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5 simple steps to protect yourself from influence

What is influence?

A vast subject whose spider’s web that can represent it is terribly fine, often imperceptible and complex to correctly identify and map in order to define it, but also to explain it and try to thwart it.

This article does not aim at detailing the influence in its smallest aspects and effects, that would be too long and tedious. It has two main functions:

  • The first one is to give you a list of what you can do to limit its effects,
  • The second one is to explain to you how to do it concretely by giving you some explanations and examples.

So for those who are in a hurry or who need a structure before a presentation, here are the 5 key steps to help you protect yourself globally from influence. It is a general process that cannot necessarily correspond to all types of influences, but it seeks to combat beliefs, norms and the acquisition of new knowledge, among others.

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5 steps in 2 parts, adaptable according to the subject:

I) Question the source’s expertise 

  1. Who is speaking? What is their training and background?
  2. What element makes it possible to determine if he knows what he is talking about?

II) Questioning the discourse 

  1. Does he cites his sources or the origin of his statements or reasoning?
  2. You must deconstruct and analyze the speech and the level of justification and precision of the statements.
  3. You have to check the possible justification of what he says, even if it is based on a scientific study, you have to check the seriousness of the study and its authors, but also that the author has not misunderstood the conclusions of the scientists and this in order to verify that his analysis is not distorted.

 

Three other important elements for other types of influences; you have to know how to say NO, you have to be able to not let yourself be forced to do what you don’t want to do, even by someone close to you, and finally, you have to have the lucidity to know how to distinguish between what is an honest and objective argumentation to convince and what is manipulation

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Important: Not every thought or idea can be scientifically proven and one can adhere to an idea or concept because it makes sense or that it is well argumented, which does not make it true or false.

We will go into more detail on all these points.

Here are the instructions on how to overcome influence.

The issue is really freedom, freedom of thought.

It is this freedom of thought that will allow you to make choices that are truly yours. Who today can boast and prove that they always manage to do so?

This is all the more true in the age of social media, propaganda, marketing, disinformation, freelance journalists only motivated by the number of clicks their article title will generate.

Many websites articles deal with the question influence and manipulation under the angle of self-confidence, it is perfectly ridiculous and reductive.

To generate clicks and therefore money, whatever the subject, many bloggers are ready to tell you anything as long as their text includes the right keywords and makes a certain number of words determined to please Google and increase their presence on the web.

But quality is going down, because it is not really essential to get people talking about you. As seen on SEMRUSH, “according to studies, 59% of the content shared on social networks has not been viewed. This means that, often, a catchy title is enough to develop the visibility of your article.” This refers to an experience of the satirical website The Science Post, which published an article in lorem ipsum, without any content except the title, which was shared 50,000 times, as well as an article published in the Chicago Tribune which also mentions a scientific research born from a collaboration between “Columbia University and the French National Institute” that I could not find. If you are interested in the subject, you will find many studies which in their logic join what is said here, like time spent on the networks, maximum time of attention by stimuli and many other interesting topics on the new digital habits of the populations.

I only hope that the authors were interested in knowing if the fact that an individual had encountered too much fake news and too many fake or irrelevant articles in relation to their research had caused these behaviors or not?

This is why it is increasingly difficult to access reliable and relevant information the first time around on the Internet. Good information is mired in the middle of hundreds of bad, or false, articles that are just copied and pasted, rearranged, rewritten articles, and everyone posts their own take on a subject.

Sometimes, and I will publish an example in a short time, we can see pure and simple plagiarism, copying and pasting of paragraphs, chapters and even complete articles.

And don’t link this with the fake news phenomenon, because this one is to add to the “blogger” phenomenon.

The work of cross-checking sources is then all the more difficult. And this is where the first point aiming at questioning the quality and the legitimacy of the source represents the keystone of the system to set up to counter influence.

In my opinion, influence does not necessarily arise during the process of acquiring new beliefs or knowledge from a lack of self-confidence or self-assertion, but rather from a lack of critical thinking and ignorance. Let me explain, this lack of confidence can to some extent influence your willingness to go deeper, to question what you are told. For example, telling yourself that you are too stupid to understand something is probably the best way to stay that way. Who can claim nowadays to be knowledgeable in any field? Therefore, the ignorant who thinks he is too stupid to understand certain subjects will be able to believe the first person who comes along and be influenced, if he doesn’t go deeper, and integrate it as knowledge.

It is necessary here not to confuse belief with knowledge.

Here is a quick definition of belief taken from the Larousse dictionary: “To believe in the existence of someone or something”.

Here is now a definition of knowledge: “To be aware of something, to hold it or give it as true, real”.

Belief is not true, it is the fact of believing in something, which may have no connection with reality, or may not be demonstrable.

