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Welcome to Philippe Vivier's Blog. The publication of my books on the guidance business and my self-coaching manuals led me in 2020 to finally regroup my editorial content within a Blog, you will be able to find all my news, my latest articles, my essays, my publications as well as my latest interviews in the press.

With the humility and logic that are mine, I attempt a quick, deliberately simplified and popularized critique of the ideas, concepts and theories that I encounter in the field of my specialty. I encourage you to be equally critical of mine. Constructive exchange is a formidable gas pedal of thought, especially when it is based on argumentation.

The difference between influence and manipulation and the reasons for these behaviors

I am often astonished by the way these terms are used, whether in articles by bloggers or vloggers of varying quality, or in the literature and research in social psychology and clinical psychology, particularly the very trendy one on narcissism, whether it be the question of narcissistic personality or narcissistic perversion disorder.

This misunderstanding in the use of these terms led me to wonder.

Of course, there is an etymological difference between the two terms, but that is not the subject here.

In my opinion, we must focus on the meaning of these words, since they are used as a qualifier for an action.

For the Larousse dictionary, influence is the fact of an “Action, generally continuous, that something exerts on something or someone” and manipulation would be the “Action of directing the conduct of someone, of a group in the direction that one wishes and without them realizing it”.

This would imply that the fundamental difference between influence and manipulation is that the victim be or become aware of it.

Context would therefore also seem to play a role in being able to identify influence or manipulation through the examples offered: an example of political manipulation in one case, and television influencing youth in another.

Concepts that are intermingled in the collection of expressions using the term influence, we find; “subjected to a manipulation of ideological, psychological order.” Moreover, the use of the term “ideological” also refers to politics, which is in the collective unconscious undoubtedly correlated to manipulation.

In the case of the Larousse, the supposed boundary between the meanings of the two terms becomes tenuous if it still exists at all.

It is worth noting that the Petit Robert dictionary does not make this distinction.

I consider this distinction to be totally without logic, since there are many situations where one influences the other without them realizing it.

What about the influence of the sounds and sensations felt when the fetus is in the womb and which participate in the elaboration of its construction?

What to think of a first-grade teacher who, in order to ensure the motivation and investment of her students, introduces a system of good points for each good answer or good behavior, thus beginning the construction of the scaffolding and conditioning by preparing the future implementation of the grading system of school productions in order to support the competition, which will become the poor and surely never questioned engine of the motivation of the students during their entire studies.

Here we are in cases where the victim is not aware of it and is not conscious of it. Is it then a question of manipulation?

Given the examples you should be shocked at the use of the term manipulation to describe the source's action.

The dimension of the source's will is not addressed, although to some extent it is important. That said, the source may want to consciously influence or manipulate a victim, so this cannot be a distinguishing criterion.

It seems difficult to make the distinction between these two terms stand on this notion of consciousness alone, but if one is shocked at the idea of using the term manipulation in these examples, we may have put our finger on the problem.

Wouldn't the difference simply reside at the level of the representation and the subjective and suggestive projection of the word rather than at the level of the meaning?

Influence has an image of lightness, almost sometimes a component of “ignorability”, when manipulation has that “je ne sais quoi” of intolerability.

And it is perhaps here that the question of the etymology of the two words could be interesting in order to understand what in our history has made the word “manipulation” go over to the dark side. After all, we can quickly find an example since it is the one that was used to characterize the effects of Nazi propaganda on the German people, for example.

In both cases, it is an action on someone to ensure that something develops in a certain way, to generate something or a change and mainly (if not only) a behavior, even if it goes through different phases upstream, such as a change of idea.

Let me explain: when you want to trigger or change a behavior, advertisers or mass-marketing thinkers usually try to act on thoughts and opinions, which is why we talk about public opinion or “thought-provoking”, an important data for politicians. History has shown us that these processes can be effective. However, and it is funny to point this out, recent research in social psychology shows that this is not the most effective method, the one that will provoke change in the greatest number of people. Instead, it seems that the best way to change behavior is to “lead by example”, to show what others are already doing or thinking. Where possible, creating a competition would also work well. The behavior we seek to generate through mimicry, the desire not to be the last, or the desire to belong to the group will do the rest, to name just three processes.

One interesting example: a hospital was struggling to get its nurses to wash their hands when entering and leaving each room. So, they put up counters all over the place, counting the number of times everyone washed their hands and creating and showing rankings. The frequency of handwashing exploded, to the benefit of all patients.

The mere fact of giving information, whether it is “wash your hands every time to avoid spreading diseases in the hospital” or of the type “we must recycle, because it is better for the environment, the planet that we will leave to our children” is not enough to generate behaviors in a large number of people or to modify them. On the other hand, it would have been demonstrated (I don't have the source of the study) that it would be enough to display an Olympic medalist sorting his waste as an advertisement for the craze for “selective sorting” to increase massively, whereas the only information (stated above) would have a very weak impact.

If we try to change someone's mind, it is not simply for the beauty of the gesture or an all-consuming altruism in the best of cases, we generally have an interest in it, which, of course, goes beyond politics and is expressed in our daily lives.

It is this interest, the motor that pushes, naturally or not, instinctively or not, consciously or not, to influence others, regardless of the nature of the underlying intention.

It may be a need to control one's environment, to bend the other to the rules of our education, to feel listened to, to reassure oneself or to convince oneself that one is right, and this may go as far as generating a banal or important change in behavior: that the other person ends up thinking like us on a certain subject or that he stops leaving something lying around, that he shows us attention or a certain expected respect, or that he corresponds better to the image that we want to make of him or that we project on him. The motivations can be numerous as well as the expected changes in behavior varied.

The individual uses different techniques and some are more or less gifted, but that is not the point.

These examples obviously only concern daily life, however, whatever the context, the relationship is the same, the individual tries to influence or manipulate someone to satisfy himself.

Moreover, in both the private and public spheres, when this attempt fails, it can lead to conflict

These conflicts are an indicator and a confirmation of self-interested action, because we do not enter into conflict over things that do not affect us, have no stake in them, or are not important to us.

If we assume that the process of influence or manipulation has the same origin linked to the satisfaction of an individual or a group, the same action and a similar type of finality, then the two words designate the same thing.

The only difference between the words “influence” and “manipulation” then only exists in the collective unconscious, itself influenced by history, and the connotation of the referentials of the types of unacceptable behaviors to which the word “manipulation” can be associated, seeming to create a difference in the gravity of the process. It is as if there were a fusion between the acts that the process sought to promote and the process itself. However, the type of effects that these two words are used to describe are identical and in any case cannot be calibrated or differentiated on the notion of severity of the effects, which is perfectly subjective and often impossible to determine with accuracy.

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Being comfortable with your Coach is not that important!

All coaches and therapists are subject to the vagaries of their clients' lives and to the fact that they sometimes drop out because of discomfort, whatever term is used. In the context of coaching, this is much less important, in my opinion, than the general discourse based on the principles of therapy, as taught to all apprentice coaches in training schools, and which consists in indicating that it is essential, which logically leads to the emergence of discourse suggesting that one should not take on coaching when one does not "feel" able to do so with regard to one's own shadow areas, etc. This implies that the coach would know his shadow areas that he would have explored in therapy beforehand, which is generally not the case. This can also be explained simply by the diversity of profiles that register for coaching training without any prior knowledge of psychology or therapy methods. It is a question of making this public conceptualize the commercial relationship particularity that unites a practitioner with his client, which is quite different from the one that a salesman at the wallmart might have with his client.
It is thus a question here of discussing the principle that I myself have put forward from the beginning in the introductory texts present on my website, without very detailed explanation, aiming at explaining that it was important to have a good "feeling" with one's coach. I have decided for this article to focus on what is necessary without being unnecessarily exhaustive.

Definition of the concept of "having a good feeling" or "being at ease"



When we talk about being comfortable with our coach or therapist, it is primarily a term that means we feel good about being in the same room or in the relationship with each other. "Having a good feeling" is a particularly fuzzy notion, but also subjective. It also means that an alliance (the creation of a bond between two people) has been created with the other based on both concrete elements and your perceptions. I consider that this alliance is the first phase that can allow you to get out of the trust granted a priori so that this trust can then develop. Trust is the stake of this interaction, without which the accompaniment could be complicated. Indeed, you will find it difficult to reflect or open up if you do not trust the other person. And trust is not born as is, it is established at a certain level from the start and grows or diminishes according to the relationship with the other person, which is also why we say in popular language that trust is earned or lost.

It is therefore not possible to clearly define for everyone, for the purpose of normalization, a standard value and a single representation of what "having a good feeling" is.

But then what are the concrete and subjective elements that allow us to determine in an emotional and reasoned way that we feel comfortable or not with someone?

What is the basis for the perception of being comfortable with the other person?



