What is suggestibility?
Suggestibility and suggestibility testing may be unique to hypnosis, but it may be useful in other areas of our lives. Suggestibility has to do with how we take in information and interpret it.
There are two primary types of suggestibility. One of these types, called the “physical” type here, responds well to direct, literal suggestions. At the extremes of this trait, the physical suggestible will reject any inferred or indirect suggestions. They may not even understand them.
The second type, called the “emotional” type here, responds better to indirect suggestions. At the extremes of this trait the emotional suggestible will reject any direct or literal suggestions.
Most people do not have a suggestibility of either 100% emotional or 100% physical. Everyone exists on a sliding scale between these two extremes. Suggestibility testing helps us to understand where on this scale someone falls.
Paternal hypnosis styles
Once upon a time, hypnotists operated primarily from the literal, authoritarian type of hypnotic inductions. Examples of these can be seen in much of cinema’s portrayal of hypnotists. The typical, “look into my eyes, you are getting very sleepy” is of this literal, paternal type of hypnosis.
Because this only works well on people who are physically suggestible, these inductions failed on somewhere around half of individuals. This led to thinking that not everyone could be hypnotized.
Milton Erickson and Eriksonian Hypnosis
In the 1950s Milton Erickson started the American Society for Clinical Hypnosis. I believe this was the beginnings of popularizing an alternative style of hypnosis.
Watching videos of Erikson hypnotize people is fascinating. Often, the subject is put into hypnosis without any direct discussion of the state.
Once in hypnosis, Erickson’s post-hypnotic suggestions were sometimes vague, and seemingly had nothing to do with the matter at hand. However, they worked for his clients. This is what it is like to work with an emotional suggestible.
How is suggestibility testing in hypnosis used?
Suggestibility testing in hypnosis is very important. It should not be overlooked. Knowing a person’s suggestibility type will let me know how to best help them achieve the hypnotic state. Without this testing, I would have to try different types of hypnotic inductions to see what works until something does.
I also use the information about suggestibility to determine how to give post-hypnotic suggestions to my clients. If someone is literal, I will say something like, “You like to exercise because you know it will help you lose weight.” If they prefer inferrance I might instead say, “You look in the mirror and see the new me that exercise has brought about.”
There are very subtle, but important differences to those suggestions, but they can mean a world of difference to a client. These types of suggestions have a large impact on how successful hypnosis is for each person.
Where else is suggestibility information useful?
Suggestibility testing in hypnosis is great, but it’s not the only way to use this information. At the beginning of this article I mentioned that suggestibility was useful other places in life. If you know someone’s suggestibility type, then it helps you to communicate well with them in many circumstances.
Suggestibility at Work
Have you ever had a coworker that you couldn’t communicate with? Maybe, no matter what you said to him or her, it seemed to fall on deaf ears no matter how clear you were? This can often be the case when someone is on the extremes of suggestibility. Especially if you are opposite their type.
For instance, a highly physical suggestible is extremely literal. They cannot infer information from conversation. Reading between the lines is not their forte. So if you use metaphor with one of these folks they will not understand you. In this case, tell them directly and succinctly what you want. That is what they need and when they will respond best.
Your highly emotional suggestible team mate is just the opposite. Direct instructions seem stifling and they may get lost with all of the details. Directions for this team mate might look more like this: Jane, I need you to treat this account the way you did the Smith account. They are very similar.
When in doubt about a team member’s suggestibility style, it’s best to split the difference and give both types of directions. For instance: Jane, I need you to treat this account the way you did the Smith account. They are very similar. Have the detailed sales data to them to review on the 5th of every month by 5. They will return their suggestions to you within 3 days, by close of business.
Suggestibility at Home
Often we will struggle in communications with a partner or children who are of a different suggestibility type. Or even of a different type than the communication style we learned as children
For instance, giving directions for cleaning their room to a physical suggestible child would look like this: First I want you to make your bed. Make sure that all of the covers are straight and even and tucked in at the bottom of the mattress. Then, I want you to put your dirty clothes in the laundry basket I left outside your door. Once that is done, then vacuum your room, including under your bed.
On the other hand, an emotional suggestible might need less direct instructions. For instance, I want you to really make these dishes shine! Let’s see how great we can make this room look before mom gets home.
How to use your own suggestibility information to your advantage.
Once you know your own suggestibility type, you can use this information to your advantage. You can use this information to tell others how to best approach you with information and give you directions. It can streamline conversations with friends, loved ones, and coworkers.
For instance, if you know that you are very literal, you can let your manager at work know this. Then they can give you direct, literal instructions. If you prefer more inferences, you can ask your significant other to use more metaphors when trying to explain a situation or a concept to you.
How do I find out my suggestibility type?
Now that you know that there are different suggestibility types, I’m sure you want to know what type you are. I’ve linked a quick quiz here for you to find out your suggestibility type. The quiz takes about 5 minutes and will email you your results as well as display them on the screen for you.
Now that I know my suggestibility, now what?
Now that you know your suggestibility, it’s time to set up your first session. You know you’re curious about hypnosis or you would not be reading this article. You can book a session now with a highly-trained hypnotherapist and have a session quickly. We offer sessions in-person, online and via telephone.