All conversations influence and you can’t avoid it!

All conversations influence and you can’t avoid it!

Influence is inherent in every communication. Suggestions, both intended and unintended, are present in all our discussions. We send out messages, suggest ideas, intentions, feelings, behaviours and interpretations by various means; by our choice of words or silences, by our voice tone, our speech manner and speed, by our facial and body expressions. We also use suggestions in stories by emphasizing specific points in our speech or by putting specific words in italics to stress a certain message. Simply put, suggestive influence is present every time we communicate. We cannot not communicate during our interactions.

Suggestive influence is present every time we communicate. We simply cannot not communicate during our interactions

Suggestion is different from persuasion and manipulation

In my workshops on suggestive techniques in coaching, I have found that in addition to the large misconception of suggestive-free communication, there is also a lack of understanding of how persuasion and manipulation differ from suggestions in the change process.

In persuasion, the other person is aware of the influencing taking place which is not the case with suggestion. When suggestion is in use, the other person is not aware of its impact and often neither are we.  Suggestive influencing may happen unintentionally and without our awareness. Think about it. How often have you elicited responses that you did not plan or expect?

When used skilfully and intentionally, suggestions may affect behaviour, thoughts, emotions and motivation in a pre-planned manner and in line with a client’s goals and not our own. This is in stark contrast to manipulation where suggestions are used in line with one’s personal goals and aspirations.

How is this important to professionals? (coaches, consultants, educators, helping professionals)?

How is this important to coaches and other professionals? Most of us are familiar with the placebo effect: patients feeling better after taking a medication even if it doesn’t really do much to treat their condition. But there’s another side to suggestive impact; a darker side where patients develop symptoms or side effects purely because they’ve been hinted about them. This is known as “the nocebo effect”. Think of similar effects taking place in coaching contexts and the impact it can have on your clients.

Suggestive influence is present every time we communicate. There is no such thing as a suggestive-free communication

By recognizing the potential impact of suggestive influencing in our coaching conversations, we will minimize potentially damaging suggestions that may hinder client progress. The alternative would be to keep your fingers crossed that they won’t get in the way. Would you rather just hope your suggestions will have a positive effect and allow them to reign randomly or would you prefer to strategically incorporate suggestion techniques in your work?

You cannot avoid suggestions in your professional (and personal) conversations. There are a variety of ways you can strategically use suggestions in conversations to maximise results. Your presence has power. Words have power. Utilize that power so you can use it to your clients’ advantage and in line with their goal pursuit.

This holds true not just for professionals but for parents as well.

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