This is directly linked to the image that the other person sends back and the perception that we have of them. I consider that at the beginning of the relationship this alliance cannot be established without at least these two parameters, trust which is essential and the evaluation of the personality. Of course the perception of the feeling of being at ease with the other person is established by the brain taking into account many other conscious and unconscious elements, cognitive biases, elements of the context and even the environment, but to simplify things within the framework of a coaching where the client participates in his first session with the coach he has chosen, I will concentrate on these two essential elements according to me.

Trust
Of course, we all form an impression of someone and this directly influences the establishment of the relationship. Coaching is a relationship where the client must have a minimum of confidence in the coach's ability to help him/her, without having confidence in the coach's professionalism or approach, it seems complicated to conduct the work.
Someone can have a good feeling because he considers the coach as competent for a whole set of reasons resulting from the evaluation of his profile, his texts, the relevance of his explanations, the adhesion to his possible theories or what he presents as being in the center of his concerns in the accompaniment that he proposes and of the preliminary discussion that he could have with him which will create the union because of the feeling of ideological adhesion generated, whereas another person who may not have done this type of evaluation will be more sensitive during the first work session to the tone of voice, the facial expressions, the nature of the speech, the conduct of the interview, the type or difficulty felt when faced with the questioning proposed, the exercises defined, the degree of support perceived, the degree or type of help received in relation to his initial expectations and many other parameters mixed with these elements which are linked to the perceived personality, as we will see.


Personality

This is a subjective notion, taking into account the experience of each person and our representations. We are naturally more attentive to certain traits or external elements that will allow us to form an idea of someone:

  • His presentation
  • His outfit
  • His vocabulary
  • His gestures
  • His posture
  • The turn of phrase of his sentences
  • The tone he uses
  • The level of nonchalance or casualness
  • The sound level of his speech
  • The way he tries to impose himself on the other
  • The impression made by his non-verbal communication
  • Etc.

Due to the nature of our experiences, some people will have difficulty creating an alliance with someone who speaks loudly, while others will be rather destabilized by a certain nonchalance. Personnally, I am sensitive to the rate of speech and an artificially calm tone, I take it as an attempt of seduction which puts me on the defensive immediately. I am particularly sensitive to naturalness, I have to perceive the other as "real".
All this is subjective.

Manipulation of client representations



Appearances can be deceiving to give you the illusion of alliance, caring and empathy.

I remember young coaches who during training exercises, to foster alliance, as I introduced above, would adopt a serene tone, an unnaturally slow pace of speech, and honeyed accents to appear soothing, listening, and empathetic. These exercises were not an integral part of the teaching, but many participants engaged in them to project an image of competence and sensitivity to the practice of coaching. I have always found this particularly ridiculous and also consider it an influence technique. An influence technique directed towards the trainer to show him that one is legitimate in the role of coach, and later towards one's client to send back a certain image.
In our world, someone who is zen, in a position of knowledge, who speaks calmly to us, will certainly seduce many people and artificially create the impression in the other person that they are at ease. There are many examples of this in the world of personal development. If you have read my articles on influence or some of the books on the subject, remember that the packaging of the speech (the tone, the wording, the repetition, etc.) often has a greater impact than the speech itself, which allows a silly, unfounded concept without any argumentation to be passed off as true and to win support.

It is possible to influence you in many ways so that you feel that you are in "communion" with the other person, that he understands you, that he calms you down, and sometimes that he brings you something more than what you came for, without this meaning that you are, according to your own criteria, really comfortable with this person.

Besides, you have never asked yourself on what you judge this, it is only a perception and a diffuse feeling on which you have never really questioned yourself and which you naturally trust. It is therefore particularly easy to play on your perceptions as opposed to something that would be based on tangible observables, facts. We are in the "he is "like this" or "like that"...", and remember how capable you are of being in a similar register, by displaying a facade self, a representation personality that you assume according to the people or groups you meet and how, in front of people you don't like, you know very well how to make an illusion.

Trying above all to get a good feeling with your coach can lead to a problem.



According to many studies in social psychology on influence techniques (I invite you to do some related research), individuals tends to trust more someone close to them. This feeling of closeness can be influenced by certain techniques as I discussed very briefly above.
A small example: just touching someone else's arm for a moment while talking to them increases their trust in you! In fact, studies show that they will be more likely to respond positively to your request, certainly because they feel closer to you and behave as if it could harm the relationship to say "no" to you. After all, it is clear that it is easier to say "no" to a complete stranger than to a neighbor, even if you don't meet him/her often, for whatever reasons that do not interest us, we are only discussing the phenomenon here. There are many others of this type that I invite you to explore in the literature on the subject of influence.

Over the duration of the coaching, it is the snowball effect, i.e. the more you feel at ease and the closer you feel to the coach, the more you will trust him. You will then be more likely to let your guard down and be influenced if the coach is not vigilant in his accompaniment or aware of the problems of influence or conscious and vigilant with regard to his position of omnipotence, in particular. It is a question here, as if we could separate the two aspects of the development of confidence mentioned, even if there are others, of the emotional component of confidence and not of the component based on the evaluation of the profile and ideas.

This brings us back to the importance of defining beforehand the level of trust one has with the coach based on his writings, his ideas and the explanations or justifications he proposes for the methods he uses in order to ensure that one is not entirely a slave to his emotions which can be manipulated.

Conclusion: autonomy and coach investment



In coaching, because of the length and nature of the exchanges, I think it is most important to have a sense of trust, a trust that is based on facts and not just impressions. It is not really a question of looking for a symbiosis or a transfer to make the process work.

For me, the main driving force behind the success of coaching is above all trust and the quality and personalization of the support, not the alliance.
It is essential to feel the real investment of the coach, the consideration of what you bring, naturally, and that the coach is not simply running his accompaniment as usual. If you don't feel any personalization, that what you say doesn't lead to a specific deepening and that finally, if it was someone else in your place, it would happen exactly the same way, then there is a problem.

In coaching, even more than in psychology, since it is an unregulated profession where your neighbor, a baker by profession, can become a life coach without any training, it is essential, I repeat, to have confidence in your coach beforehand by evaluating his profile, his training and his ideas.

There is also the argument of autonomy which should be the concern of all professional coaches. In the framework of a coaching, you are not in a long term accompaniment during which you rely on the coach, this one should not last more than a few months and if it lasts, it is either that you are accompanied for a very specific problem requiring a long accompaniment, or that the coach who accompanies you is less interested in your autonomy than in his daily income.

In the context of this autonomy, the question of alliance should take a back seat. Indeed, one is always more autonomous when one is not attached to someone.

Therefore, as coaching is in its essence, supposed to be a short and empowering action, I consider that it is not necessarily judicious to base its selection criteria on the bond and that it is better to focus on the objective and the analysis of the best means to reach it, in short, on what is concretely proposed as a method by the coach.

Remember that coaching should be primarily based on your own resources. It should not be the coach who thinks, does all the work and gives you solutions to apply, this also goes against the autonomy sought.

You must feel that you are the one answering neutral questions and that the solutions proposed, even if they do not always come directly from you, seem to correspond logically to the discussion, the elements discussed and the reflection.

I am convinced that being at ease with one's coach in the sense that it is generally understood in a helping relationship does not have the capital importance that it is assumed to have and can even go against the interest of the client, especially if this alliance is manipulated and if it alters the preservation of his autonomy.

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How to know if an influence is good or bad?

Influence could be good or bad, positive or negative? A notion that is more a matter of common conception than of scientific reality, even if social psychology has taken an interest in it.

It is not necessary to question whether it is fair to consider that there can be negative influences when referring to trauma, alienation or indoctrination, to mention only some of its most telling forms. The whole point of this article is to see if we could, by argumentation, manage to define whether influence can be beneficial in a general way, according to the context, in all honesty and intellectual vigilance.

More simply, can we talk about good influence? Does a good influence exist? If a good influence exists, to what extent is it identifiable and what makes it possible to define that it is universally and unmistakably good in all its effects?

Can all these questions be answered a priori? Let’s try.

The question of whether some influences are less harmful than others in their effects is not one, that is quite clear. Whether it is in a similar context or not.

We can use as an example the case of a friend’s advice in a similar context of buying a car and the case of two subjects with different contexts.

The context of buying a car, where you tell a friend, assuming that you would be likely to follow the advice given and thus be influenced:

You have two children aged 12 and 14, your spouse’s car is a city car, your family’s outdoor activities are surfing and mountain biking, and the average distance you travel each year is 20,000 km, mainly national roads and highways.

A first friend might consider your situation and advise you to take a small truck.

Another friend might advise you, for a similar budget, taking into account his own desire or the representation he has of a good car, as it happens so often, to direct you towards a sportier model, such as a sports coupe.

If we analyze the effects of this advice from a purely practical point of view, as it is possible to analyze it from many angles, then, if we assume that vacation trips and outdoor activities will be more complicated, we can simply conclude here that there is one influence that can cause more problems than the other, a priori: the advice proposing him a sports coupe.

It is possible in this situation to take another point of view, that of “driving pleasure”, which is highly subjective, but the idea here is to remain on the surface of the question of representations, so in this case the most harmful advice would be the opposite of the previous one: the advice proposing the family break.

