I had trouble thinking of an intro for this article. That was until I read what is possibly the funniest/darkest stories about the Barnum effect I’ve ever seen. Courtesy of www.howtogetyourownway.com which I’ll leave here as a thank you.
A few years ago, a teacher handed out what he called “personal horoscopes” to his class of 30 students. The students delighted over how accurate they were, many students who previously had no faith in horoscopes were now firm believers.
So it came as quite the shock to learn all of the horoscopes were exactly the same.
That’s not the worst part.
The specific horoscope was actually professionally done years back for a man named Edmund Kemper. For those of you that don’t know, our dear Edmund here killed both his Grandparents before murdering six female hitchhikers, followed by his mother and a friend of hers. Oh yea, he was also a necrophile.
Can you imagine the look on the kid’s faces?
Now that I (hopefully) have your attention, let’s talk about what the Barnum effect actually is.
What Is The Barnum Effect?
The Barnum effect is the psychological phenomenon where a general statement that could apply to anyone is percieved to be specifically tailored to an individual. It plays on our deep desire to feel special and unique.
You hear what you believe to be a deep analysis, and it feels like they’ve extracted it right from your very soul. If you’ve ever been to a psychic reading, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
Using The Barnum Effect
Now the part you came here for. How can you use this to increase rapport with the people you meet?
This technique is the same one used in psychic readings. The subtle difference is you don’t tell them what you’re doing. In order for them to feel the deep understanding from you, this needs to be seen as a spontaneous observation rather than a magic trick. They need to feel you understand them, not that you know a trick for reading people.
To do this, make sure to use the statements naturally in conversation, without drawing too much attention to them.
Let’s go over some examples.
“It seems to me like you’re doing well compared to a lot of people, but still feel like you’re only just tapping into your potential”
“I get the feeling that loyalty matters more to you than it does for most”
“I feel like you’re quite critical of yourself, especially recently”
“You seem like you’re a pretty good judge of character, and I feel like that skill comes in handy”
“You seem like the type that’s really clever but makes quite a few silly decisions”
“I bet you don’t like being told what to think, like you come up with your own opinions” (I love this one because so rarely is this actually the case)
These will work on just about everyone. If they work, they’ll immediately like and trust you more. If for whatever reason they disagree, it really doesn’t matter. They’ll just correct you and then you’ll have something new to talk about.
If you plan on trying to devise your own Barnum statements, it’s important to remember that people are a lot more accepting of positive traits than negative ones. A negative Barnum statement is very unlikely to be accepted, even if it is actually true. And by negative I mean anything that might damage their ego.
4 Ways To Get The Most Out Of Barnum Statements
Be Natural: If you say these in a supplicating manner as if you’re trying to make them like you, it’s going to come off a little creepy. Make sure to casually bring it up in conversation, like it’s something you just happened to notice. And for the love of god never tell them after that you just used a Barnum statement, as funny as it would be to see their response.
Build Up: Some will recommend beginning the conversation with Barnum statements, I, however, would not. While it’s possible your Barnum statement could be well received, it’s more likely to come off a little weird. It can also come across disingenuine. If you’ve barely spoken to them, how could you possibly know anything about them without it being some sort of trick?
Wait until you’ve got the general formalities of conversation out the way first. I wouldn’t use these until you’ve spoken to the person for at least ten minutes. It’s also useful to know some basic information about what their interests are.
Use Privately: Using Barnum statements in groups is a horrible idea. As we’ve already discussed, a good Barnum statement will work on pretty much everyone. Barnum statements are completely invisible to your target, but typically very obvious to everyone else around you. In order for these to be effective, talk to your target in a one on one setting. If you’re at a party, simply wait until you can get them alone or pull them aside to talk for a while.
Avoid Absolutes: Make sure to use something like the phrase “It seems to me” or “It looks like” when using Barnum Statements. This will avoid activiatingthe egoic defense many people have when being told about themselves. Make it a possible observation, never make it seem like you’re telling them who they are.
What if they know what a Barnum statement is?
As I went over in the Social Cold Reading article, Don’t worry about it. Just laugh and say they’re much smarter than most (quick ego stroke)and say how you read about it today and thought it would be fun to try out. This makes it seem like a harmless joke and you can continue the conversation normally.
Barnum statements can be a great way to spice up a conversation. So few people understad this concept, which is good news for you and me. Use this technique to build rapport faster than you ever thought possible. It’s so easy to impliment so get out there and start baffling people with your insane deduction and understanding!
I’ll see you in the next article.