By Mark Spencer, ITA Certified New Code and Classic Code NLP Trainer and Change Agent
Painting a picture of the perfect event for brainwashing
Brainwashing usually works when the person doing the brainwashing is in a position of superiority or at least influence. A large well-managed event can provide that position for a speaker. A good and ethical speaker honours that privilege, but a person with ill intent will exploit that same opportunity. Part of the setup for a brainwashing speaker will be that they already have brochures and ads or at least some hype establishing their credibility.
Many speakers will not let the an opportunity go past and will potentially draw their audience’s attention to how many people are at the event, suggesting that their teaching is in demand, and that their wisdom is a real draw-card and that the evidence is that the audience made an effort to come and pay for it with either money or at least with their time (if it was a gift or a free taste), so there is at least some buy-in from the audience.
To make this possible, depending on the sale prices of the event, they will offer free taste days, free for returning customers in order to make sure that the whole audience space is very full and that the people in that space are as compliant as possible. Free and returning customers tend to be more compliant and the average new attendee cannot tell a new person or a returning customer apart. Unless one is aware, you might assume that everyone in the seated area came the same way as you did and dragged along a lot of friends, but this may well not be true. Now, to be fair, not all will have that buy-in, as we have experienced ourselves, that some level of ‘curiosity’ was aroused sufficiently for us to take one step further to find out what the speaker can offer, but we were reserved and aware of the potential tactics at play.
Silence equates to Agreement
Clearly, Silence does not equate to Agreement, but, when you are there experiencing this in the moment, it would seem that the silence must mean agreement. The speaker, in most cases, can expect that in general people are less likely to draw attention to themselves by openly arguing with someone who is in the position of influence, even when people disagree with the speaker. However, this silence can be seen by others as agreeing or endorsing the speaker, and it is a well-known fact that many of us will go with the opinion of the majority. In this case, this silence (and supposed agreement) inadvertently serves to increase the speaker’s influence over the group. There will be more on this later in Part 5.
People’s good nature
The speaker also can rely in most countries on the good nature of people that largely don’t make a fuss or draw attention to themselves and openly argue with a speaker that already has everyone’s attention. I recall one person who did speak up about something (few people could hear what they said) and all eyes were on this person and the speaker was saying something like, you stopped me just now and interrupted everyone who has payed to listen to me to tell us all your opinion about me? Who are YOU anyway? You are welcome to tell me later and I trust we can move on…
As long as you see this happen once, people tend to shrink back, and this human trait is again exploited where possible because, the example has been set – if you do interrupt, you run the chance of being dealt with by someone who is used to dealing with people publicly, and coming out not only on top, but with an audience, agreeing by their silence. In summary, the audience’s mostly good nature is tempered by the speaker’s intimation as required.
While you are unaware
An unfortunate aspect of many of these events is that most people focus so much on the promised outcome (which is a good thing usually) and are not aware of the manipulation techniques being done to the them. So while everyone is focused on the speaker’s stories and quips for being successful, that very same speaker is usually working their audience focused on hyping up the attendees’ desire to accomplish what is being promised to them and weaving in that only the speaker or their secrets or methods can deliver these promises. All the while, the speaker will present minimal information on how to achieve the outcome, much like dangling a carrot to maintain high engagement so that they can continue to manipulate attendees at some point later.
My own LGAT experience
I remember attending a well-recognised LGAT1 training session which ran for 4 days, at a time in my life long before I had been trained with NLP (which gave the skills of awareness). I know I was really uncomfortable somehow, but did not know why, and I found it difficult to say in precise terms what was actually wrong. Just as you think you will do a runner, there was a scattering of home truths or wisdom. The rate at which these useful bits were delivered was about 2 or 3 small statements (a minute or two in total) per 10-12 hour day! The rest was essentially grooming you for many things to come (discussed later). So I was aware of something, I had reservations, but was lost in a confused mesh of conflicting emotions, partially what they were trying to achieve. I responded as one of their ‘resisters’ who didn’t pop, who knew he’d find a way to understand how this process worked, and how to protect others against all of this one day.
With LGAT1, the acronym’s inclusion of the word Awareness is ironic in that the majority of attendees (myself included at the time), and for those who we have met, were not aware of the various techniques that are being applied to them, primarily to engender loyalty, devotion, acceptance of their dogma, and to develop a sense that attendees are at least one more training course away from getting to a place where they will make it big or resolve that lifetime nagging issue that they have. Be informed about what LGAT2 is and what it means and if it applies to the organisation you are considering.
So it is with Marketing
I distinctly remember a CNN news report (video) during the release of Windows 95 to stores, and a middle-aged lady in the US was in line from the day before to buy as many as she could. When asked what she was buying, apart from “a box of windows 95”, she had no idea. She said ‘…there is no store limit, so I might get a few’. She was asked if she or anyone at home had a PC, a computer – she said ‘no’, and also if she had one at work – she said ‘no’. When she was asked what she was going to do with it, she said “I just have to get them now before others do”.
How can this happen?
Microsoft had a voracious marketing engine working for them in those days (one of the earliest very successful technology marketing campaigns) and for some of its audience, this was successful in brainwashing many. This is also why Apple/Macs (as competitors) were stuck selling to schools and better3 Operating Systems (OS/2) could not compete, purely based on the fact that Microsoft were better at marketing themselves, but that is another story. Similar could be said about today’s new market leaders with devices like phones. So… if Microsoft can get people who know nothing of computers to buy a box of software that cannot be used (by them), then a clever speaker can do it with a captive audience who are there for something. Think about it – they can utilise this fact as long as you attend: you came for something. Based on that, they can say you know you needed this product otherwise you wouldn’t be here… etc.
So, what can you do?