You may object that in this example, many elements of the context and the criteria of choice have been put aside to judge the nature of the influence and you would be perfectly right.

We can also conclude something else: to try to evaluate the effects of the influence it is necessary to make a lot of postulates which makes any conclusion naturally highly conditional.

In the case of two subjects with different contexts now, let’s take up simple everyday examples:

A friend will advise you on the make and model of TV you should buy, as he is supposed to know better.

Another friend will advise you on the choice of a psychologist to find solutions to your relationship problems, because he has heard good things about this professional.

Please note that I place influencers in the position of supposedly knowing subjects (authority status), which gives them a superior power of influence, this has been demonstrated by social psychology. This is called the “authority of the source” for those who would like to do further research.

The advice that is potentially the most harmful in its effects will, of course, be that of the psychologist, because after all if you choose the wrong television set, you will certainly be annoyed by a few odds and ends, but the profound impact on your life will be less than if you choose to put your married life in the hands of a bad psychologist.

I repeat, we are evaluating the potential seriousness of the problems that could arise by following one or other of these advice.

As we have just seen, it is clear that there are influences that are less harmful than others. But is there such a thing as a good influence and can we define what it is?

The problem is not so simple, because how to define that an influence is good, what are its characteristics and in whose eyes is it good?

As I introduced in another article, if we take the problem from the social point of view, the common thought could consider that a “good” influence would be the one of a friend who is going to pull a student towards civism or knowledge, rather than towards delinquency or ignorance.

At first glance, it is easy to agree that this example is a good influence, because it is assumed that it has no apparent bad side.

Obviously, this will depend on the values and representations of each person, but there is no scale for rating or valuing influence, nor any tool for evaluating or quantifying the nature of its impact. Social psychology construct experiments, of course, but these are based on specific subjects and on the perception of individuals.

It is therefore in the deepening of the level of detail of its potential effects that we will be able to have a more precise representation of it, although we will try to make abstraction of the fact that it depends on the representations of each one. From a general point of view, of course. In short, I will try to simplify without distorting the reasoning. It’s up to you to consider if I succeed.

Let’s explore the question of civility and knowledge globally to assess, a priori, whether pulling a child toward them could be considered a “good” influence:

So I will try to use an example that shows the opposite.

Aren’t there beings with great knowledge and quality civic education transmitted by school and family who ended up inventing and developing weapons of mass destruction like the atomic bomb?

Aren’t there other beings who have decided to use them?

I think we can assume that high-ranking military officers or a president, have received a civic education and undoubtedly have a high level of training and knowledge necessary to achieve these functions where there are very few elected.

We can also project onto these individuals values, a strong sense of morality and everything else we imagine they should possess.

I am simply trying to support my point and one should not confuse knowledge and civic-mindedness with intelligence and humanity.

From this, I deduce that it’s important to have a clear understanding of what a word mean but also that a difference must be made between the perception of something from a general point of view and the reality of a specific potential or actual situation.

In other words, what in appearance, civic-mindedness and knowledge, may as well be a bit quickly considered as a good influence, may later turn out to have been more harmful than becoming a local petty criminal or even a murderer. Especially if one refers to the concept so often treated in American films of “greater good”, which can justify everything (the collective good, the concern for what is beneficial to the greatest number). In this case, I specify it, because it is indeed the military and an American president that we are talking about in our example. But I could have chosen other examples in history from any other country in the world. To go further, this is still the case, even if we compare a serial murderer to the effects of an atomic bomb dropped on a city! And I do not support any argument that what happens in wartime is justified by the context, it would be like trying to justify the exactions of the church at the time when it sought by all means to impose the one god in a way that went against its action and the beliefs and values it sought to promote. There is in both of these examples a profoundly unsustainable and senseless justification for action.

In conclusion, I consider that to define in part whether an influence is good or bad, this cannot be done a priori, but only by appreciating both the context and the finality. The finality being here the moment when it will be possible for the individual to consider in fact that his action, born from this initial influence, by being able to isolate it in the continuum of his life, is beneficial or harmful for himself or for the others in an unmistakable way. In an ideal situation where the individual does not have a biased representation of reality.

We can take another example related to orientation. At some point, I have to put the debate in the context of my specialty. A head teacher advises a student to choose a path and he finds a profession in which he enjoys his whole life, without questioning or doubting. This individual deeply believes that he is fulfilled and that he has had the best possible professional life. Even if he is not aware that, given his personality, priorities, values and what makes sense to him, he could have been even more fulfilled in another profession, this has no impact on him, since he bases his feelings and his perception of his existence only on what he knows.

Therefore, we come back to the simple concept that what you don’t know won’t hurt you.

The same is true if the individual is blind to the fact that he believes that he is happy in his job when he’s not, not seeing all the external signs that could lead him to question his representations and feelings. Whether or not the individual’s representations are well founded and as close as possible to reality as it is and not as it is perceived does not change his feeling of having chosen the right job and being happy. In this context, the words representation, feeling, perception are interchangeable.

I am speaking here of a “strict” or ideal reality, the reality of fact, for example that the sky is blue or that fir trees are green. I am not talking about the concept of reality from the point of view of psychology and social psychology in particular, where reality is considered as a representation of the individual, implying, to simplify, that there are several realities.

We can create the link here with employees who are victims of max out in the sense that they are not aware of the lack of meaning in their work, have a distorted perception of reality and consider themselves happy and fulfilled, and where their feeling of fulfillment is only a psychological defense process. I only offer you a very brief description of this syndrome and I refer you to my dedicated article on this syndrome for a more complete description.

To return to the student who was influenced in his career choice, I therefore consider that I can conclude that for him, in the end, the influence of his main teacher was a good influence, since it is the representation that he has of it. For others, with more elements concerning his personality and a precise hypothetical life plan of another professional activity and with objective observation criteria, it could be that they consider that it was a bad influence. We fall into the diversity of points of view to evaluate an influence, that of the individual himself and that of the others, whatever their group.

Even if a panel of judges were able to extrapolate a realistic picture of what his life might have been like, his accomplishments, his joys, quantify his fulfillment, and determine with certainty that another job might have made him more … that would not in fact make it a bad influence to begin with.

That said, it is above all the perceptions of the individual that interest us, if we consider that he does not know and cannot take into account the perception that others have of him, his life and his work, and that this does not therefore have any influence on him.

In this example of career choice, only the individual can, in my opinion, define whether an influence is “good” or “bad” for him and can only be considered by comparing, in the long run, once its effects are definitive, two situations, two life paths, one of which is hypothetical, and the two perceptions that he has of them the first situation is the result of the identified influence, the second hypothetical, which would be the product of another influence or of an absence of influence. Given these elements, this is impossible.

I conclude that an influence can only be evaluated by its victim, if he is aware of it and if his representations of the effects of this influence are inscribed in a strict reality and via a process that he cannot implement and that cannot have in all its aspects foundations in reality.

In other words, it is perfectly incoherent to try to qualify an influence as good or bad.

After a quick search, I could not find in the literature or on the Internet any precise and really relevant elements on the question. It appears that it is commonly accepted to consider that an influence is good or bad without evaluating its long-term effects, without any temporal dimension and without any further investigation, as if one could be satisfied with a quick, fuzzy, subjective and meaningless representation.

When we detect and identify it, we judge a priori what influences us or could influence the other by quickly qualifying it according to our own representations. Representations biased by our idea of reality.

I first found some elements about good and bad influence on a personal development website, which does not make it a very serious approach, we will see. I also found a social science research that I will present next.

Since it is freely available to anyone who will do some research on the subject it is important to mention it, here is an example of a reflection on the good and bad influence of the site “penser et agir” (“think and act”) https://www.penser-et-agir.fr/se-faire-influencer/ a search like “how not to be influenced” (I did mine in French) in your search engine will offer you many others in the same genre. I will use a very small excerpt that will be quite sufficient.

First of all, here is how the author of the site introduces himself, this is a translation: “After obtaining my master’s degree in Science at the University of Nantes in 2009, I worked for 4 years as a design engineer for the biggest French names in aerospace, nuclear and military. In February 2012, as I no longer find any meaning in my job, I created Penser et Agir. This is how I reconnect with my passions: psychology, personal development and entrepreneurship. I adapted to psychology and personal development the logic and structure of reasoning that I had acquired as a study engineer to create my own approach: personal development through action. Today, think and act is more than 100,000 visitors per month, more than 150,000 newsletter subscribers and more than 3,000 people who have already trusted me by following my online programs.”

Before offering you the excerpt from the site, I will need to introduce the author Dale Carnegie who wrote “Public Speaking and Influencing Men in Business” a few decades ago and republished under its current title “How to Make Friends and Influence People” in 1936, since the article mentions it. So much for how things have changed since it was written. It’s a book originally written to motivate salespeople and managers, and you can feel it since that’s the context of most of the examples. We can find analyses, such as the one in Wikipedia, which states that his methods try to bring out “intentional sincerity”, I don’t agree on this point, but it would take too long to go into it in this article.

