They’re still learning and experimenting with language, and their special ways of saying things are inventive and original—though they may not seem so after the hundredth time hearing them!
An example: We played a counting game at lunchtime to encourage the eating of fruits and vegetables. After each one eaten, I’d ask, “How many have you got left?”
Pretty soon the kids were eating more and copying the phrase, with their own modification of course: “How many you got?”
Soon they were asking me every two seconds: “How many you got? How many you got?”
Phrases Playing Over and Over in Your Brain
Fortunately most phrases that come out of children’s mouths are cute at that age, and I didn’t mind the repetition one bit. (Especially since it meant they were eating their vegetables!) I did find, however, that after the kids left at the end of the week, their little voices continued on in my head.
In the shower. At lunchtime. Before bed.
How many you got?
It “got” me thinking. If after only a week of repetition these phrases could cycle like non-stop recordings in my brain, how much have I been influenced by other, more lasting voices in my life?
Repetition is obviously an effective method of persuasion in our culture. Politicians regularly take advantage of it. (Remember the impact of “Yes we can!” from Obama’s successful campaign.)
Joel Bauer and Mark Levy, authors of How to Persuade People Who Don’t Want to be Persuaded, encourage readers interested in influencing people to “distill your concepts into catchy slogans, and use these slogans repeatedly in your message. If you do—and your slogans make good sense—your ideas will lodge in your persuadee’s mind.”
And later: “Believe me, by the time I’m through pitching, that slogan is ringing in people’s ears….To make a phrase stick, repetition is crucial….”
We’re bombarded by these “catchy slogans” every day of our lives. We may think that we’re immune to their effects, but studies say otherwise.
Repetition Convinces us the Statement is True
Researchers in Canada found that people rated statements repeated just once as more valid or true than statements they heard for the first time—even when the person saying them had been repeatedly lying.
What can we do to protect ourselves from being unduly influenced by the repeated phrases coming at us from the media, politicians, and advertising? Studies say the difference lies in our attention level. Repetition is more effective when we’re not really focused on the message. When we concentrate on what we’re hearing, we’re more likely to filter out the useful information from the junk.
Hearing our own unique voice is hard enough without having to consciously separate it from so many others echoing in our heads, but it’s the reality of our world. There’s a lot of information coming at us from a lot of different sources, and most of them are interested in persuading us to do something—often something we may not want to do, if we took the time to think about it.
To avoid being influenced by others when you don’t want to be, be cautious when making critical decisions.
Where is the Message Coming From?
Ask yourself, “Is this really something I want to do, or am I doing it on an impulse—that may be coming from somewhere else?” On the chance that you may be acting under the unknown influence of another person or group of people, ask yourself if you would proceed if those people suddenly disappeared.
In the end, we’re all influenced to a certain degree by the voices around us—whether they come from live people or via our televisions and cell phones. That means that it’s vitally important that we “feed” our conscious and unconscious minds with material we think will benefit us in positive ways—whether that be from friends, relatives, books, movies, television shows, and other sources of information and influence.
Making sure that we tune into those things that enhance and inspire us will help us to stay true to our own inner voices.
For now, I don’t mind the influence of my nephews. The phrase, “How many you got?” has inspired me to eat a few more carrots with my lunch. Six is always better than five, right? (Cut up in little pieces, of course.)