In case you missed it, I appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher on Friday and explained that Trump is more Master Persuader than crazy clown. It’s worth watching.
If you want to learn more about some of the psychological phenomena I mentioned on the show, I recommend this new book called Impossible to Ignore. It is the newest addition to my Persuasion Reading List.
The thing I was trying to say on the show, before I got cut off, was that Trump’s selection of issues is part of his persuasion talents. He was smart enough to pick the topics with the most emotional power. It was intentional. Keep in mind that every candidate had the same options that Trump did, but only Trump chose correctly. That is not an accident. The public just thinks it is.
Bill said during the show that he can’t be hypnotized. Evidently he tried it before and it didn’t work. I didn’t have time for a complete response so I will give it to you here.
For starters, everyone is hypnotizable. That’s what I learned in hypnosis class, and that has been my personal experience. Twenty percent of the public can be deeply hypnotized, but all the rest can be influenced in some productive direction.
Hypnosis is a learned skill, and that means some hypnotists are better than others. It would take a talented hypnotist to deal with a professional skeptic such as Maher. And the approach would have to be tailored for him. A generic hypnotic induction would be useless with such a personality.
The way I would approach hypnotizing a hardcore skeptic is to describe the method as I went. With a normal subject, I might say, “Imagine your favorite place in the world to relax” and that would be enough to start the ball rolling. But with a skeptic, I would add “Our brains make associations automatically. If I ask you to recall a bad memory, it might raise your blood pressure and pulse. But when I ask you to imagine a relaxing situation, your body naturally follows.”
A skeptic will understand that imagining a relaxing scene puts you in a more relaxed mood than recalling a bad memory. There is nothing magical about that. And I would continue explaining the technique as I went, in ordinary terms that anyone can understand. Persuasion works even when you explain the method as you go. If you don’t believe me, consider that Trump tells the public he is being controversial because it gets him the effect he wants. He says he plans to be presidential later. He tells us what he is doing and then he does it. And it still works.
Think about Trump’s Linguistic Kill Shots (nicknames). Trump now tells us in advance that he’s about to hatch one. Then he does. Then we watch it work. His persuasion is just as effective when he tells us how he’s doing it and when. In fact, it probably works better when the public is primed to see it coming. If you think Trump is going to be persuasive, it makes him more persuasive, like a placebo effect on top of a real drug.
My point is that a good hypnotist can hypnotize (or persuade) Bill Maher or any other skeptic. Some of you will say I persuaded him on the show to see the Clinton campaign as doomed. Did you see a turn?
On a related note, over the weekend I privately tested my claim that I could persuade an angry Trump-hater to become a Trump supporter in one hour. It turns out that I was wrong. It only took ten minutes.
We are not a rational species.