So this is what it says on the website, it is once again a translation, and yes it’s a good one, if you feel it’s poorly written or nonsense, I can assure you that this is the right translation of the original text:

“First, the Carnegie Method suggests banning criticism and blame among friends. Humans are naturally resistant to criticism, and instinctively shy away from those who want to influence them by criticism, blame or reproach. By following this rule of the Carnegie Method, you will easily make good friends who will influence you for the better.

The second phase of the Carnegie Method is honest and sincere praise. Friends who praise and encourage push others to do the same. As long as you are known to be sincere in your praise, you will easily make good friends. This Carnegie method works every time, even on those with a defeatist mindset. So take advantage of it, and praise like crazy.

The third tip of the Carnegie method is to motivate others when you want them to act in a certain way. To influence, don’t be like the blackmailers and narcissistic followers. Instead, motivate. Show the other person that they can do what you suggest, and they will be happy to do it. This is the only way to positively influence a person.”

Paragraph title: “Thinking differently to avoid being influenced

“Here’s a truth you may not know: both bad and good influences attract each other.

When you tend to make friends who can be influenced, you have to ask yourself these questions:

    Why are there so many of them around me?

    Could it be because I myself tend to influence others negatively?

    To avoid being influenced, should I influence others for the better?

Lesson? Chances are that those who influence you are also more or less influenced by you. To stop letting yourself be manipulated, is therefore to start in some cases by avoiding influencing others negatively. Here’s one way to cultivate positive thoughts with music.”

Here is the downloadable pdf of the webpage from Penser et Agir

There is really something to say about influence, in the text, in every sentence, but I think you will have understood that it would be a rather vain enterprise. It is unfortunately symptomatic of what you constantly encounter on the web and in some books.

I think this is a striking example where the content, the articulation, the lack of argumentation and logic of the discourse shows how important it is to develop a critical mind to counter the constant influence we face. I am doubtful when I think that this type of content can be read by 100,000 visitors per month and more than 150,000 subscribers to the newsletter. So, of course, some (many) are not fooled and their radar must have alerted them many times when reading the excerpt which for the time being is a real gold mine.

To stay on the issue of good and bad influence, I will extract elements from the excerpt that relate solely to this topic.

I must confess that before I begin, I have the feeling that texts of this type, given to the minds in this way, could make the most serious of the convinced give up on the importance of his action.

The freedom of speech seems obvious, but we can see here the real problem and the dark side of the concept, especially when we make the parallel with the “noise or fog of information” represented by the plurality of sources and articles on the same subject, all more futile than the others and which bury the quality articles.

Superficial critique of the article excerpt:

“you will easily make good friends who will influence you for good.”

The terms “good friends” and “will influence for good” are subjective and should be defined, detailed and argued. In this form, it makes no sense and does not allow us to understand what he means by “influence for good”.

“Instead, motivate. Show the other person that they can do what you suggest, and they will be happy to do it. This is the only way to positively influence a person.”

The fact that the other person thinks that we are capable of doing what he or she asks of us is enough to make us want to do it. This is a distortion of what Carnegie explains in his book, which is in reality a method of manipulating employees to get them back to doing their jobs well, without creating conflict or problems.

What is stated is questionable in itself and in this form, it is false. If my wife asks me to do the dishes and explains that I can do them or even compliment me on all the aspects of my technique that make me a professional dishwasher in order to make me feel good about myself and to give me the desire to consolidate my reputation, it will not make me want to do them.

We need to be aware of a very important distinction, which most readers may not make. Professional and personal context cannot be amalgamated, the setting, context and power relationship among other things are quite different. And on the other hand, manipulation/influence does not work every time. This is a hazardous generalization.

Then, it would be necessary to explain how this influence is positive, I would appreciate a demonstration.

Another seemingly peremptory statement: “the only way”.

To assert such a thing cannot be without argumentation.

Let’s move on to the next sentence: “Here’s a truth you may not know: both bad and good influences attract each other.”

For the author it is a truth: Bad and good influences attract one another! Perhaps it would be necessary to develop and argue such a statement.

And I would end with this last excerpt:

“To stop letting yourself be manipulated, is therefore to start in some cases by avoiding influencing others negatively.”

Beyond my problems of understanding this sentence whether taken in context or not, we don’t know what “negatively influencing others” is, for the author.

To conclude briefly on these excerpts, I do not understand how the author can conceptualize such a debauchery of assertions, which in this form have no logical link between them that is clarified, without explaining himself. We are no further ahead on the question of good and bad influence and how to identify them.

I invite you now, if you have not already done so, to read my article on influence “5 simple steps to protect yourself from influence” which goes into the importance of questioning the legitimacy of the source and its discourse.

The problem here is that many will understand his speech by projection and echo with their own experience, for example, and these elements will unfortunately sometimes be adopted as new beliefs without further investigation.

We now need to delve deeper into the question of how our representations influence and shape our quick opinions about whether they are good or bad.

Let’s move on to the social science experimentation on the issue of influence and their representations: : Les relations d’influence et leurs représentations, Stéphane Laurens, in the Revue européenne des sciences sociales, 2014/2 (52-2) that you can read on this page.

Here is the author’s summary of the research (this is a translation): “The analysis of 238 descriptions of influence situations (collected during 18 semi-structured interviews) allows us to describe the link between the positive versus negative effects attributed to influence and the nature of the influence relationship. Our results indicate that influence is described as having negative effects when the source is unknown or distant. Conversely, in situations described as experienced by our informants, or when the source is close, the effects of influence are positive. It seems that in the representations of our informants, the possibility of establishing a reciprocal relationship would be linked to positive effects of influence (or negative in case of asymmetrical influence).”

It is really important to understand that an individual’s perception of a thing does not reflect its reality. On the other hand, this thing is real, for him. It is therefore a research in social psychology on the perception that people have of good or bad influence, which are common qualitative evaluation terms. It is not really a question of being able to define what a good or bad influence is and how to verify it, but only to define the perception that an individual has of an influence and in what way this one is rather positive or negative depending on the source. This study therefore does not seek to determine what would allow us to define what a good or bad influence is or if it is even possible to use such a qualification. The reality of this qualification is therefore implicitly validated in this research.

Study population:

“18 semi-structured interviews (about 1.5 hours long) with 9 men and 8 women (teacher, journalist, computer scientist, salesman, retiree, students, police officer, publisher, administration employee, leisure facility manager, mechanic worker, unemployed)”

Is this a sufficiently representative sample?

Let’s quickly look at the results:

  • 1) Participants contrast good and bad influence, out of context, and this forms the basis of their thinking.
  • 2) “Effects are generally assessed from the consequences of the influence on the person influenced.”
  • 3) “Sometimes it is from the intention (for example altruistic or selfish) of the one who exerts an influence that the effect produced is evaluated.”
  • 4) This evaluation starts the reflection, but does not appear anymore when we enter the description of the influence situations.

Participants are usually in a position of being influenced.

Experienced influence tends to be evaluated positively. Non-experienced situations are rated as negative by 71%.

The negative influences mentioned only concern sects, media, politics and religion, however, rarely experienced in general.

Regarding positive influences:

The effects of influence are always described positively among friends, and very often positively in the family (87.5%) and education (83.3%).

According to the participants, certain positive influences lead to the socialization and internalization of group norms. They come from people with a higher status, recognized as competent, experienced and applied on less competent or experienced people allowing to train them. Finally, in these areas, participants regularly emphasize the positive intentions of those who consciously exert influence: they want to help, advise, transmit their values. The notion of mixed influence appears in the perception of some participants, an influence that is neither good nor bad.

Drawing conclusions from such a small sample seems to me to be daring.

There are a few important things that I think this study reveals that the authors do not mention.

The individual prefers to think that the influence was beneficial, but what is it that drives him to convince himself of this? We can assume a priori that it is a defense or adaptation mechanism in the form of a cognitive bias. It would be interesting to investigate this further.

The representations and beliefs of each person only have value and meaning for themselves and may even be totally stupid for others, not being able to be argued. Moreover they may not represent the public opinion at all, that person may be part of a small group of people in the world to think that. I will extract a few examples of participants’ comments from the study, so that you can understand my point:

“When the one who has power threatens and imposes his ideas, the influence is not reciprocal, not healthy.”

This implies that it is healthier when the influence is reciprocal and that one can influence the other in turn.

We are here joining the discourse of the author of the blog quoted above.

How is it healthier? That remains to be seen. Do many people share this view?

“The family and friendship influence, that is, the friends who are supportive and are there to help us when we are sinking or falling, well that influence […] is positive because it is supportive.” This implies that a support is an influence, and that all support is a positive influence. One may wonder here if the participant has the same definition of the words influence and support as the dictionary definition. In a study of this type, it seems to me that it is essential to ensure a common reference point for the vocabulary and definition of the different terms on which the study is based.

