious mind, however, is not able to process negatives and it's also not able to process the separation of the word 'you' from context. Let me explain what this means. George Lakoff in his book, "Don't Think of an Elephant" put it right in the title. In order for you to know what to not think of, you have to first think of it. Now, that's the conscious mind operating at that level. But there's also the unconscious mind not being able to process the 'no'. So, you know, again, it brings up the idea. So, Joe Biden, for example, saying that he's not a racist. What does that do? It brings up the picture in the mind of Joe Biden as a racist which, you know, nobody thinks he is. I don't think he is. People around him don't think he is. But that's the meme that his political opponents want out there. And he put his foot in his mouth the other day in a small way and it's been turned into a big deal, and that's the subtext to it.
So, the very careful line that he has to walk is how to not identify what it is he's trying to not own. And the way to do it is, if instead of him saying that he's a not racist, he should be stating things in an affirmative sense, in a positive sense so that there's congruence between the conscience knowledge of what's being said and the unconscious knowledge of it. Instead he should be saying "I'm in favor of viewing all people the same regardless of their skin color. I'm in favor of civil rights. I've been working with the civil rights movement for years, for decades", which he did, by the way, yesterday on Chris Matthews' show, although Matthews kept bringing it around and bringing it around and bringing it around.
But that's the only way to do it, because the unconscious mind can't process the word 'no'. This is one of the reasons why the, you know, Frank Luntz had suggested that instead of referring to climate change, Republicans should refer to global warming. Excuse me, instead of referring to global warming, which evokes a very specific picture, warming means something to us, and global, you know, you think of the planet. Ever since, what was it, 1964 I think, when that picture from outer space of the Earth as a marble, probably the most published picture that's ever existed. Ever since that picture came out there's been a change, actually, in the way that we consciously and unconsciously think of the Earth. In many ways it kicked off the environmental movement because we realized, 'hey, we're all in this thing together'. There we are in this little marble, so this globe, and so when you talk about global warming it produces a very specific picture.
So instead he said that Republicans should use the phrase 'climate change', because that's more vague. Climate is an abstraction. What does climate mean? "I don't like the climate of this conference". I mean, it can mean something that's political, it can mean something that's weather-like, and change is not necessarily a negative. It's, again, ambiguous. Now interestingly, the scientific community has also embraced climate change to some extent. IPCC, the … ['Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change' - ed.] It is being embraced by the scientific community because in fact, there are parts of the globe that are getting warmer; there are other parts that might be getting colder.
The point is that the unconscious mind doesn't process 'no's. And in fact very often the unconscious mind will hear 'no' in the English language as 'know', whereas the conscious mind will hear sometimes hear 'know' as 'no'. So you know, sometimes you know what you know, sometimes you don't know what you don't know, sometimes you don't know what you didn't know and you don't know that you don't know what you don't know and therefore you need to know what you don't know, because you don't know that you don't know it. And the fact that you don't know that you don't know it causes you not to know that you don't know it and that then leaves you vulnerable to the consequences of 'it', right, for example.
That's the other thing; you start stacking negatives and you can induce confusion and that's a way that you can actually induce a trance which is something that we'll talk about next week. So anyhow, number one, the use of the word 'no'.
The second is the use of the word 'you'. The unconscious mind always hears the word 'you' as directed at the individual. The conscious mind is able to put the word 'you' in context. Now, this is something that is used in a variety of ways and politicians use it a lot, but it's also, there's a whole technology, a whole industry around sales and seduction that uses this is their primary tool, where you tell somebody a story about somebody else and you insert the word 'you' into it.
And so you're talking to somebody and, you know, say I was talking to, you know, a woman and I were to say, "You know, I was talking to a friend of mine and he was talking to his girlfriend", and this is somebody that you don't know, right, and "I was talking to a friend of mine and he was talking to his girlfriend and he said to her, 'you know, you're really beautiful. I really, really love you and I really think we can have a great time together and have a really wonderful relationship'. And he said, 'she really liked hearing that and, you know, I just thought it was really nice that he was able to say that to her'."
Now, the other person at the conscious level, the thing to respond to is was it nice that your friend was able to say that to his girlfriend? But at the unconscious level, what the person receiving what I just said will hear is, "I really love you" because there's a 'you' in there, or 'you're really beautiful' or whatever.
In sales, the same thing. You know, some people will come in here and tell me that when they drive this car, they just say to me, "You have the best car made, you know. I just love this car". You can imagine how you can carry this thing out. There's a whole variety of ways to do this.
