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Have you ever sat there feeling confused, frustrated or running out of patience listening to someone talk and talk?

There is actually a method manipulators use to confuse you into compliance so that they can get their way with you. It is something you may not know is happening, but once you understand it, you can predict it and even get out of it before it’s too late.

I’d like to share a lesson I learned long ago, one rooted in the realm of hypnosis. With certifications from two hypnosis schools, I gained a deep understanding of the subconscious mind and how it plays a pivotal role in the way people influence us.

This knowledge about the subconscious became a source of fascination for me, particularly in the areas of ethical and unethical influence. I must admit, there were times, especially during my marriage, when my actions weren’t the pinnacle of ethical behavior. I was adept at manipulation, a realization that became clearer upon reflection and understanding the methods I had unconsciously employed.

One hypnotic process that stands out in this context is called “the confusion technique.” This method can be employed by manipulators to induce a trance-like state by overwhelming the listener with a barrage of information that doesn’t quite connect logically.

Have you ever found yourself lost in someone’s lengthy monologue or lecture, where the words just wash over you without sinking in? It’s like trying to grasp a highly technical explanation when you lack the background knowledge; the confusion sets in, and you zone out, waiting for a reprieve. This state of bewilderment is akin to a trance.

Consider this: a person speaking incessantly about a topic you find incomprehensible can induce a trance-like state where your mind desperately seeks an escape to something more understandable. It’s like a dog who figures out how to get a snack by turning around or begging or staring at you with those cute eyes. They know you’ll eventually give them a snack.

When you give them the snack, they realize something they did just worked. So they do that series of behaviors again just to get to that treat.

A lot of people who want to manipulate you will use the confusion technique (again, probably unknowingly) because they learned that confusing you simply works. They talk incessantly, and eventually, you submit and do what they want. They may not even know they’re doing it.

Why do some people do this? The goal is to disorient you to the point where you seek any form of relief. For instance, in hypnosis, a convoluted instruction involving your left and right hands can leave you entangled in confusion. Your brain tries to follow along but gets lost in the mix-up of directions.

When the instruction finally simplifies, offering a clear action, your brain latches on, grateful for direction instead of confusion. This is the essence of the confusion technique: it leads you through a maze until you’re so desperate for a way out that you’ll latch onto the first clear directive, which is often what the manipulator wants you to do.

This technique isn’t limited to emotionally abusive relationships. It can happen in any relationship. People can use confusion to create a sense of impatience or frustration, leading their partner to a point where they’re willing to do anything for resolution.

Confusion can be a manipulation that preys on our desire to escape discomfort, offering a solution that aligns with a manipulator’s wishes.

I’ve experienced this firsthand. Once, outside a restaurant, a stranger approached my car and spun a long, disorienting tale. My wife and I were caught off guard, which is another hypnotic technique known as a pattern interrupt.

By the time he asked for money, we were so eager for him to stop talking that we complied without hesitation. It was a clear example of how manipulation can leave you feeling hypnotized, willing to do anything for the solace of silence and understanding. Some people will go to great lengths to get their way.

A client sent me a recording once. It was of her and her husband. In the recording, her husband would not stop talking. He kept talking to her and at her. She told me of his many monologues that continued on sometimes for over an hour. And, as usual, she finally submitted, giving him what he wanted.

Constant talking isn’t inherently negative, but it becomes problematic when it’s used as a tool for manipulation. It seems that for this person’s husband, the relentless chatter was a means to avoid discussing his behavior or anything he wished to evade.

This incessant talking can indeed be a major part of the confusion technique, designed to lead a person to a point of such exasperation that they’ll grasp at any solution offered, often to the benefit of the speaker.

Imagine enduring this for ten minutes, let alone over an hour or two. If you’ve experienced this, did you find yourself looking for any exit you could? Unfortunately, when the only exit presented is one that benefits the other person, it’s a clear sign of manipulation at play.

Being aware of such techniques is crucial. The confusion technique is often employed without conscious intent; many manipulators aren’t studying manuals about unethical influence. They’ve simply learned that their methods yield the results they want.

If you’ve ever questioned your own actions, wondering why you keep conceding or why you always end up giving the other person what they want, it could be because you’re seeking the path of least resistance.

To counteract this, you might be able to interrupt their pattern (literally by interrupting them) by asking clarifying questions like:

Wait, what do you mean by that?
When you said this, what did you mean?

It’s not an easy tactic, especially if a certain communication dynamic has been established, but it can be effective. This can help you take control of the conversation, breaking you free from the role of a passive listener and disrupting their strategy. Putting them in the spotlight to answer questions about what they’re saying might even make them not want to continue talking since their primary goal might be to get you to submit, not put them on the spot.

Of course, if they are only interested in controlling you, that process may not work at all. Meaning that you can interrupt all you want, and depending on the person, they might become more intimidating or disruptive themselves.

No matter what, understanding these techniques empowers you. It allows you to anticipate the direction the manipulator is steering you, knowing that their aim is to exploit your discomfort and confusion for their own gain.

In hypnosis, the confusion technique can be used ethically. For example, a hypnotist might create a confusing scenario, making you wonder where they’re taking you, but at the same time, offering a calming directive that your subconscious mind eagerly adopts, providing relief from the confusion.

But manipulators don’t guide you to a positive resolution; they lead you down a path that serves their interests, not yours.

The confusion technique isn’t exclusively a term of emotional abuse or manipulation; it originates from hypnosis. It’s a tool that, when used with positive intent, can help someone overcome a challenge. However, it can be twisted for nefarious purposes. And I wanted to share it with you because it could be happening to you.

Compassionate, kind, and generous people can find their virtues exploited by manipulators. They’ll use your compassion against you, play the victim, or construct scenarios where they know you’ll feel compelled to offer your kindness.

The more you learn about manipulative, toxic language, the more prepared you’ll be when confronted with it.

Share this with someone who might benefit.

Paul Colaianni

Paul Colaianni is a Behavior and Relationship Coach, and the host of The Overwhelmed Brain and Love and Abuse podcasts.

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