In any case, the support of a loved one is not necessarily an influence! Helping a friend to do the shopping after an operation is not influence and, in another context, there are many individuals who know how to listen without giving advice and fortunately, listening is not influence. Here we are faced with a conception that is totally imprisoned in personal beliefs and often individuals tend to believe that what they experience or think is experienced or thought by others, that their thinking is somehow “normalized”. If one cannot demonstrate that support is influence, then it is even less possible to demonstrate that this influence is positive because it is support.

In particular, the support that an individual could give to a friend suffering from depression, thinking that it will help and influence him positively, could be to encourage him to stop letting himself go with a comment such as “Move, go play sports!”. This would be very far from being effectively positive in the sense that it could, for example, make him feel guilty or infantilized and you would risk reinforcing his feeling of devaluation when this was not at all the desired effect. This example allows us to conclude something interesting: the influence perceived as positive by the sender can be perceived as negative by the receiver and even have negative effects, according to him, or in fact. This is one more argument showing that it is totally dependent on representations and that in order to qualify it, it is indispensable to evaluate its definitive effects objectively, and this by the one being influenced. This does not save us from the power of the representations of this individual, norms, value systems, etc.

The second aspect that we have already discussed and that stands out here is that the context is essential to make sense of the statements and either the individuals did not give any, or the researchers did not think it was useful or important to mention them.

Let’s take another quote from the study’s panel.

“A child […] is a blotter, it is quite easy to know what is going on and what is being said around him. It’s a form of influence and as parents I think we use it a lot, but in a beneficial way, of course.”

Here we find the belief that many parents would instrumentalize their children to gossip and that this is a beneficial influence. Or have I misunderstood? In any case, the mechanisms are the same as in the example described above. The individual, rightly or wrongly, considers his belief as normalized. On the other hand, the fact that he considers this influence as beneficial would have to be explained and argued.

This poses the limits of an experiment based on people’s perception. And few people in this case for the above research. This is one of the main flaws of all works on the perception of individuals. This being biased and relative to their knowledge, norms, belief systems and education, it is rarely relevant to draw generalizations that can serve as a solid basis for other works unless they are also based on perception.

One can assume that if one of these individuals had had a more in-depth knowledge of marketing and political manipulation techniques and the issues of everyday influence within the family, school and workplace, more relevant data could have come up. In short, in such experiments, the erudition of the source is a central parameter, a point we have already identified.

We can finish this analysis by mentioning that the central point that is verified by this study and that we had already identified is that individuals form an a priori idea of the nature of an influence, without deepening it, without analyzing its definitive effects and quickly so that it can be simply conceptualized and expressed.

In this sense, I join the work of Moscovici (1994) and the analysis of Lalli, Pina. « Représentations sociales et communication », Hermès, La Revue, vol. 41, no. 1, 2005, pp. 59-64. This is the translation “when he proposes us to transform the concept of collective representations in ‘phenomenon of social representations’ (1984). He notes that a special type of representations has the capacity to combine heterogeneous aspects in a unity that does not necessarily need logical consistency—in the strict sense of the term—but rather a practical consistency that can cope with the very diverse situations of contemporary societies. He proposes us a distinction between the reified universe of the science and the consensual world of the everyday life: it is in this one that he invites us to recognize a naive social thought, ‘of amateurs’. (…) It is a thought which likes analogies, pressed by the haste to reach effective conclusions, either by the trivial and sociable conversation, or by constraints leading to extreme poles rather than to a consensus founded on a rational or majority mediation. Its goal is, first of all, practical efficiency in the face of interference and unknown information, which reach individuals who are at the crossroads of multiple communicative flows. These are flows that overflow, for example, from the scientific universe to migrate into the horizons of ordinary practical experience, through increasingly widespread technical means of communication.”

In itself, it is about individuals forming a representation of the social world and its interactions in a very simplified form in order to be able to form a quick and useful representation of it.

If our social representations forge determined forms of meaning and our reality, why it is from these that we try to apprehend influence. If influence can only be evaluated according to the finality of its effects and through the representations of its victim, then is it only possible to do so?

In order to try to make the impossible possible, simplification and common thought appear inevitable. It is probably less distressing to have a false idea of reality than to be aware that one cannot have a true one?

I tend to think that if we conclude that its effects cannot be assessed and controlled, it may be time to try to control its use.

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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!

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The definition of influence on the individual

Here is my definition of influence on the individual:

Any conscious or unconscious modification, of an individual's, perception, thought, belief system, communication, emotions, and actions by the verbal or nonverbal communication, product, or action of another individual or group, whether intentional or not.

(I have deliberately chosen, in order to improve perception, to formulate it precisely instead of using generic terms such as "process" or "interaction").

It is inevitable.

It is partly surmountable as soon as the individual reaches a certain autonomy of thought and is aware of its existence.

The "a priori" quality and effects of an influence are impossible to evaluate and demonstrate.

The sum of experiences that is our life influence us and build us psychically.

 

Please do not plagiarize this definition and cite the source if you wish to use it.

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Unbiaised review of Career Explorer test by Sokanu: Is it worth it?

It took me 1 hour to actually finish the test, but I am a career professional. It should probably take you a bit more time.

This would be counterproductive to describe every part or aspect of the test, as obviously it would take forever, so I decided, rather than report every step, to focus on what really matters.

This review is to be considered as a humble critical analysis.

If you want to get a complete overview of what a career test is and it’s limits beforehand, I encourage you to stop right here and read my book “Career Guidance or The Art of Not Failing” available on Google play and amazon, of which I will provide some extracts or concepts here and there in this review.

I will start with my conclusion, then let the reader explore my experience in depth to deepen the understanding and basis for this conclusion and especially think about some of the key questions that emerged down the line. I will also provide the screenshots of my results.

Before checking the conclusion let’s quickly take a look at some of their statements about the Career Explorer test that you can find on their website, and let’s read between the lines.

“Using advanced machine learning, psychometrics, and career satisfaction data, we’ve reimagined what a career test can be."

“Our machine learning models train on millions of data points, constantly improving the reliability and validity of our career test results.”

“We provide career matches based on your interests, goals, history, workplace preferences, and personality.”

So it’s unclear how the test is really constructed at that point and to what extent it is validated, and finally they do not include in the list of what the test provides: what you want or makes sense to you.

“We continuously tweak our algorithms and update our datasets to provide industry-leading match accuracy."

Given the fact that any change may impact the results provided and that it should be validated by empirical scientific testing each time, this is scary knowing “they” are continuously tweaking the AI.

Another huge statement from the career explorer website at the time I wrote this article: “Whether you’re pursuing education, in the early career stages of your career, pivoting to a new path, or just looking for answers, we’re here to help you discover where you’ll find happiness in the world of work.”

Happiness at work, nothing less. This is not even a bold statement but a foolish one as even psychology researchers have trouble defining and measuring it. I will let you check about that on your own.

In their “what makes us unique” section, they state the test is based on the Big 5 Model (I encourage you to read the Wikipedia page on this one and especially the “critique” chapter :https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Five_personality_traits), and that they mix it with the Holland codes (the RIASEC).

How they do that, how it works exactly, how their test and algorithm were validated remains a mystery at that point. But they take two different controversial models and concepts, which even taken separately have some flaws, that are about personality types at work and have nothing to do with a career choice, mix it up in an unknown way, then has an undocumented AI serves you a result of a career path or degree.

I can’t stress this enough: How this magic mix has been validated is the central question.

And at last we can read, “Our career test items were developed by a team of I/O psychologists with years of experience in the field of psychometrics.” and in the “about page” of the website you can read: “In 2012, Spencer founded Sokanu to solve this problem. He partnered with PhD career psychologists to reinvent the standard career test and launched what would become CareerExplorer—a world-class career platform powered by modern science and technology.”

So, please type in your preferred search engine “PhD career psychologists”, you will see that there is no such thing. Of course there are a couple of PhDs in psychology but as you just realized, not in the “career” field and the way it is written is highly misleading, influential.

So what is the type of results you can expect?

Here is my conclusion on this test:

There are a lot of really interesting steps, if only they were in a different format with open text field leaving the user to be able to express himself. Unfortunately, that would be impossible for a computer program to handle and it could still probably lacks context and meaning as if you don’t have someone to tell you it’s not clear enough or not thorough enough, you will be left with a lot of different types of deepening depending on the individuals.

Therefore, it’s based on the perception you have of yourself or the image you want to be considered as.

Someone, like me, having done psychoanalysis for more than 9 years and being a coach for the last 17 years has a deeper understanding of himself than common people. I guess the results should be more accurate.

Here are the actual results of my test.

Your discoveries (the characteristics that make me unique): Groundbreaker / feeling minded / maximizing

Groundbreaker Career Explorer test Result

Feeling Minded Career Explorer test Result

Maximizing Career Explorer test Result

My top careers:

My Career results Career Explorer test Result

 

My degrees:

My degrees Career Explorer test Result

These careers are not much of a change! This is just activities as a full career that I already do as a Coach and Psychoanalyst right now. I won't even comment my top degrees results.

