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Foiling the Cults

Foiling the Cults

Here are some techniques to use in asserting yourself against the onslaughts of various breeds of high pressure salesmen, proponents of cults, con-men, random bullshitters and their ilk. This page is no more than a quick resume: the psychology of persuasion is a complex topic - follow the link for more.


The objective of the presenter of (the product/the cult/some particular point of view/whatever - the process is the same) is to change your mind state and make you say 'yes' to whatever it is that they might be proposing. Your mind is your means of perception: when its state is changed, you will perceive things differently. There are several ways to change someone's mind state (drugs, sensory deprivation, pain, etc.) but the methods of refutal presented here are directed at disrupting state change induced by the use of language forms thus:
- appeals to the imagination by suggestion
- assertion and subtle command (saying that certain things are so or not so)
- presupposition (assuming certain things to be true)
- distortion of information (by withholding or improper specification), and
- repetition
For a detailed discussion on background, and how these techniques work, and are used, follow the link.

The Techniques:

1. Talk in a loud voice: even if you aren't comfortable doing so, you should - especially at the beginning of an encounter. If you are quiet, you will be assumed to be submissive and treated as such.
2. Don't give them any information about yourself. If they insist, refuse point blank: their asserted 'needs', for spurious records, routine, form filling, are their problem and not yours. Remember that the more they know about you, the more scope they have for framing their claims.
3. If the presenter attempts to appeal to your imagination (can you imagine/can you see/can you remember/I can just see you and so on), they are directly attempting to change your mind state by suggestion. Return the compliment: tell them no and add: 'Can you imagine yourself going away?'. Do that every time they make such an appeal - if he/she asks you to imagine something, it's only fair to return the compliment after all.
4. If they repeat things, they are trying to change your mind state: tell them you've got perfectly good hearing and don't like people repeating things since it makes you angry. Repeat that as often as they repeat anything.
5. If the presenter talks over you, be sure to return the compliment and talk over him/her for twice as long.
6. If they persist in using tag phrases such as 'isn't it?', 'don't you agree?', 'won't it?', be sure to point it out & then answer 'no' every time you hear another such phrase.
7. People making presentations designed to persuade are very good at omitting relevant facts and using vague words to pass things off as fact. Challenge this all the time. Ask them EXACTLY what they mean, and then question the explanation. Ask for evidence, ask for facts, and if you don't get what you're asking for keep on asking. Remember the key words WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY and HOW.
8. Beware 'little stories', 'it's just like when' and 'jokes': they aren't just little stories at all but carefully prepared metaphors and allusions intended to get you to change your mind state. Refute them at once. If you feel a need to justify yourself (why?) say you have no time for such irritating things/no imagination/both.
9. Don't let any of these people touch you: if they attempt to do so, firmly and brusquely repulse the touch, tell them forcefully not to touch you, and glare.
10. In order to fully develop the full hypnotic potential of their spiel (=spell), these people will attempt to speak to you at length and stack various presuppositions and assertions such that they become near impossible to untangle. To prevent this, interrupt every time you hear some questionable statement, and keep on interrupting despite their protests: do not 'let them finish' or 'give them a chance' - they aren't giving you one: they are trying to alter the state of your mind to their advantage.
11. Do not read any literature or brochures they present, don't even look at them: if they try to insist, tell them to either leave you, or send you, a copy.
12. Never get involved in a two (or more) of them, against a one of you situation, or you will probably lose: enlist the aid of a friend or relative as a witness and co-disrupter if you need to. Show them this document before you enter the fray.
13. Establish for yourself, before you start, what the presenter's basic assumption is. Using that assumption, formulate an assertion of your own, preferably in a positive form (e.g. 'My present car is perfectly adequate' is better than 'I will not buy this used car', 'I am a happy agnostic' rather than 'I will not join this sect') and say it OUT LOUD, and without qualification, as many times as you see fit throughout the encounter. If the presenter challenges your assertions, challenge twice as many of his/hers.
14. If all else fails (and this actually works since it totally destroys any script), cluck loudly like a chicken every time the presenter speaks... then stare insanely.

Good luck.

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Link to Language Abuse
Reverse Anchoring
Metaphor and Problem Solving
Prince and Magician Index
Nelogism and Cliche
Therapeutic Chanting
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