A Suggestion may be described as an idea that is imparted to the mind in an indirect way, in contradistinction to one that is created by reasoning or demonstration. This definition is not exhaustive, nor precisely correct, but it will serve very well for a practical basis of the consideration of our subject.
It is evident that we receive our mental impressions from thousands of suggestive sources, and vastly more of them in that manner than through direct or definite agencies. Suggestions are conveyed by hint, intimation, insinuation; by gesture, look and attitude. They are excited by partial statement, incidental allusion, illustration and question. They are derived from all kinds of conditions and things. Inferences are generally in the nature of suggestions, rather than positive deductions. Suggestions are spontaneously set up by the Association of Ideas.
In psychology, Suggestion is sometimes held to include mental impressions which are made by authoritative statement or repetition, and not supported by logic or proof. This form of Suggestion is widely employed by the writers of advertisements, by preachers, by salesmen and others whose purpose is to induce the acceptance of propositions which would be either impossible or difficult of demonstration.
At almost every moment of the day we are receiving and making mental impressions by suggestive processes. When we think about the matter we are forced to the somewhat humiliating conclusion that most of our actions and thoughts have their origin in such uncertain influences.
The power of Suggestion for good or evil is extremely great because its application is practically limitless, and because we are all highly susceptible to its effects. Let us take two contrasting examples. You attend a strange place of worship and after awhile find yourself imbued with some of the new doctrines, although they conflict with your former belief. You repeatedly read the circular of some patent nostrum and presently you display some of the symptoms of disease described in it, although you were previously perfectly healthy.
Certain medicines, containing nothing more powerful than gentian or sugar, and certain appliances, such as electric bells and metallic finger rings, are undoubtedly effective in curing disease. Two facts are absolutely established in these cases,- first, that the medium has no inherent therapeutic quality, and, second, that it has effected true cures.
Where are we to find the solution to this paradox? In Suggestion, to be sure.
Now, Suggestion and Auto-Suggestion differ only in source of origin. In principle and operation they are alike. By insistance that you are looking ill, I can make you look so. You can produce the same result by similar thought originating in your own mind.
If I should intimate to you daily for a month that I believe you to be a strong "closer," you would soon begin to share my belief and- which is of practical account-your efficiency in "closing" would actually increase. But you could produce precisely the same effect by Auto-Suggestion.
Now, let me give you another thought. The effect of this Suggestion by me or by yourself would not be limited to the moment each day when the mind might be directed consciously to the matter, but it would be working and growing constantly. This, because when a seed has been planted in the subconscious mind the processof germination and growth will go on without any realization on your part, except in so far as you infer it from manifest effect. The plant will need occasional tending, just as the farmer's corn does, but the development will proceed in one case as in the other whilst no attention is being paid to it.
I shall not attempt to explain this phenomenon. There are numerous reliable books available to you should you desire to know the why and the how of the matter. My design is to draw your attention to the Fact and to impress upon you the tremendous value of Suggestion and Auto-Suggestion as practical agencies which you may employ scientifically in your work and in the development of your Efficiency. The existence of Suggestion and the Subconscious Mind are beyond dispute. You need not go beyond yourself for evidence of them and the phenomena connected with them.
At almost every moment of the day we are subjected to Suggestion or exerting it upon others, but for the most in a haphazard or accidental manner. If we should learn the principles governing this agency and adopt methods of intelligent application, we would have a very powerful force at our command for the promotion of our business.
Advertising, which is selling by wireless, so to speak, is based on identically the same principles as "direct contact" salesmanship. A study of first-class advertising, such as may be found in the leading magazines, will afford us many illustrations of the practical application of the principles of Suggestion. We may gain other valuable lessons from the same source, and among them the important practice of getting on the Prospect's side of the fence and examining the situation from his point of view.
In the course of the canvass the Life Insurance agent frequently resorts to Suggestion. Experience has taught him that certain methods are likely to produce certain results, but he has no clear conception of the principles nor the mental processes involved. If he had, his practices might be improved by a greater degree of finesse and variety.
The salesman names policyholders to a Prospect in the hope of stimulating him through the suggestion of imitation. He habitually makes his technical statements with an air of assurance, instinctively aiming to create an impression by the suggestion of authority. He may not fully appre-ciate the force of suggestion by repetition, but he knows that by conveying the same thought to a Prospect's mind a sufficient number of times it may be made to lodge there. In similar manner he is constantly playing upon the suggestion of habit without conscious application of the principle of the human tendency to move along the lines of least resistance.
But you say: "If the salesman is already practicing these methods is it of consequence whether he is moved by experience or by a knowledge of principles?" The reply is: "No matter how skilled the unscientific salesman may be, his efficiency must be greatly increased by an understanding of the 'how and why' of his processes."
The subtler forms of Suggestion are seldom employed extensively, except by salesmen who have an intelligent grasp of the principles involved. But these delicate methods of making mental impressions are the most effective and in many difficult situations the only means to the end.
Frequently men- and especially those of the positive types- may be more readily influenced by indirect Suggestion than by ar-gument. Indeed, it sometimes happens that a man unconsciously acts under the former influence with the idea that his action is entirely independent, when he would op-pose an overt suggestion or request that he should do the thing in question.
In conclusion, I would urge upon you the great advantage of employing Auto-Suggestion as an agency for self-improvement. I must restrict myself to a few brief hints, but the matter is one which will repay your fullest consideration of it. Here you have a medium that is limitless in its scope and effect, and one that may be made the means of developing in you the utmost Efficiency. Indeed, it is an essential factor. Your personality and your business capacity are largely the effect of Suggestions and influences from without, but in almost equal degree are they the outcome of self-impression and self-influence. By deliberate and systematic Auto-Suggestion you may secure practically any results you please in these directions.
One of the most important factors in a sales operation is the Mental Attitude of the salesman. This may be regulated to any extent by Auto-Suggestion. Constantly remind yourself that you are confident, well-poised and determined. Begin each day's work by re-impressing yourself with the ideas of the superiority of your Company, the excellence of its contracts, the benevolent character of your business, and so forth. Read the following "credo" every morning. It will work as effectively as did the ancient incantations, through the action of the same cause- Auto-Suggestion.