I have trouble saying they are way off on the personality aspects, but my next career ideas they provide are what I already do. There is a big part of the test that is about your current career, activities and what you like about it, so I don’t really understand what’s going on here. It’s interesting to note that I really like computer design, web design and UX design and that didn’t come up. Why?

It doesn’t get any better if you’re a student or first-time career chooser because you’re left with so many results that without professional help it can quickly become overwhelming. This is probably why they offer a premium package with professional coaches. Well, they do want and need to make money.

What happens is that without reflecting at every question, without having someone pointing out some truths about yourself to help bring the focus on what you are and what you like more closely to reality, your answers are not truthful as they should and therefore the results will be different than what it should be, conceptually. That’s the main problem, and not specific to this test.

People representations and thinking are usually biased. You want to answer a question in some way, OK, but do you have a clear view of yourself and what you really like? Usually it takes some real self-reflection to do. It is also important to take into account that some people have been highly influenced in their way of viewing themselves, especially by school, studies, parents, boss, co-workers, family members and close friends. There are usually many things to deconstruct in your beliefs but also some work to do on your mindset prior to thinking and setting any career goal.

My opinion is that the results represent what I already do and therefore doesn’t help much considering a change of career. This test doesn’t solve the main problems all career test presents, it is influential and the results are biased by the representations of each individual that are not questioned making the results unreliable. The lack of context and meaning in all the types of answers you are asked to give is what makes a career test useless. A test supposed to work for everyone that could take into account such things with open answers just cannot be analyzed by a computer that will be able to give a sensible result. You can’t mass provide career choices, period. When you face even only five career choices, what do you do? Preferably you seek professional help, that’s why they have a premium package. So in the end, as usual, this is all made to hook you up with a plan and sell you some additional services as you will think their test is well made, that the results are interesting and by the time you spent 1 hour answering questions, you will be the subject of a well-known marketing manipulation. I encourage you to read Mr Cialdini and others, on the different marketing manipulation techniques.

For now, my advice is that you find another option. One that relies on your own thinking preferably and that will not influence you, of course.

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Now, the resume of my experience with the test, step by step.

We will start with the first step as this is where we encounter the first problem.

The test asks you what activities you would like to do.

Great! But this format is problematic in two ways, first, the algorithm can’t deal and process easily open text input, second, I know that the majority of my clients have trouble answering quickly and without a doubt what it is they really like to do. Usually people need guidance with this step. The other aspect is that even if you and the system could overcome these problems no artificial intelligence will ever be able to know what is meaningful to you in those activities or what’s the most important one, without much more information.

And does it list all the activities in the world: NO. Of course It can’t. Therefore it steers (influence) you in some direction and doesn’t make you really think about what you like. Supposedly because the test makers can’t do anything else if they want to give you some result they can compile at the end. Those activities are in fact the reflect of a clear but general path, a field. The process here hasn’t changed much compared to other tests, it’s not so much about activities but more about finding a path.

Let’s take a look at some examples: Find support resources for families in need / repair farm equipment / research how genes function.

You are asked to choose between: Hate it / dislike it / neutral / like it / love it

How does this answer help define how much you like it really and why?

It’s like reviews on books. A 3-star rating for one will be a 5-star rating for another, it all depends on your representations, norms and experience. A “dislike it” for someone will be a “neutral” for someone else with the exact same representation on the activity. There is a deep lack of meaning here.

The second step asks you to rate careers, it’s called your personality archetype.

It doesn’t take into account the first answers given and how you responded to the activities you liked in the first step. They give you the name of a job like “marine biologist” with a short explanation of what it’s a bout.

I bet they do that because they suppose that you thought you like or disliked something in the first step but did so without knowing exactly what it was all about, and without context. So they double-check your answers providing some more details and you’re asked to rate it again with stars from 1 to 5. In this case I saw a direct link between step one and two.

So basically you do this step as in step 1 but this time with some more details. This is kind of smart but time consuming, obviously we all have misrepresentations of activities and jobs. They show you job titles as diverse as dog walker, flight engineer and detectives. You are then asked again to express your opinion using like / dislike on, information technology, law, mathematics, life science, music or nature and agriculture, given that this time your representations are more precise.

Next you’re asked to rate degrees. I really have a hard time understanding why this is relevant? Why do we care at that point what we think about degrees (with a short description), as we don’t even know what we want to do? The only logical explanation is that they want to provide you with specific degree matches (and they do). A relevant explanation for an exercise that is not relevant to a career choice, except for those who choose a degree and not a career, when they shouldn’t.

Examples of degree: Deaf Studies.

That degree (and some others I was asked to rate to be honest) made me wonder why I would be asked to rate such a specific degree that has nothing to do with what I already answered? Where does it come from? Is this asked to everyone? Have I missed something? Will they even provide sufficient information for me to be able to rate it? On what criteria? I’m lost.

Maybe I’m going further that I should here, but is it some marketing? Is this influential to make the individual think of a career path that needs applicants? You know, I’m talking about that kind of publicity that is induced like when the characters on your favorite TV show drink a brand of beer or soda making sure you clearly see it… Anyway, I hope I’m wrong.

Here’s the description of the degree: “A program that focuses on the sociological, historical and linguistic aspects of the deaf and hearing-impaired, and that prepares individuals to work with the deaf and hearing-impaired. Includes instruction in American Sign Language, deaf studies, American deaf culture, structure of American Sign Language, history of the American deaf community, and civil rights of deaf people.”

I may be wrong but I think that there is no clear link between my first answers and what is being asked during that step, given that it is offered to me to rate degrees in robotics, law, food science, physiology, etc.

After that, you’re asked about your previous experiences and then to fill some information about yourself, part of this information is your ethnicity, this is what they claim it is for: “We use demographic data like ethnicity to reduce discrimination and bias in our algorithms, as well as contextualize some of your results in line with peers of your age group, sex, and location. Your answers are transmitted and stored securely, and never shared with third parties.”

Why this should have anything to do with what you want to do as your next job? How does their algorithm compute that data? What does that mean exactly :“contextualize some of your results in line with peers of your age group, sex and location”? It looks to me they want to classify you in some groups, and therefore that may have an impact on the results you’re given. Not totally unbiased or uninfluential if that’s the case.

Next they ask you your actual degrees and where you got them, what is your current career and finally what is the highest level of education achieved by your parents. Is this to corroborate what social studies showed a long time ago that high-achieving parents tend to have high-achieving kids, because of the environment in which they are educated? Is this for their own statistics? Is this related to the point above to also help classify you to some groups? Why should it be relevant to a new career choice.

Next, they ask you if your actual career gives you purpose and fulfillment.

Interesting, but the main question is again: what do they do with it? What impact can it have on the results?

Once you’ve answered those questions they ask you to give your opinion on different statements about your job:

“Being a Coach gives you control over the direction of your work."

"There is a competitive work environment as a(n) Coach."

"Being a Coach requires frequent time pressure to complete tasks.”

As you can see, even if you’re not a coach, your representation of the work and type of tasks that a coach handles on his day-to-day routine should be clear enough to be able to tell if those questions are relevant. It looks like the algorithm just add the name of the job in a pre-written question. Therefore, it’s pretty useless and totally meaningless.

In the next step, you will have to define what would bother you in a job: dealing with customers, unpredictable work schedules, Working more than 40 hours a week…

Is this a fully exhaustive list of all aspects of all jobs? No, therefore, in that format I think this step is influential. Asking you to tell what exactly would bother you in a job, making a list of all the bad aspects of all the jobs you know or can imagine without help wouldn’t be influential. It would be your responsibility to do the exercise as thoroughly as possible, considering this is useful.

There is another hidden problem here. You’re asked to tell what’s important to you. This is based on your beliefs and given the fact that no one tells you / help you to question those beliefs and to rethink them, you’re in trouble because you will mislead yourself. What you think is the result of a combination of so many things. You may think that working more than 40 hours a week is an absolute nightmare, but this is given a certain context. You would certainly think differently if what you were doing had a deep meaning for you, for example.

There are usual beliefs that career professionals know are important to you and rather than explaining why it shouldn’t be a criterion for a choice, they prefer to reinforce them, for lack of understanding the problem or for influential purposes: you tend to like and trust people that tell you that what you think is smart. But, as I said in my latest book, if you go to the DIY store for a tool to handle a problem in the house, you expect the professional to tell you it’s the right one or steer you to the right tool for the job, preventing you from other problems. As an example, try to remove a nail with a screwdriver…

These are the kinds of beliefs I’m talking about: Earning a lot of money. Getting recognized for the work I do. Good working conditions. Having co-workers that are easy to get along with. Job prestige (i.e., career is admired and respected in society). Variety, something different every day.

You will think I am crazy to say that, because I’ve never seen anybody state that but all these are pretty much based on bullshit beliefs and shouldn’t be taken into account without deep questioning to understand exactly and precisely what it is you really mean, want, why and if, it is under your control. I can’t get into the nitty-gritty here, as this is far beyond the subject of this article, so please, read my other articles on influence, and if you’re planning on a career change and you feel I’m crazy, that you want to get deep into these aspects for a full-depth analysis and explanation, and if one of those aspects is one of your criteria, here is a little bit of self-promotion, please check my latest book: “Overcome Influence and Thrive”.