So politicians need to be using the word 'you' as much as possible, even if it's in a secondary sense and when you convey messages to politicians you might want to consider that. So be very careful about using the word 'you'.
I remember just yesterday Louise - my wife - and I were at lunch and she was telling me the story of a conversation she had with somebody and the person was saying something to her and using the word 'you' that was a rather negative context, you know, complaining about something or somebody else. And Louise quoted that person and I suddenly found myself feeling, and I just had to interrupt her, I said, you mean, 'she said that' and Louise was like, 'Yes, she said that about somebody else'. This is Person A talking about Person B telling that person to Louise, now Louise telling it to me. So now here we have a story that's now twice removed but it still has the word 'you' in it and I'm still feeling it.
Now the useful time that you can use the word 'you' is for indirect confrontation. If you're having a political argument with somebody or a political discussion with somebody and you want to bring them into it; you want to have them imagine themselves in that situation but you don't want to do it in a really confrontational way, you could say something like, "You know, the other day I was talking to a friend and he went down to the homeless shelter and he said, "You can't imagine how difficult the lives of these people are. You would have to be, you know, disconnected from life to understand how difficult is. You'd have to be almost criminally disconnected from humanity to not care about these people." And I said to him, "You know, yeah, I agree". And now it's not a statement to the person that you're saying it to; it's not a slap, but at a certain level they'll take it as that, and, you know, perhaps they will respond in a confrontational way, perhaps it'll cause them to think.
So be very, start noticing first of all the use of negatives, particularly in advertising and political dialogue, and start noticing the use of the word 'you'; how you use it and how other people use it.
Thanks to …..
and to you for listening to our program. Nothing ambiguous about that, right? You're what helps make it happen and make it work and it is much appreciated; your calls.
Carol in Chandler, Arizona, listening on KPHX. Hey Carol, welcome to the programme.
[Carol]: Oh, thank you. I wanted to talk to you about the word 'you' and two distinct areas where I found using that word was detrimental to what I wanted to accomplish. The first one is talking to teenagers.
[Carol]: Yes, and the second one...
[Thom]: Well in fact, if I can just give you an example, Andrew and I were just talking - Andrew our board operator - Andrew Dunn in New York, and he was talking about with his band - he's in a rock band - Andrew, is it a rock band? Or is it a…? Yeah, OK, right. I don't want to misrepresent it. And how he was noticing, I hope that it's OK that I'm telling this story, good, thank you. He was noticing that when somebody would say, "You played that wrong", or "you should play that a different way", that people would be much more quick to take offence than when somebody would put it in the third person; take the word 'you' out of the sentence altogether and say, you know, or even personalize it and say, "I think that that bit should be played this way,", or "that, you know, might sound differently this way", without the use of the word 'you' at all.
[Thom]: Yeah, so.
[Carol]: My second scenario was when I was a union steward dealing with management either on grievances or in a labor management meeting, and if 'you use the word 'you', the defense [inaudible] immediately go up, whereas if you third person like 'management does this', or 'I have found that this action causes this', they are much more receptive to working with you.
[Thom]: Now here would be a way that you could use the word 'you' as a negotiating tool; as a way of gaining some psychological power, as it were. You know, I really hesitate to make this sound like it's just heavy manipulation, but that is ultimately the goal of all communication, is to accomplish something in a management situation like this to make it personal.
So if you were talking to the management and you were representing labor, and you didn't want to confront them with the word 'you', you could say to them something like, "Many of our members say to us that what they would like to say to management is, 'you guys are taking advantage of us and you guys are hurting our families by not giving us good health care'. And I say to our members when they say that to me that I'll share that grievance with management and so I'm here to, you know, share with you their concern."
And now they've received that message at the unconscious level emotionally, but they have to respond at the conscious level intellectually.
[Carol]: Right, right. It's very difficult in labor management dealing with both parties and even trying to get both parties to communicate with each other and I have taught labor management communications skills to adults and even that is difficult to try to get them to understand without saying, "Well, if you talk this way and you listen this way, it would work out much better".
[Thom]: Right, right, and yet, this is what we all have to do. We all have to learn how to be better communicators, I mean it's just, particularly if we have a real goal here, which is to save the world.
[Thom]: Carol, thanks so much for your call.
[Carol]: Have a great weekend.
[Thom]: Thank you, you too.