How to talk so people listen
Now that you’ve mastered breathing slowly and deeply, into your stomach, teach yourself to speak from there, in a way that makes people believe you.
Many people speak from their throat, some from their chest, a few (annoying) people speak from their nose. The really compelling speakers talk from the gut.
1. Train your stomach
Let your diaphragm (the muscle in your chest – not the rubbery anti-baby hat) drop down as you breathe in. Let your shoulders drop, relax. Open your chest. Let your belly fall forward as you inhale, and then gently, consistently engage your stomach muscles as you speak. Feel your voice come from your very core, and notice how people respond.
As you let your stomach out when you inhale, then tense your stomach and huff out the air making ‘Hah, huh, hoo, hah, hoh’ sounds, tensing each time you expel air. This will re-train your muscle memory and remind your subconscious to use your stomach when you’re talking.
2. Experiment with your voice
Play with the power and tone of your voice, through different ways of speaking: How do you deliver a conspiratorial whisper or the punch line of a joke, the announcement of a pregnancy or a death in the family. Be a football commentator or a boxing announcer. Always, always be expanding your range, speaking from the stomach.
Once you’ve mastered ‘stomach talking’, and are doing it quite automatically, you’ll notice a few things change.
The words are right where you want them, shuffling into order in your mind, popping off the tip of your tongue right when you want them; vibrating the air, into the ears and affecting the brains of your listeners. You’ll feel calmer, more ready, and more excited about talking. You’ll notice that your muscles seem loose yet primed when you get up to speak…
And they listen to you. They stare at your face, transfixed, unblinking. They won’t cough or murmur or adjust their posture, they’ll even begin to twitch their lips with yours as you speak. That is a trance state – and this is how to do it:
3. Listen to compelling speakers
Some stand-up comedians are great, Eddie Izzard and George Carlin in particular. They play with words and delivery in masterful ways.
But if you want to see some really, really effective speaking, look at people who’ve compelled others to commit atrocsious acts against their own self-interest. The Heaven’s Gate guy is amazing, because what he’s saying is absolute twaddle, and he has a weird look on his face, but he’s totally engaged and engaging.
It’s hypnotic, there are embedded commands and all sorts of powerful influencing techniques in there. Listen to how he says ‘come with us’ – how he claims to know what you’re thinking, how confusing and then suddenly simple it all is, how he changes his pitch and his pace to transfix the listener.
He exemplifies the beauty and the danger of being an impressive speaker – because if you can become really effective at getting people to believe what you say, not because it’s true or particularly intelligent, but just because you said it so damn well, there is a danger that you’ll start to believe it yourself.
That fella actually convinced rational humans, and himself, that they could drink poison and catch a passing comet like a ghostly, sci-fiction hitch-hikers. They dead now.
That is a yardstick for influence.
4. Bullshit a bit.
Don’t get people to kill themselves, ‘cos that’s depraved and weird. See if you can convince someone intelligent of something ludicrous, using the power of your conviction alone. Confuse them, then offer them nuggets of simplicity. Gauge and guide their level of investment into your fantasy, and draw them deeper and deeper. Notice when their eyes glaze and they fall into a trance state, then pop in a nugget of fallacy.
Start small, lie about having a strange middle name. Then get big: Rework history in strange and seductively simple ways, claim to know things about animal biology, intersperse it with facts and see what sticks.
Remember, you’ve got to sound like you believe it. And if you’re being really convincing, you might.
I’ve been able to convince people that ducks need a headwind and a lot of momentum to take off; that they waddle uphill to find a launching spot to migrate. They believed me. But when I told them that said ducks have a 9-inch corkscrew shaped penis that shoots out like a harpoon, they didn’t. Guess which is true…
Play with it. To find out what works for you, try different things out and have some fun. Enjoy it. But no cults.