Let’s move on to the next step, you’re asked to define if some statements sound like you. For example “I… Am always prepared”.

What does that even mean? Prepared for what? Anything? The problem with all those questions you will have to answer, like the one above, is that they are out of context; therefore their meaning is missing. This is why some people think their psychic are always right, they add any context necessary so it makes some sense to them. Here, you are also the one creating the context, creating meaning, an image, a story, in order to be able to answer. And because it’s a yes or no exercise and you can’t type and add any context to your answer, this exercise is totally useless and meaningless.

I can’t reveal here all the questions of the test and some questions are a bit strange but I must admit that after all it can probably help get a pretty rounded but incomplete image of your personality. The only problem is, your personality is used to MATCH you with a job. If you read “Career Guidance or The Art of Not Failing” then you understood right away what I meant, for the rest of you here is an example so you understand what I mean as quickly as possible: Do you think you need a specific personality to become a cab driver? Yeah, you don’t. They trick you. They present it in a way that looks like what you are looking for, close enough: to be matched with a job, because this is the only thing they can really provide with a test. When in fact, what you usually want is to know how to pin-point what could be your next adventure, what you would really love to do, maybe what you need to do in order to enjoy life, find what you want to do, figure out your purpose, whatever you think is what you want and know all the reasons you do, whatever your reasons.

The next step is about the skills you want to use in your career: this is something really interesting!

But again, we are faced with a problem: will you be able to tell and describe those skills you want to use or will you have to choose from a list and if so are all skills listed? You guessed it, you’ll have to choose from a list and they are not all there. Here are some examples of the skills: Learning new things / programming / negotiating.

So again we have an influential exercise that lacks in context, details and meaning.

The last step is also interesting I must say, it’s called: Does this sound like you?

There are many statements, a pretty good round up, but many questions seem redundant and we are again in a “matching” principle obviously…
An open text field should be mandatory on such exercises.

So here I am at the end of the Career Explorer test, with the feeling that if I didn't write an article about it, it would be a waste of time and I would miss a good opportunity to prevent many failures.

I'm faced with an overwhelming ton of results, so I'll refer you to the conclusion I placed in the introduction to satisfy the more hurried among you.

At the end, you are left with two options the first one is to pay to have the “full results”, clearly I do not recommend doing so.

So here are the “Members benefits”:

  • Your compatibility with over 1,000 careers and degrees
  • Personality and trait reports
  • Special curated offers
  • Access to coaching, career training, and more

Let me get this straight: you’re looking for your next step in life and they offer you a “compatibility” list of more than 1000 careers and degrees? What will you do with that, how does that help you? This is way more confusing than helping if you ask me. Unbelievable.

Next, a “personality and trait reports”, as we have previously discussed you don’t need one to know what job you want to do next. Useless.

Special curated offers: so they will offer you some more paid services via coaching and online courses. We can ask ourselves why on earth you already spent 1h30m or more on that test if it finally comes down to getting help from a career coach you can find and select yourself based on your own criteria. Commercial add-on is not a benefit.

So now, let’s see after 1h30 of quizzes what you get out of it:

So as I said, I took the test as a professional coach which I am, wanting a career change without any specific idea of what I would like. This state of mind is approximately 90% of career change seekers, they want change but don’t know what they want and they are faced with multiple dilemmas about time, finances, and their own capabilities to name a few. I’m pretty sure this test “as is” will generate more trouble than help.

I’ll leave the reader circle back to the beginning to read again the conclusion that was given in introduction to this review article.

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Orientation and the bac Grand Oral exam of the new 2021 Bac - 3rd step

Today, June 21, 2021, the first Grand Oral du Bac takes place for the students of the terminale.

Here is what it says about time 3, related to orientation and professional project:

"Time 3: You discuss your career plan with the jury (5 minutes)

You explain how the question dealt with is useful for your study project, and even for your professional project.

You talk about the different steps that have enabled you to advance in your project (meetings, commitments, internships, international mobility, interest in common courses, choice of specialties, etc.) and what you will do with it after your baccalaureate.

The jury pays attention to the way you express your personal thoughts and your motivations.

Please note: for the general track, if your question concerns the specialty "Foreign and Regional Languages, Literatures and Cultures", you can take the first two parts of the Grand Oral in a foreign language."


You surely understand it as I do, so it is important here to have a professional project and to argue it while knowing how to create links with one's experiences to demonstrate the logic and relevance of one's choices and actions.

I recently spoke with a journalist from Le Monde, a specialist in education, and a few fundamental points of questioning emerged.


First of all, not all professional projects are the same and then there are those that are made up to disguise one's uncertainty and those that have really been thought out and built for a long time.

And it is not easy to argue correctly and to be convincing when yours is rather part of the first type.

The first question concerning this exercise therefore stems from the need to have a well thought-out professional project built upstream.

Of course, it is a matter of pushing students to think about their professional project and to prepare it earlier.

Because the identified problem faced by our educational system is that school does not prepare students to define and choose a career.

In 2018, in the study by the National Center for Evaluation of the School System (CNESCO), "Helping young people better identify their personal tastes and motivations: A lever for improving guidance", Cnesco, 2018, it was identified that 43% of students had no career plans after the Bac. That's almost one in two students!

To remedy this, they have introduced more hours of support for the creation of the professional project and a globalized supervision. On the government website https://www.ih2ef.gouv.fr/orientation here is what it says in 2021:

"54 hours are planned, as an indication, depending on the needs of the students and the modalities of guidance support put in place for guidance choice support ;

...

The autonomy that is recognized to the different actors (parents, students, educational teams) in the construction of pathways, in the organization of time volumes, and in the time devoted to this activity opens up a wide range of possibilities in terms of innovation.
Managers must encourage and promote all actions that will boost the ambition of all students:

    - compare their tastes and their knowledge of professional activities ;
    - confront their projects and their values;
    - confronting their projects and their skills.

Encourage the conditions for the emergence of the student's personal project

Disseminate information to users

Students and their legal representatives must have the information they need to make informed choices about their future.
This is the first condition for becoming an actor in the construction of their educational pathway:

    - know where and from whom to obtain information ;
    - know and consult the ONISEP's "Mon orientation en ligne" site, which offers a personalized service and where you can consult frequently asked questions. Also consult the orientation guides on the ONISEP website;
    - Be able to search for relevant and necessary information;
    - discover and understand how the professional world works
    - find out about the different training courses.

Setting up time to discover careers and higher education courses

This is an important dimension of the students' reflection, who too often project themselves into professions that are familiar to them.
Time spent in the school (forums, conferences, etc.), during visits to companies or training organizations, or during internships, should encourage variety and diversity.
The student's project must be constructed and chosen; to this end, the management staff must encourage actions and organizations that :

    - allow the student to discover the economic and professional world ;
    - develop the student's sense of commitment and spirit of initiative
    - enable students to develop their educational and professional orientation project;
    - allow students to compare their tastes and knowledge of professional activities and university courses.

The use of the FOLIOS application can be useful. It is a tool to help build the project; it allows traceability within the framework of the Parcours Avenir.

We can see that in 2021 we are still in an orientation linked to knowledge of professions, training, skills (grades), where it would be important to encourage an orientation linked to introspection, desire, pleasure and meaning. In short, the individualization of the process remains insurmountable for the institution.

Reading between the lines, it is clear that it is a question of conforming the individual to the needs of society and companies, rather than helping him or her understand and identify his or her own desires.

It is at this point that we can begin to wonder about the notion of citizen today, seen by the school and seen by the company, to evaluate the question of the needs of each one and the art of making it all work without a hitch, but this is not the subject anymore.

To come back to the question of orientation within the school, I may sound pessimistic, but I consider that given the education system in place and the means it has, they will not have the money nor the temporal and professional capacities to offer what I think is necessary. A system that would base learning on interest, autonomy and meaning.
There is a chance, however, that the problem of equal opportunities (among others) cannot be solved in such a reality.

To conclude, I think we can say that a professional project framed solely by the national education system will only be flawed by the influential nature of the proposed framework, via the advice or opinions of professors, even if they are aware of the issues of orientation and the subtle art of questioning, and the absence of personal development and the search for what makes sense for the individual.

We are therefore faced with a paradox: we have a guidance system that is conceived in terms of grades, jobs and training mainly and that requires that the result be in the form of motivation, eloquence and argumentation with regard to the choices of students who go through this mill. This is deeply inconsistent.

How do grades motivate you to do anything other than have better grades (eventually), how does the catalog of jobs and training allow you to know yourself and to identify in a world that has deeply influenced you so far, to define what you really like or want? How can you develop a relevant argument on such a non-existent basis to explain your choices, which are not really yours?

