How Hints, Expectations, and the Power of Suggestion Influence Others
The power of suggestion might kill you.
The Smithsonian Magazine reports an individual who attempted suicide using placebo tablets. The pills could not harm him. He experienced dangerously low blood pressure and required medical intervention.
The symptoms quickly disappeared after he was informed that he had taken sugar pills.
Half the patients taking a drug to relieve symptoms of prostate disease were told the drug could cause erectile dysfunction (ED). 44% of them experienced ED compared to only 15% of the uninformed group.
Patients who experienced ED while taking a placebo recovered 5 days after they stopped taking the placebo.
The power of hints:
I start feeling queasy when the doctor says, “This medication might cause nausea.” How about you?
Tell patients that the side effect of a sugar pill (placebo) is a headache and about 20% get headaches (nocebo).
Leverage the power of hints:
The power of suggestion is most powerful when it comes to feelings. “Placebos may make you feel better, but they will not cure you.” Professor Ted Kaptchuck.
#1. Listen to yourself.
What emotional response do your words and body language invite?
#2. Stop blaming others for the relational environment you create.
Provide constructive feedback with forward-facing confidence instead of despair or anger.
#3. Experiment with different words and body language.
Monitor responses when you shift to smiling and affirming instead of frowning and criticizing.
#4. Take responsibility for the way people respond to you.
When you see frustrating responses in others, ask yourself, “How might their response reflect something in me?”
“The key to successful leadership is influence, not authority.” Ken Blanchard
How have the power of hints brought you or your team down?
How might you leverage the power of hints for good? (With integrity.)
Dan, ..some great points.
My thought–if hints can bring a person or team down–why can’t hints also bring a team up.
HInt—-This book, article, seminar may help you be a better leader as it has helped other people.
I love the whole concept of what you think influences how you feel. I’m struck by the number of people I’ve encountered recently who, when it’s pointed out that they seem to engage in a lot of negative self-speak, and the suggestion is to find something positive, or at least pro-active to deal with the situation — become defensive and declare “Don’t try to make it better. This is how I feel.” With a very close friend or relative, I may simply end with — “If the negativity makes you feel better – then go for it. I’m just noticing that you don’t seem any happier or more hopeful.” I find a lot of staff will use the phrase: “That’s who I am and how I feel and I don’t have to change.” If the current situation is making me miserable — I look for something to change — whether internal or external. Just a thought. Happy Friday! 🙂
We often forget the power of suggestion. I like your reminder that it can be used for both good and bad. The language we use could be directing people in a certain direction, why not be intentional with it.
A recent blog of yours (Sept 28) referenced a quote from Viktor Frankl. “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
That moment between an action and our reaction can happen so fast that the existence of a “choice” in that spot is invisible to many. If our language can help set up a directional pointer for the recipient, we may able to influence the feelings and therefore the actions of others even more than we think is possible.
Great post. I find the placebo effect very interesting. Along with the Ladder of Inference or the simplified Path to Action.
If we can change how a person feels about something, they will act differently.
I am unable to define the power of “Influence” any better than that.
My main experience is that hints are a waste of time. If you want something, detail explicitly what/how/when/whatever. Hints are easy to miss, mis-interpret or overlook.
When you see frustrating responses in others, ask yourself, “How might their response reflect something in me?” – That takes self honesty few really possess.
Another great post Dan. Thank you. One of my first jobs was as a customer service rep for a mega credit card company, I would average taking about 300 calls in a shift. In a training we had, it was suggested that we all try to smile as we took calls, even when those calls were not smile-inducing calls. “The customer can hear your smile”. I thought it was a pollyanna solution to really messy interactions. I tried it anyway and felt really silly smiling to a mauve walled cubicle but it was a rousing success. Over time, I experienced some doozey %$&#! calls that I do think the smile on my face that we both could feel, even over the phone, helped to smooth tense situations. It also lightened my heart and mind so that I could manage the next 299 calls where it did make the customer smile. Cheers and thanks! CB
Another great post Dan. Thank you. One of my first jobs was as a customer service rep for a mega credit card company, I would take about 300 calls in a shift. in a training we had, it was suggested that we all try to smile as we took calls, even when those calls were no smile-inducing calls. “The customer can hear your smile”. I thought it was a pollyanna solution to really messy interactions. I tried it anyway and felt really silly smiling to a mauve walled cubicle but it was a rousing success. I experienced some doozey %$&#! calls that may not have left that particular customer smiling but I do think it smoothed over my delivery of difficult news to them and made it possible for me to face the next 299 calls where it did make the customer smile as well. Cheers and thanks! CB
This a really informative post, as I was able to reflect- the responses I get are those I create (by the environment). This situation has become exceedingly more difficult to control in a work-from-home environment due to COVID impact on my business. The human touch is one that has to be intentional. Although Teams and Zoom allow for video, our team has lost (and actually craves) the information conversations passing-by in the hall, break room or ‘popping-into’ someones office to have an unplanned conversations. We have been intentional about video, having scheduled 1:1’s, holding informal lunch and Happy Hour videos. However, it all falls short of what we didn’t know we needed- face time with one another!
There are still opportunities to create an environment in a virtual setting, but it has to be planned and intentional! Leadership considerations for the team’s temperament and feeling has becoming overwhelmingly important in this type of work. I would seek feedback from others on how they closely replicate as closely as possible, a conducive team environment in a virtual setting!
Hints can be uplifting too! My boss is constantly blaming others for the negativity in the organization. She also stands very confrontationally at meetings. Needless to say staff meetings at our office usually do not end well.