Who’s making you fat – and how?

Your colleague’s husband’s sister can apparently make you fat, even if you’ve never met. But how does that happen?

In Connected, Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler explain that there are two main ways that people may influence each other.

  1. By changing what you do… and
  2. By changing what you think.

My focus has mainly been on how language – and specifically listening, questioning and metaphor – can be used to influence the way another person thinks. That’s a vital set of skills to master. It’s subtle, and it can be used in a huge range of contexts.

But at the same time I want to acknowledge that when you influence someone by changing what they do, it often has a greater impact.

Real-world action is so much more obvious, so much more measurable, and so much more convincing than “thought”!

For example, the great hypnotherapist Milton Erickson told stories to influence his clients. And he also gave them assignments in the real world, which typically gave them an experience of doing what they said they could not do. For example, legend has it that he once sent a shy young man to conduct a “survey” outside a ladies’ underwear shop, thus giving the chap physical, incontrovertible proof that he could talk to women in the street.

In my blog yesterday I quoted Tim Ferris, urging people to take control of their physical state in order to improve their “inner game”.

His book The 4-Hour Body has changed the way I think about what I eat. In turn, the change in my thinking has changed my shopping and cooking habits… and that in turn has changed what my husband eats.

Partly, perhaps, I’m changing what my husband thinks by pushing the book into his hands, and by talking to him about food in new ways. But at least as importantly, I’m shopping and cooking differently – and he’s happy to eat with me, rather than going to the effort of making a separate meal.

If you want to have maximum influence, pay then attention to both aspects. Find ways to influence what people do as well as what people think.

The “speed seduction” types call it frame control. If you want someone to buy, first get them into your store.

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