Hypnotic Sales and Management Techniques and How to Sidestep Them

Krys Call

Salespeople, administrators and managers routinely take workshops where they learn neuro-linguistic programming techniques that trigger trust and compliance in their customers and co-workers. The purpose of this blog is to give you methods that you can use to stand your ground (without seeming to be in any way oppositional) when you are confronted with the aforementioned techniques. Following the fictional example below will be three combinations of methods that you can use to sidestep the specific sales and management techniques covered in the example.

Let's say the person using the management techniques actually is your manager, and her name is Ms. Jane Smith-Doe. Her goal in the interaction is to have you say, "Yes" to becoming chair of the conflict-fraught Committee for Relations Overview and Cooperation Know-how.

Ms. Smith-Doe's first move is to ask you how you are and put out her hand. Now, this seems innocent enough, and even cordial, and perhaps it is. On another level, however, it follows the principle that a neutral response is halfway to a "yes" response, and the easiest neutral response to trigger is an automatic one.

When someone asks, "How are you?", we automatically say,"Fine," and when she puts out her hand, we automatically shake it. And, with these automatic responses, we have made a de facto agreement to respond. Even though it is early in the conversation, once you say, "Fine" and shake hands with Ms. Smith-Doe, she has already covered significant ground. All that remains of her task is to turn your agreement to respond into an agreement to respond in the affirmative.

Her next step is to create what is called a "yes-set." This is a set of questions that will almost surely be answered in the affirmative. Then, while your brain is experiencing the pattern of repeatedly using the neuron pathway that results in "Yes," she'll slip in the question that matters. Once you've given a minimum of three "yes" responses, the odds are that you will tend to say another "yes" before your brain has processed the fourth or final (and key) question.

To start her yes-set of questions, Ms. Smith-Doe may ask,"It's a nice day out, isn't it?", cueing your agreement with a smile. As soon as you agree, she asks, "Are you looking forward to the three-day weekend? I sure am." Now, it's as if you two are on the same team, getting ready to enjoy a good game of weekend tennis, so it's natural to agree once again.

Now, she has two yeses, and she was told that three is the minimum to create the pattern that will put your brain on autopilot for the word "Yes." So, she asks, "Were those handsome children in the photo on your desk your kids?" (At least two other techniques are also in operation here - she's chosen her office for this interaction to gain more leverage, and remembering a picture she saw on your desk invites your trust.)

Once you've agreed that yes, those are your children in the photo on your desk, Ms. Smith-Doe asks, "Do you agree that your knowledge and experience could really make a significant contribution to the CROCK?" Now, you have a non-choice: you can say your expertise is less than it is while simultaneously disagreeing with your manager, or you can remain on the Crocksville train as it pulls into city center.

So, you half-nod hesitantly, and Ms. Smith-Doe says glowingly, "Well, great! How about showing us all how it's done by chairing the CROCK?" As she asks this, she gives you a collegial pat on the shoulder with her left hand and almost simultaneously offers her right hand. Because a response is required, and you are still not sure exactly what to say, your social reflexes prompt you to do what comes automatically. Unconsciously, you shake the hand, and she's got a deal.

Here are three possible combinations of responses designed to break the pattern upon which her formula relies:

1. In response to her "How are you?" with an attempted handshake, pick up the hand, turn it over and exclaim about how much you like her ring, then, without pause, ask her a question about the ring that will get a "yes." Now, you've started your own yes-set of questions and can ask "yes" questions about the weather, the vacation and the photo of her kids on her desk. After you've gotten a minimum of three agreements, ask about being assigned to the committee you prefer as you offer your hand, and tell her why that would be best for everyone.

2. In response to her "How are you?" with an attempted handshake, shake the hand, but ask, "How are you?" instead of telling her how you are. When she says, "Fine," start your yes-set of questions about the weather, the vacation and the photo; follow them quickly with your request and offered hand, following up with the reasons you should be on the committee you prefer.

3. In response to her "How are you?" with an attempted handshake, shake the hand and ask,"How are you?" Then, let her ask you all of her yes-set questions, but give gently negative responses. For example, to "It's a nice day out, isn't it?", say "For some reason, I love the coziness of cold, rainy weather," and smile, as if to say, "To each his own." To "Are you looking forward to that three-day weekend?", say, "I'm so involved in my department project right now, that I would actually like to finish it before taking any time off. It's really exciting." To "Are those handsome children in the photo on your desk your kids?", say "Oh, that's my brother's family," or "They just say they're my children so they can stay at my house," and give a little laugh to indicate that it's a joke. Next, in an enthusiastic tone of voice, say what a pleasure it has been chatting with her, and how you're dying to get to work on the committee you prefer. Before she can respond, tell her about the contributions you plan to make to your preferred committee, ask her if those sound good to her, then stick out your hand while asking how soon you can start.