Finding out about jobs and training courses without any ideas or prior reflection is like deciding to browse through the redoubt catalog simply fuelled by the desire to buy something, anything, that we might like. It is to sink, then, in a symptomatic behavior which, in my opinion, needs to be clarified.

It is, in my opinion, a confusing collapse of meaning.

I like this formula which I have already used in this exact context, it describes the situation perfectly for me.

I have no statistical idea, but I can assume that it puts a lot of students in a great deal of inner turmoil to have to undergo such an ordeal (with a double meaning, of course).


As a result, if the quality of the argumentation is low during the test, there will have to be a leveling down to save the honor of this new vintage of the Bac and this will be at the expense of the interest of the exercise, which does exist, but not according to these premises.

Of course, they are trying to find solutions to the problems of the failure or drop-out rate in bachelor's degrees, which is close to 40% (Source: CNESCO), which is logically linked to the percentage of students who do not have a professional project at the end of the baccalaureate, and this by ensuring that the students are motivated for the specialties they have chosen and that they have a well thought-out professional project.

I don't believe in this at all, but I sincerely hope for all the students who did not have the chance to be intelligently accompanied in their choice, that the future will prove me wrong.

 

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Critical review of Simon Sinek Find Your Why, a dangerous method

Simon Sinek's book - Find Your Why is the sequel to his first book which tries to explain how to find your why (your path, your purpose, your calling, your passion, etc.), because in the first book he didn't explain how to get there, he just explained and argued his theory.

Simon Sinek's first book "Start With Why" was mainly aimed at business leaders and entrepreneurs to inspire their employees and communicate better with consumers to optimize engagement and sales. A very interesting goal that could do no wrong, you might say, and rightly so. I myself found the concept captivating at first viewing, but very quickly questions emerged.

Obviously the general public was seduced by this speaker and his simplistic concept, so much so that the demand grew for him to specify the method to find his why and clearly explain how to get there so that everyone can benefit from it for their own career or business.

Such a good speaker has a few tricks, little habits that change everything. Have you noticed how Simon Sinek repeats twice the beliefs he tries to impose without any demonstration?

For example the famous: "People don't buy what you do they buy why you do it! " or the "As it turns out, as it turns out".

What I have been telling my clients for more than fifteen years during the preparation of public speaking sessions is exatly what’s hapenning here : whatever the speech, what counts is the speaker's assurance and conviction. It is not detrimental to the audience's acceptance and appreciation of the substance of the speech to make a mistake or to tell a lot of nonsense. Most of the time, this will go unnoticed if you say it with aplomb and insistence.

You can have fun reviewing the videos and interviews, you will see that he does this quite often.

I refer you to the idea of anaphora in rhetoric, to quote Wikipedia: "... the repetition of an idea influences the being. By dint of repeating a word, this word will become anchored in the mind of the individual and eventually influence his existence. This is the principle of propaganda. An idea repeated over and over again will appear to be true to the individual. This process is also used in advertising, for example. "

If you are interested in the subject, you will also find some psychological studies that have highlighted this process in some way. After all, discoveries in psychology are the antechamber to many marketing concepts.

The main reason why I am interested in this concept phenomenon that has been perfectly packaged until it has become visibly popular today is precisely because it has evolved into a guidance method. Furthermore, I heard him say at a LinkedIn live conference in early June 2021, that he would be happy to have his concept/method implemented for American students.

Generally, I don't write about every little guidance method that emerges and I don't consider myself an authority on the world of guidance or its methods, but here we are faced with a concept that has a very wide distribution and therefore a great capacity to cause harm. I encourage you to read my review of his book "Start With Why" before continuing if you have not already done so, because I will not repeat here the criticisms made, at least not in detail.

Concerning Simon Sinek "Find Your Why", it is a book that does not elaborate on the concept already explained in "Start With Why". It explains the process and proposes steps to concretely find your "why ».

It is not a question here of making an in-depth evaluation of the method, as I have already explained in one of my books, to really evaluate the relevance of a method, we would need at least to have different groups of individuals similar in terms of life, character, etc. with a similar problem and looking for the same thing, a similar way of understanding and doing the exercises and being able to determine the degree of satisfaction with the results obtained in an objective way and the concrete effects on the lives of these individuals in 2 years, 5 years, 10 years, 20 years? Does this seem feasible to you?

Scientifically impossible of course, even if I don’t have the knowledge of a researcher in terms of what can and can’t be done, there are too many uncontrollable variables, I will not go into detail, but you can imagine, to take only the last point, that it is difficult to compare the effects of something after 2 years and after 20 years, the life of the individual has been influenced by too many other things in the meantime that can interfere on his life and his feelings. After all, the effects of a career change must be measured over time.

Therefore, I will only criticize the method from a theoretical and operational point of view, the main elements of which are as follows: to be able to implement the method, you cannot do it alone, you will necessarily need someone else who is not a close friend or family member, and who is available for about 4 to 6 hours of discussion. The authors indicate that this is to ensure objectivity. Then, ideally, you will have to get your entourage to validate your reasons.

For Sinek and his co-authors, in order to find your why, you have to refer to the perception that the other person has of you and your experiences. When you think about it, it makes sense. Sinek says in an interview, if I remember correctly, that it was by helping others find their why that it all started, and given the growing demand around him he started organizing parties where he helped the guests. He then became aware of HIS why and decided to think bigger and launch this entrepreneurial adventure. The authors have transposed this process to a system where you need someone else to find your way. The other then takes on the role of Sinek. In short, at first glance, we are in a system that is similar to coaching or group coaching, without any consideration of the ethics of the profession.

There is no need to go through all the problems inherent in what is said or proposed in the book, so I will focus on the essential point: you need someone else to trust to read between the lines and to reveal your why.

So right away we can see that the coaching system is used, but not its theoretical foundations, since in coaching, it is up to the coachee to find his solutions, his answers.

Psychologists and coaches spend their lives (for the most conscientious) refining their questioning and sharpening their listening skills without judgment. And they can make mistakes, they can influence/judge you, despite their vigilance.

I invite the more curious among you to look further into the very interesting question of the different types of questioning and their effects, a search on your favorite search engine should help you.

So, to start from the principle that we should entrust this role to someone who perhaps does not have the sensitivity, the capacities or the competences to accompany you in this path and this research does not seem to me to be far-fetched, it simply seems to me unrealistic and dangerous. I would like to remind you that we are dealing with the theme of career and life choices.

Above all, it is up to the other person to find what makes sense for you, in your history and your experiences! The authors indicate that it is impossible to find your reason alone...

At this point, if we were to extend this work of questioning to identify in the book all the issues linked to influence and its effects, there would be a lot to say, but we would be going a bit beyond the scope.

What I think, and I believe needs no further analysis, is that there is no greater degree of influence in a career choice than relying on someone else to tell you what ultimately makes sense for you. This is a major red flag.

So, to come back to the fundamental point of the problematic according to me: the adaptation of its concept into a method of orientation for students. We can ask ourselves if, in order to adapt it to school, Simon Sinek thinks that students should seek the help of another student they don't know to give him all their intimacy.

I'll let you put yourself in the shoes of a student and consider the problems this poses beyond the effects and outcome of the method itself.

In order to justify the prerequisites of his method, he also tries to impose on us an abracadabrious belief that is very disturbing: the reader is told that he should not call upon someone who knows him to guarantee the objectivity of the other.

Where did this idea come from? Is this part of his theory? What is he basing this on?

In any case, even if one were to admit a better objectivity of someone who does not know us, what about his sincerity, if we need this other to find our why? And to what extent can we trust a person we don't know very well? How does this better objectivity allow this other person to better read between the lines to find our why?

We could go on and on about the process, without getting any further, because once we get past the identification of the theoretical and operational problems of the method, when we dig a little deeper, we realize that it is all based on very vague foundations, poorly documented or argued, unverifiable and unverified scientifically. In short, we should just take his words for it.

And as we have seen in my previous article, Simon Sinek's "Golden Circle" concept (the why/how/what) is somewhat fragile, both from the point of view of the marketing and commercial concepts on which it is based, but also in terms of the argumentation that is supposed to support it, which has no scientific validity and which in other cases does not even correspond to the reality of the events that are presented from a historical perspective!

It is easy to remain perplexed when one assesses the two books and if one has a bit of a critical mind, in substance there is not much. And I must admit that I still come to the conclusion, as some of the comments I have read, that he is a very good speaker who handles persuasion techniques perfectly and whose non-verbal language does a superb job of making his concept convincing, but once the moment of discovery has passed, when one looks at the content and tries to question it, a certain disillusionment appears.

As it stands, this method of finding one's WHY can only present a real danger for all those who choose it to define their reconversion and find themselves. It would also be a huge problem if it were offered to students who are often particularly influenced and gullible on this issue.

If it is about inspiring leaders and helping them recruit inspired and happy employees, fine! However, if it is used as a tool to define one's career path, to find one's way or to orient oneself, beware.

I also encourage you to read the negative reviews on Amazon of 1, 2 and 3 stars only where you will find a number of very pertinent criticisms.

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