In most conversations, we are usually fairly alert. When we hear something that doesn’t make sense to us, we challenge it: “Is this true?”, “Could it even possibly be true?” Now verbal manipulators, whose goal is not to inform you but to persuade you, don’t want you questioning their statements. They want you to swallow them hook, line, & sinker. One technique they use is what I’ll call ‘Lull’ words. These are designed to lull us into a partial sleep, where we simply accept rather than challenge what we hear. Hypnotists call it a state of high suggestibility.
To defend against these Lull words, we can create new personal meanings for them, namely Warning Flags! Then they will work in our favor. Every time we hear the lull word our warning flag goes up and so instead of being highly suggestible, we become highly critical. Now, the more the verbal bully uses the word, and they will use it over & over, their influence over us gets smaller & smaller.
In my last blog entry Solid floor boards… I mentioned the Lull word ‘Clear’. Normally when we hear the word ‘Clear’ we expect something will be – Clear, so our guard goes down, and we become more suggestible. Then the following confusing statement or outright lie goes, unchallenged, right into our subconscious.
But with a little practice, when we hear ‘Clear’ or any of it’s variants like ‘very clear’ or ‘fully & completely clear’ our critical faculties are sharpened, and the verbal bully is defeated by his own techniques!
My favorite user/abuser of this word is Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. He uses it in virtually every White House briefing session. Initially, my brain reacted Oh, what’s coming is obvious, so I can relax, let down my critical guard, and maybe even take a brief nap. Then as I noticed how frequently he uses it, often a clue, I decided to look into the matter more thoroughly. He uses it almost always as the start of a reply to a question from a member of the White House Press Corps. At the level of information, there’s almost never any information, just a complete dodge of the question. At a more emotional level, he seems to be saying something like: ‘Since the answer to your question is obvious to everyone in the world but you, you must be really stupid to ask such a foolish question’. A total bully put-down. Fortunately, I don’t work there, or I might come back with “NO, it’s NOT obvious; if it were, I wouldn’t have asked the question!”
To better understand these subtle verbal attacks & develop defenses against them, transcripts are most helpful. You can read the actual words without the undertones, overtones, and subtle emphasis of live speech. You can even count how often a particular word is used, where it’s used, etc. Fortunately for you, Press Briefings by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs are available at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/press-briefings. More & more of today’s online media provide transcripts of speeches, interviews, debates etc. so you can get lots of practice.
Are you aware of other Lull words?
God gave us grapes;
Entrepreneurs gave us wine.