Hidden Persuaders- Learning How to Think Better

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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