Knowledge is based on reality, often demonstrated by science, like a chemical reaction, for example. Ideally, it tends to be considered indisputable, although, of course, much scientific knowledge is challenged by new discoveries. Therefore, the state of knowledge is true only until proven otherwise, in certain fields and on certain subjects.

And yes, the concept of reality is dependent on everyone’s representations, but let’s not make it too complex.

This is why it is ultimately settled by questioning and verification, bridges that lead to knowledge. An action easier to carry out in the present and in the future than for a past action. Imagine the magnitude of the work to deconstruct everything that has influenced you since your birth to be what constitutes today your belief system and knowledge? We are therefore much more in a realistic action integrating a dynamic of analysis of the acquired knowledge in the present and the future, even if in a reconversion process, it is necessary to question certain received ideas and limiting beliefs.

It is not only in the form of advice, stories or articles whose information is accepted too quickly as fact, or truth, that it gets into our heads. It is also embedded through education, organizations, rules, norms and various processes that govern aspects of our lives and that we cannot necessarily fight: the grading system for learning and the resulting competition for the Nobel Prize are a striking example. Another striking and insidious image is the influence of a narcissistic pervert who, from the beginning of the relationship, influences his or her victim who is usually completely unaware of it and will find himself or herself accepting behaviors, remarks or doing things that he or she will think are inconceivable when he or she finally thinks about it later.

And the problem is not so simple, especially if we consider, and rightly so, since we come to it naturally, that there are good and bad influences. I have an article coming on that representation.

From a social point of view, for example, the common thought could consider that a “good” influence would be that of a friend who will draw a child towards civism or knowledge, rather than towards delinquency or ignorance.

Obviously, this will depend on one’s values, but there is no scale for rating or valuing influence, nor is there any tool to evaluate or quantify the nature of its impact.

Therefore, influence is a very pernicious phenomenon, which is impossible to totally identify and control, in its form and effects, and which can also depend on the conceptions of each person.

Therefore, the recipe to apply will be simple in appearance, but considering the complexity of the phenomenon, it will be costly in cerebral and temporal resources.

You were looking for a method to get rid of it and not for a deepening of the phenomenon and its effects. I will therefore stop here and devote a much longer article to this question at a later date, which will include some of the elements presented. You will find it on the blog.

Here are the two main principles to protect yourself from influence, which I suggest you implement, whatever its form or field of action:

The first principle is to question the expertise of the source.

First of all, it is not because an individual claims to be an expert or presents himself as an expert that he is one, but he certainly tries to make you believe it and therefore to influence you. I was recently reading an interview with a renowned scientist that struck me, and as he said so well, real experts do not present themselves as experts.

Expertise in my frame of reference is experience.

The terminology of “specialist” is different in my view, because I find that it specifies that you are “specialized” in a particular topic. I take it to mean specialization in a field.

Words matter, although it may simply be a matter of an individual’s amalgamation and not a lack of humility.

The Larousse dictionary considers that an expert is someone who knows something very well through practice and that a specialist is a person who has in-depth knowledge in a field and gives a second definition via an example: A doctor who devotes himself exclusively to a medical discipline, who exercises a specialty.

Specialist or expert, one must also be careful. A doctor and nutritionist can write a book on a new diet, a diet that will be criticized with valid points and argumentation by other doctors and nutritionists, who will probably also be specialists.

The word of a specialist does not offer any guarantee of truth a priori.

In such a context, defining whom to trust is not an easy undertaking and requires a lot of research time to really know what it is all about, and even that does not necessarily guarantee that what you choose to think is true or will be the closest to reality.

So how do you go about questioning the source’s expertise?

Simply take it one step at a time. Let’s say the topic is personal development and it’s a book about “letting go”.

A yoga specialist might be tempted, for whatever reason, to write a book on the subject, considering that opening one’s seven chakras is the best way to “let go”.

A psychologist specializing in the issues of irrational demands and anxiety, such as Albert Ellis, one of the fathers of behavioral and cognitive therapies (CBT), also deals with this issue of “letting go”.

Didier Pleux, author and doctor in developmental psychology, deals with “letting go” in his book “Expressing anger without losing control” (“Exprimer sa colère sans perdre le contrôle”).

We are in the presence of several angles of approach of this question which according to the sensitivities, previous knowledge or personal beliefs can have a particular echo and just as much interest!

Of these three books, which would be the source to be privileged according to you?

In which book are you most likely to find reliable information? Reliable in the sense of credible, not based on unverifiable beliefs, but based on professional experience and ideally scientifically validated.

This is not so obvious. Especially if one assumes that the chakra method can help some people to let go, in the long run, even if it cannot be scientifically proven. This is where we are faced, in this reasoning, with the question of the result linked to the appreciation of the influence but at that point we can’t evaluate any result as we are in the process of choosing whom to trust, so let’s move on, I’m deepening the question of the result in the article treating of the common misconception about good and bad influence.

