Getting By the Brain’s Bouncer

Everyone’s brain has a bouncer. A big burly software program that either lets stuff in or kicks stuff out.

If you want your message to “stick” with your employees or your customers or your children, then you’ve got to get it past the bouncer.

Here’s how…

Verbal disguises.

Look, there’s just too much going on in the world. Every moment is a cacophony of sounds, smells, colors, and sensations. If our brains focused on all of them, we’d short-circuit. The brain’s bouncer is there to keep out the unimportant so we can focus on the important.

What types of things does the bouncer think are important? Movement, sudden loud noises, food, beautiful people, stories, our own name, and a few others.

The one that is guaranteed to get you by the bouncer every time? Defamiliarization.

The unfamiliar, the bizarre, the strange, the new. Novelty peaks our brain’s interest like nothing else. The picture above…what is it? I have no idea. But I’m curious.

We know advertisers use and abuse the word “NEW!” to great effect, but how can we use the idea of defamiliarization as a verbal disguise to get past their brain’s bouncer?

Let’s say everyone is sick and tired of meetings. Every time you call a meeting you’re met with groans. Right before every meeting starts, people look like they’re at a funeral.

So don’t call a meeting next time. Call a “gathering” somewhere other than the meeting room. Heck, go outside. It’s a beautiful day. Just by changing it’s name (and location in this case) suddenly, the same old hum-drum meeting has just become UNFAMILIAR and therefore intensely interesting. They’ll wonder “A gathering? What’s this all about?” and you’ve got ’em.

Here’s another idea: the next time you’re at a networking event and someone asks you what you do for a living, don’t say your title. “I’m a financial advisor”. BORING! Their brain’s bouncer immediately dumps that in the “not interesting because it’s nothing new” bucket and kicks you out of the club. Instead, make up a new term for what you do. “I’m a money doctor”. Or make up a word entirely! “I’m an invisor”. This is a verbal disguise that will defamiliarize (also made-up terms, by the way) them with what they think they already know about you.

Too often in Corporate America we speak in buzz words and catch phrases. The more often a word is used, the more it loses its impact. When I feel like I already know something, I stop listening. Don’t you?

The brain sorts everything into two buckets. “Known” and “New”. If it’s in the “Known” bucket, then no more thought or attention needs to be paid. The bouncer kicks it out.

If you think your words may be ending up in the “known” bucket, then there’s a simple solution: make up some new ones.

2 thoughts on “Getting By the Brain’s Bouncer

  1. susan

    Yes! so true! Can you give me an example of how to get my 18 year old daughter to not shut me out when I am talking to her…or in her words…nagging.

    1. Tim David Post author

      Great question, Susan. My 8 year old daughter is going on 18, so I’ve been thinking about this a lot myself lately!

      We’ve got to get their brain’s bouncers to stop assuming that we’re nagging. The first step: don’t nag! We can’t let their bouncer ever regret letting us in. Are all of our interactions negative (or perceived that way)?

      Next is to look at how you approach her. I like the phrase, “I have a surprise for you” or “You know what I love about you?”

      Every interaction has to start on a positive note or with something that you both agree on, such as a shared interest.

      This builds up the relationship bank account so that her brain doesn’t see you and automatically think, “Get ready for the nagging!”

      Finally, use more questions and fewer statements. Questions cannot be argued with. 😉

      If you must impart some wisdom and questions simply won’t work, then I recommend using story. Scroll up and click the highlighted word “stories” from the article above for some insight in how to do this.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *