10 Characteristics of Hypnotic Speakers

Within the field of hypnotism some claim to teach hypnotic speech techniques that bestow the power to influence and control others secretly. These methods of indirect suggestion, sometimes referred to as covert hypnosis, aim to influence a person’s unconscious without their knowing. A few forms of indirect suggestion are:

Embedded command: This is a technique of placing a command (“Feel more relaxed.”) into a larger sentence or phrase (ex: “You may feel more relaxed if you change positions.”).

Analog marking: This is the process of using verbal cues (ex: pausing or altering intonation) or physical gestures (ex: facial expressions or body language) to mark certain words. In the example above, the embedded command “feel more relaxed” would be marked. The basic idea of analog marking is that the unconscious notices and is influenced by the words that are marked.

Implication: “I wonder how deeply this article will influence you.” The implication is that the article will influence you to at least some extent, and potentially deeply. There is also an embedded command in this example: “…this article will influence you.”

Implied directive: “As soon as you get comfortable you will take a few deep breaths.” The implied directive has three parts: 1) A time-binding introduction (“As soon as…”); 2) the implied suggestion (“…you get comfortable…”); and 3) a behavioral response (“…you will take a few deep breaths.”).

Bind: A bind is when two choices are stated, both of which satisfy the outcome. For example: “Would you rather enter hypnosis rapidly or gradually?” In this case, either choice assumes that the subject will enter hypnosis. Binds can be classified further into many subtypes.

Other techniques of indirect suggestion include confusion, shock, questioning, and use of analogies, puns, and metaphors.

Many of these methods of indirect suggestion were developed from the work of the psychologist Milton Erickson (1901-1980).[1] Erickson believed that normal conversation could influence the unconscious, regardless of whether the subject experienced hypnotic trance. Suggestion that has an effect without the presence of hypnosis is known sometimes as waking suggestion. Neurolinguistic programming (NLP), created in the 1970s, is an attempt to classify the natural language patterns used in Erickson's own recorded therapeutic sessions. Empirical validation of NLP’s effectiveness is controversial, however scientific evidence does support the idea that people respond to suggestion without the presence of hypnosis.[2]

Indirect suggestion does have some effect, but one can not influence others significantly simply by employing these techniques. The “hypnotic effect” of hypnotist or a powerful speaker is not solely, or even primarily, due to any verbal techniques they may employ, but because of their whole personalities. Before the advent of clinical (i.e. Ericksonian) hypnosis, it was long recognized that the influence of a hypnotist resides within certain personal qualities,[3] which may be natural or developed over time. These characteristics are the basis of hypnotic influence in traditional hypnotism, both in stage hypnotism and hypnotherapy, and can increase one’s influence in practically any field of endeavor, especially in speaking, presentation, and performance:

Confidence is the most important quality for a hypnotist. A hypnotist must have absolute confidence that his suggestions will have the desired effect. His certainty gives the words force. Likewise, a speaker must have total confidence that his message will be received positively by his audience.

Authentic confidence comes from success, which is the result of hard work. You can “fake it ‘til you make it” for a while, but people can detect false confidence. Eventually a person who does not obtain actual successes will lose confidence in himself as well as the confidence of others. 

Thoughts have power, psychologically and metaphysically. Psychologically, the sincere will and intent of the hypnotist or speaker produce subtleties in his verbal and nonverbal communication, which may be perceived by the listener's unconscious. Metaphysically, thoughts have the power to affect outcomes.[4] The focused and concentrated will of a hypnotist or speaker give life to his words.

The direct suggestions of a hypnotist are often sharp and decisive. An effective hypnotist or speaker does not hesitate in his statements.

Hypnosis is not always a predictable experience. A hypnotist or speaker must be prepared for any response from his subject(s) or audience. He should not be timid or fearful.

A good hypnotist or speaker must concentrate entirely on the idea being expressed and avoid being distracted by other thoughts, such as wondering how he is being received or whether he will be successful. Also, he must be persistent and adhere to a course of action, despite any difficulties or distractions that might arise from the subject(s), audience, or environment.

Self Possession
A person who would direct others must have command of himself first. Hypnotists and speakers cannot lose control and react negatively to difficult circumstances. They must be in charge of their responses at all times.

Using verbal suggestions to create mental imagery, a hypnotist must be able to create a vivid picture of the desired outcome. Successful speakers also are often skilled at describing their ideas with compelling imagery.

The hypnotic subject must feel a kinship with the hypnotist. The hypnotist and subject must be en rapport. Some believe that this is more essential to hypnosis than depth of trance. Likewise, for a speaker to be effective the audience must feel that they can relate to him. They must like the speaker and want to succeed with him. Also, the hypnotist or speaker must be sensitive enough to perceive the subtleties and nuances of unconscious communication and empathize with their subject's or audience's perspective. Anyone seeking to influence others should develop their sense of empathy.

A good hypnotist or powerful speaker should be of good physical, mental, and emotional health. Ailments can diminish one’s power to think and concentrate. Also, a person who appears vital and healthy exerts a stronger influence than someone who does not.

There are no short cuts to “hypnotic power.” Indirect suggestion plays an important role in clinical hypnosis and hypnotherapy, but when it comes to influencing others nothing can match the force of these authentic personal qualities. Anyone who wants to increase their power in speaking, leadership, or performance should pay attention to these areas: confidence, success, willfulness, decisiveness, fearlessness, concentration, self-possession, vision, rapport, and health. The key to real hypnotic power is self improvement.

1. Erickson, M., & Rossi, E. (1976). Hypnotic realities: The induction of clinical hypnosis and forms of indirect suggestion. New York: Irvington.

2. Kirsch, I., & Braffman, W. (n.d.). Imaginative Suggestibility and Hypnotizability. Current Directions in Psychological Science Current Directions in Psychol Sci, 57-61.

3. Cook, W. (1943). Practical lessons in hypnotism. New York: Willey Book.

4. Radin, D. (1997). The conscious universe: The scientific truth of psychic phenomena. New York, N.Y.: HarperEdge.