Before attending: Do your research now
The point here is that for any training or large event, take some time out to do as much research as you can to make a thorough evaluation of the investment of your time and money into this. This is the least you can do before the event, and long before buying hopefully. If you are about to consider something (training or an event), then potentially some of the brainwashing has already begun in the brochures, the videos, the friends or wherever this started for you. Now is the time to do the research for even the most mainstream safe looking organisations can mask their true intentions behind a brand.
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Be aware of what you are planning to attend, research the organisation, the peoples names, the associations they have. Check their origin.
Before attending: Read widely
The more you know about the topic that these events are presenting the chances that you can critically evaluate information presented in the event. Often times the training or the event website will provide ample testimonies. How can you tell that these testimonies are true or fabricated? The purpose of these testimonies are to persuade you rather than educate or provide information, so read very widely and seek multiple, credible sources.
Complaints and Bad Experiences
Read widely about the whole topic or domain of thinking, there will be ample real or fabricated testimonies for good experiences, so look also for complaints and bad experiences, see if their organisation has multiple names and if they are banned in any countries, see if there is a support group, see how much they own or are worth and decide if this fits with your values.
During an event: Guard against being tired
One of the strategies for some organisations is to tire you out so much that you more easily give in to offers and agreements that you might not normally consider. So, if you do go to an event, be alert and fully awake during the event. Choose to sleep well before the event and keep this up during the nights between the events if it spans more than one day.
During an event: Bring a friend along if you can
Try to have a trusted friend attend with you if possible. Talk during and after the event. Remember that even if two attend the same event, and sit beside each other, there can be totally different perspectives because everything we experience will be processed individually, through our own filters, references and understanding. Another person’s view on something is useful even if you dismiss it initially, at least you have a choice of perspectives now and can use your friend’s perspective as you evaluate any further spending.
At an event: Increase Your Awareness and Ask Questions
Awareness means making your unconscious considerations conscious so you can evaluate your thought process to evaluate your thinking critically. It is critical to be aware of your own motivation to attend and how your emotions might have been influenced by the marketing materials you have read. Does it make you feel “only if I do this I can be who I want to be”, and are you almost willing to do anything that these people ask of you? If so, this is dangerous territory, as you are now very open to being manipulated and may unconsciously feel that others have more power to make changes in your life than you do yourself. Pay attention to what you have heard, read or seen and what you are being made to do (like stand up and clap with the group), as these may have affected your emotions.
- “what concrete things can I walk away with?”
- “what is the speaker’s motive?”
- “is what they are thinking possible?”
- “how credible is their evidence, if any?”
During the event: Don’t fall for the traps of – if… therefore
Remember that speakers and minders will utilise anything they have on you. If you think that they haven’t got anything, they’ll be trying to get under your skin, being very attentive to any perceived ‘weakness’ as shown by hesitation or delayed responses to challenges or questions.
If nothing else, they will start with (as stated above), the fact that as long as you attended: you came for something. Even if you are just at the phone enquiry stage, they can use you called because you need something. Based on that, they attempt to challenge you with all kinds of claims – ending with otherwise you wouldn’t be here, but you can chose to say both to yourself and them if necessary, no, I’m curious about x or I’m supporting my friend or I am simply expanding my knowledge and/or I’m not vulnerable because of what you just said, I am a researcher and this organisation and its teaching is what I am researching.
Notes on Perfection
Other questions might be – Are you living your perfect life? If you hesitate, they argue with the fact that you hesitated (and you cannot deny this if it happened) they can tangle you in their “if/therefore” challenges until they exhaust you. The questions can come thick and fast, not like reflecting with a friend… you’re dealing with a sales person essentially. What you need to keep in mind is your own liberty and sovereignty which can state that yes, my life is not perfect – no one’s life is, but I am going to chose another way to achieve the changes that I want. Remember that to evaluate what they are saying on the fly, you might take slightly longer to reply, and this might have them waste some of your time by saying that you are not sure of yourself.
Perfect is very boring, and if you happen to have a different look, that’s a celebration of human nature, I think. If we were all symmetrical and perfect, life would be very dull.
– Natalie Dormer
Don’t you know that every perfect life would mean the end of art?
– Robert Musil
Nothing is permanently perfect. But there are perfect moments and the will to choose what will bring about more perfect moments.
― Mary Balogh, Simply Perfect
During an event: Having an Unshakable Resolve
For the attendee, this is about being unshakable and not coming unstuck when challenged by these types of claims (if… therefore or ‘hesitation’). Think about why you might be there if you are going to be there. Establish your intentions and maintain your resolve.
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Maintain your resolve
If you have done your research and you have a feeling that you shouldn’t go to something, your battle now is with whoever is pressuring you to go or to continue attending when you do not feel that is right for you. This battle should be easier than the battles and torment that might be in store if you do go.
Again, think about what you want in life and establish that intention, maintain your resolve and deal with the consequences. If you have gone to the first day and decided to exit, again, you’ll need to revisit in your mind and be clear about your intention, and maintain your resolve – because they’ll most likely follow you up.
Navigation in this article series
- LGAT – Large Group Awareness Training ↩ ↩
Psychological Effects of Participation in a Large Group Awareness Training, Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 1989, VoL 57, No. 6, 747-755, Jeffrey D. Fisher (University of Connecticut), Roxane Cohen Silver (University of Waterloo), Jack M. Chinsky
(University of Connecticut) ↩
- And if you think it (Windows 95) was less about marketing and more about the technology, then you’re forgetting that IBM was also selling a little platform called OS/2. It was arguably better (certainly more advanced) than Windows and nobody really cared. IBM never did figure out how to market it. Quoting LANCE ULANOFF, AUG 25, 2015 ↩