Is it useful to bore your audience?


Saint Paul


Hey there!

Yesterday we discussed the importance of your tone of voice, specifically how being monotone works against your ability to hold someone’s attention.

If your voice has no texture, basically, there’s nothing to hook your listeners’ ears.

"Brain" by wyinoue, Flickr, CC-By-2.0
Can we tap directly into someone’s brain? “Brain” by wyinoue, Flickr, CC-By-2.0

But… I mentioned that maybe you want to be boring and monotone, on occasion.

What might that occasion be?

Let’s step back a bit. Some 60 years ago there was a psychiatrist named Milton Erickson (he died in 1980).

Erickson is best known as the godfather of neuro-linguistic programming, or NLP.

NLP says that the words people use affects the way you think. Seems reasonable to me (and to anyone who has studied foreign languages).

In many ways, NLP is akin to hypnosis: NLP attempts to bypass your conscious brain to reach directly into the subconscious brain, which controls much of our emotions and therefor decisions and behavior.

And while a lot of people have brushed NLP aside as mumbo jumbo —and hypnosis as well— other people still swear by the effectiveness of these methods.

(And neuroscience is in many cases proving these to be effective mental tools, fwiw)

Photo "goodbye" by frankieleon, Flickr, CC-By-2.0
Hypnosis and NLP are effective techniques, if you allow them to be. Photo “goodbye” by frankieleon, Flickr, CC-By-2.0

Either way, there is gold in some of the NLP techniques.

Now, maybe you remember my favorite book, Thinking, Fast and Slow?

In that book, author Daniel Kahneman discusses the System 1 brain as the fast, subconscious, uncritical brain.

System 2 is the slow, critical, conscious brain that we all try hard to avoid engaging.

Well, one of Erickson’s techniques uses these exact “two brain” systems to his benefit as a psychiatrist.

Erickson would use hypnotic language patterns —monotone and repetitive and intentionally confusing— to get his patient’s critical System 2 brain occupied.

This occupied brain would drift into a brief hypnotic moment — either slipping into a daydream due to the monotony, or the brain’s stumbling attempt to figure out what that last sentence meant.

In the mean time, Erickson would observe the patient’s physical behavior —perhaps the eye’s pupil size for example— and while that brain was busy in that momentary trance state…

Erickson would slip in a suggestion that would flow past the conscious brain and be heard —and later acted upon— by the patient’s subconscious brain.

This is when you’d want your audience to be bored and drifting away:

when you’re trying to suggest new thought patterns or behaviors!

This of course wasn’t the only technique that Erickson used, and he had willing medical patients rather than unwilling targets to some NLP-laden sales technique.

But, seeing as PRL is about understanding how your brain works… and how you can influence your brain, and the brains around you, towards better outcomes…

I thought it was important to share.

Cheers mate


P.S. You can learn more about NLP and Milton Erickson with these books:

My Voice Will Go With You


Speak Ericksonian