Suggestible, Susceptible?

All us humans are suggestible.

Entire industries have been built in part to exploit this trait: advertising, hypnosis, magic.

To one degree or another, most of us know we’re suggestible. 

We’re certainly more suggestible than we’d like to admit (as the likes of Derren Brown [1] have proved time and time again), but we usually have at least a few defence mechanisms to protect ourselves.

And sometimes we’re happy to let ourselves be taken – whether it’s a compelling ad for a holiday, or a magic trick.

What we’re less aware of is being susceptible. 

Like suggestibility, susceptibility is also about being influenced, but it also speaks to vulnerability, even harm.

We can be very susceptible to certain motions and manoeuvres others may make.

At times, being suggestible or even susceptible can be beneficial. 

We can get new and different ideas, gain a new view of a situation, or just go with the flow of the entertaining movie or magic trick.

Other times, it can be dangerous.

Our suggestibility and susceptibility may send us into places we shouldn’t go, that aren’t good for us.

Others may do this unwittingly or with the guile of Machiavelli.

In any case, this is exacerbated when we’re feeling burned out, depressed, anxious, uncertain.

It’s also more likely to happen when we’re bubbling with exuberance at something new and exciting. 

Our defences go down and our radars fall out of sync.

Our decision making abilities waver.

We may be seeking the right path forward, or the right answer. 

Or just any path, or any answer. 

And that’s when we’re most suggestible. And susceptible.

The trick is two fold: first, being aware of how much we’re under the influence of others, and under the influence of ourselves. And then, identifying the biases, contexts and details that may cloud our judgment. 

Of course, this is just a suggestion…

[1] The look on the two victims’ faces at the moment of the reveal is priceless.

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