I don’t know how to answer this question, but as far as I am concerned, being ignorant of the chakra question and considering a priori all this as autosuggestion, mental manipulation and as an unverifiable phenomenon, I would be tempted to prefer the other approaches especially given my profile. But if we only consider the actual results and if we imagine that Yoga would be able to be as efficient on the long term as the two other approaches for the individual who would choose this method, then it is another story. It is rather reductive, but in the end, would it not be only the result that counts in this context, even if it is based on an unfounded belief, if we admit that there are no real bad sides for the individual? We can draw a parallel here with the placebo effect.

The other two approaches of psychologists offer us theories based on their clinical observation and reflection on these issues, they offer an argument and a reasoning that makes sense, but it is not a scientific experimentation that undoubtedly supports their theory.

It’s a bit like trying to prove the Freudian theory of the Oedipus complex by experimentation! Good luck, especially since few analysts should be able to boast of having already clearly identified it in therapy. But that is another debate.

In any case, in the end, we are faced here with three theories, whatever their foundations are.

In such a case, it would surely be wise to study them all and put them into practice, one after the other. This could allow you, according to your test protocol, to determine which one really helped you, if there is only one.

Let’s take another example that might happen to you after you’ve done a little digging, on a topic that I have a better grasp of: career change. We’ll also be able to dig a little deeper.

On the one hand, we take the book on career change by an American author and speaker, Richard N. Bolles “What color is your parachute”, despite the fact that his work is based on the Riasec and that it is a heresy to adapt it to the orientation. You will find the details and explanation in my book “Overcoming Influence and Change”).

On the other hand, a multidisciplinary author like Joanna Penn, with her book “Career Change”.

It’s when you look at the expertise of the source, check out their education, their career and try to assess the a priori legitimacy of their ideas that you can better identify which book to choose.

Richard N. Bolles has sold 10,000,000 copies of his book worldwide, he says. If you delve deeper into the author’s education and professional experience, you will find that he has a bachelor’s degree in physics and a master’s degree in general theology. Nothing that can legitimize his speech on the level of orientation, it is difficult to define, in his training or his experience, what gives him the skills to explain to others how to find their way and what pushed him to do it.

Moreover, it is the same phenomenon with Simon Sinek who is above all a marketing professional and who encounter a crazy success with his career choice method “Start With Why” and “Find Your Why” whereas his concept has no basis and even presents a certain danger. I refer you here to my two articles on the subject that you will find in the blog.

In the personal development market or guidance, it is not expertise or specialization that allows your work to be highlighted.

Joanna Penn indicates in her bio on Amazon that she studied psychology without getting to a master’s degree, and also has a master’s degree in theology. She is a thriller writer and has written many books on various topics related to self-publishing for aspiring authors. In the midst of this, she has recently written a book on career change. She also wrote another book on artificial intelligence, blockchain and virtual worlds. Are these probably the most popular topics right now?

It is not necessary to go further for the moment.

Which author would you trust the most on the subject of career change?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your answer would probably be: N. Bolles, although ideally I would consider “none” as the most sensible answer.

We now move on to the second step which is to question the discourse.

Here is an example from my book mentioned above and I would like to point out that to give universal value to the research I will talk about given its nature, one would have to consider that the perception of life of Americans is in every way similar to that of all the other inhabitants of the planet and that it is also trans-generational and based on a sufficiently representative sample, something that I do not specify in my book:

Bolles, Richard N. What Color Is Your Parachute?” 2020 (p. 99) tells us about the following study to explain the fact that money does make you happy to some extent. This study was published in the American journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and it would seem to contradict the proverb that money does not make people happy. Conducted by Daniel Kahneman, winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2002, and his colleague from Princeton University, Angus Deaton, the study is entitled: High income improves evaluation of life but not emotional well-being. It focuses on the well-being of 450,000 Americans surveyed in 2008 and 2009 for the Gallup-Healthways index.

If we look at the title alone, the study talks about the impact on the evaluation of one’s life and not happiness!

Bolles gives us this analysis: “the less money they made, the more unhappy they tended to be, day after day. No surprise there. And, obviously, the more money they made, measured in terms of percentage improvement, the happier they tended to be, as measured by the frequency and intensity of moments of smiling, laughter, affection, and joy all day long, vs. moments of sadness, worry, and stress. So, money does buy happiness. But only up to a point.

So it reads word for word: ‘So money buys happiness. Up to a point.’

This has also been written in these terms in the press.

However, in the authors’ summary, we can read: ‘We conclude that high income buys life satisfaction but not happiness, and that low income is associated both with low life evaluation and low emotional well-being.’

Translation: We conclude that high income buys life satisfaction but not happiness, and that low income is associated with both low life evaluation and low emotional well-being.

