Hidden Persuaders- Learning How to Think Better

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Have you seen Derren Brown’s ‘Heist?’ I love it. For those of you that haven’t had the pleasure, it tracks the story of Derren ‘influencing’ three people to use a gun to rob a security guard, and run away with two cases packed full of money. It’s very entertaining to watch, and is a brilliant reminder as to how powerfully the mind can influence what we think.

Without ruining it, as you can see it here (Derren Brown’s Heist on Youtube) it helped me reflect upon a phrase I’d come across: ‘Hidden Persuaders;’ a phrase that I’d heard from a friend called Johnny Sertin, during a course called ‘Make Believe.’

What do I mean by ‘Hidden Persuaders?’

During our lifetime, our behaviour is influenced by the different ways that we think. Some people have had it drummed into their lives how important a good job is or how you shouldn’t trust others as they’ll let you down. Education is often a strong hidden persuader for people. Because so much emphasis is put on traditional academic achievement, as is beautifully shown in Sir Ken Robinsons video, many grow up in life considering themselves to be ‘underachievers.’ This is because they didn’t walk away with good grades, or succeed in going to University.

Whether it’s education, how we view the opposite sex, our understanding of success or attitudes towards money, our hidden persuaders are there in the midst. Without realising it these hidden persuaders influence the decisions we make, the ways that we relate, what we consider to be right and wrong and our ongoing attitudes towards others. We can find that sometimes we don’t understand the decisions we make or why we feel pressure to think or act in a certain way; but it’s just simply the way we’ve always thought about it.

If we had the ability to reflect back objectively on our actions and decisions, would we  make different decisions and have different standpoints.

So do we know what our Hidden Persuaders are?

Whether they are good or bad, do we know what has influenced us to make the decisions we make? When these ‘Ordinary People’ on the ‘Heist’ programme saw their actions (as they electrocuted people in experiments, stole from shops and pointed a gun to the head of a security guard), would they have acted any differently if they could see through the hidden persuaders to the realities of their actions?

Hidden Persuaders, are in fact often hidden. Funny that! This way of thinking will often have developed over years of behaviour, and could easily have continued un-checked. After all, for so many people, there either isn’t the time made to reflect on thinking, a lack of ability to see our own poor thinking, and no one to hold the mirror up in a way that we can understand.

But we can’t stop there, we need to be more aware.

Not all hidden persuaders are bad, but its important to be aware of them, as otherwise we can be influenced in directions that we don’t feel comfortable with, or are blatantly wrong. In business, it’s clear that many successes and failures are often as a result of the decisions we make. These decisions are often based on what we think, and how we process information with the filters and hidden persuaders that this information passes through. That’s why the best decisions are often made in collaboration with others, where many minds turn out to be better than one, and others can provide a safety net for our mistaken thinking and hidden persuaders.

So next time you think of putting a gun in the face of a security guard and someone states that this seems a bit bizarre, be willing to question whether you still want to continue. Exposing our hidden persuaders may help prevent us getting into a whole load of trouble, and make good decisions that bring life.

How have you discovered your hidden persuaders and what ways do they influence you? Love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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4 thoughts on “Hidden Persuaders- Learning How to Think Better

    • Thanks for the question Penny- yes…, good question! When I’ve done a bit of internal work on identifying the hidden persuaders in me, I’ve sat down and started with what strong views and opinions did my family hold that are different from others, and I’ve written them down in my journal. I think education is often a good one to start off with, because people’s perceptions of education varies massively. Beyond that what were your families view of education, finance, business, specific personalities, health, work ethic, beliefs, understanding of faith and attitudes to holidays? So in my family, for instance, we never used car parks or paid money for car parking, but instead would drive around (for ages!) to find a free space. For years, I could never use a car park as this Hidden Persuader of mine would say it was a waste of money. Right or wrong, that was how I thought without being fully conscious of it. That Hidden Persuader was easy to discover, after I realised at University that friends weren’t prepared to walk for miles when I was driving. The irony was of course, with this way of thinking our family got above the average number of parking tickets, as we’d overstay the free spots. Money spent on tickets, the cost of petrol, and wasted time would quite possibly have been more than the parking tickets!

      So I’d start with what things you have strong views about, that you feel may be different from other people. I’d follow that up with establishing where you developed those views and whether you still hold them. And if not, what steps you’d make to counteract them. Hidden Persuaders aren’t all bad, but whether we’re persuaded positively or negatively, I think it’s always good to be aware of how we arrive at the views and standpoints we have.

      Let me know if that helps…

  1. That definitely helps, thanks for the hints on where to start, I will let you know how I get on. Think it will be a very interesting and useful excercise…although i’m a little nervous about what I might discover that I’ve taken for granted as being gospel for so long!