This means that having a good salary increases your PERCEPTION of having a SATISFACTORY life, but NOT HAPPINESS.

We can also read in the summary of the study: ‘The question of whether “money buys happiness” comes up frequently in discussions of subjective well-being in both scholarly debates and casual conversation. The topic has been addressed in a vast and inconclusive research literature.

In other words, we have not yet been able to prove that there is a link between money and happiness.

And yet, it appears that this is so deeply rooted in our beliefs that even authors and books of the reputation of Bolles’ book, which in no way defines its quality, seemingly make this conclusion and thereby reinforce these beliefs.

And without a critical mind, without going to check the study by yourself, because this author seems to know what he’s talking about and is apparently smart enough to analyze those kinds of studies, you are fooled. Or at least, things are distorted, twisted differently.

Beyond the specious use of research to support one’s discourse and if one only studies the proposed method, only an advanced analysis of the book by N. Bolles and probably Penn (I have not read it) as well as a significant knowledge of the world of guidance and its methods would allow an individual interested in the subject or wishing to be helped, to identify that the work of N. Bolles or Penn poses some fundamental problems and that it would be better to choose another. I am referring here not only to the distorted use of scientific studies in the work of N. Bolles to support his discourse and his theories, but also to the complex scaffolding of his method, which is mainly based on the Riasec test (personality test at work allowing the dissociation of 6 types), which is particularly incomplete and influences the reflection, but above all has nothing to do with orientation in the sense that it should be considered, in my opinion: to make a choice of life based on self-knowledge, one’s priorities, the search for meaning and above all, I can never insist enough, without being influenced.

I think I can conclude now that it is necessary to have some prior knowledge on the subject to be able to determine the real relevance of an idea or concept, demonstration, conclusion, a book, a method or a theory and thus to make one’s own idea or a choice.

Having said that, those who are used to reading negative opinions on works in the first place, may already have some food for thought, although opinions do not always reflect the reality of a work and we all have our own conception and appreciate ‘quality’ differently.

However, we must not sweep aside all the contributions of multidisciplinary points of view. For example, it may be interesting for a philosopher or an anthropologist to look at this subject with a particular eye, but it would be more delicate to choose to follow a method of orientation that he would have decided to create.

There are unfounded beliefs that may not be harmful and others that may be, especially in matters of orientation, career choice or life choice. This is why you need to be particularly vigilant.

Therefore, research in depth the different elements identified, ideally via scientific studies, paying attention to their financing, because we are all aware, since the lawsuit against the tobacco companies, of the procedures to discredit serious studies by producing other scientific studies explaining the opposite in order to sow doubt.

Influencing by sowing doubt is the best way of discrediting and manufacturing ignorance.

This is why, when some people don’t know what to think about certain issues such as vaccination, pesticides, nitrites, alcohol or tobacco, they may be led to think or say: ‘Oh, we have to die of something! And sometimes even in introduction: “Oh, we have to be careful with so many things nowadays, we have to live!

This plurality of information, theories, concepts, ideas, beliefs, norms, etc. requires a considerable amount of time and energy to make an exhaustive inventory and to make up one’s mind.

On some subjects, specialists clash and do studies from different angles and have different results that they analyze in different ways. I am thinking of psychologists who are doing research on the causes of the increase in suicide rates among young people in the United States and in European countries and who correlate them with the increase in the use of social media, in particular… Some people see a reality where others doubt with the help of statistics and other studies.

It is not uncommon for thinkers, philosophers, psychologists, anthropologists and scientists from all walks of life not to reach a consensus.

In conclusion, you must accept that uncertainty on some subjects is wiser than foolish belief and that nothing is truly demonstrable or 100% certain.

Knowledge can help you master influence.

In order to form an idea that is as far away from beliefs as possible and as close as possible to reality as our civilization understands it today, it is necessary:

  • identify and question biased reasoning or references based on beliefs,
  • the basis of the advice that will be given to you,
  • to question the frame of reference, norms and stereotypes,
  • question the quotes with nebulous interpretation in support of the argument,
  • not to be fooled by convincing sophisms,

In short, it is a question of finding our freedom of thought, freed as much as possible from the inevitable compartmentalization imposed by our education, our society and our conditioning.

In summary and to better remember:

  • is the source safe, what makes it safe? I research and validate.
  • I question everything and I try to cross-reference the information with other sources. I check the validity of the basis of what I am told.

 

 

This also works in a discussion with someone who is trying to explain something to you, or even tell you a story, but be careful, not everyone likes to be questioned and I would even say that according to Dale Carnegie, this is not the best way to make friends. I make a difference here between friends and buddies, friends being those to whom one should be able to tell everything and also to criticize the thought. 

After all, beyond the search for comfort, isn’t it in the exchange and constructive criticism that the world advances and that intelligence progresses?

 

Let’s move forward together!