I’ve been thinking about loops.
I wrote about loops here, and in the intervening nineteen months I’ve come to a better understanding of them.
Loops were called to my attention by the Zeigarnik Effect, which is that our minds will keep paying attention to open loops until the loops are closed. In hypnosis we use this effect to deliver suggestive payloads to the subconscious: if you open loop inside loop inside loop inside loop the conscious mind gives up trying to keep track of them, and you can make a suggestion, and then close the loops successively and the conscious mind will not be aware of the suggestion delivered to the unconscious mind.
In studying and teaching persuasion and charisma I realized that most two-way interpersonal communications are loops. If I smile warmly and sincerely at you, you may feel good and will smile warmly and sincerely at me, and I will feel good: a feedback loop.
If you scowl at me, I may feel bad and scowl at you will feel bad: also a feedback loop. Lots of people go through life this way, wondering why the world hates them and putting on a defensive scowl.
I thought of these feedback loops as a different sort of loop than the Zeigarnik Effect loop. The new realization is that they are slightly different versions of the same thing.
Our brains want loops closed. Feedback loops are loops that the audience can close. If A opens the loop, B can close it. The telemarketer’s first question is, “how are you doing?” because they know it’s hard for normal people to avoid closing a loop.
Zeigarnik Effect loops are loops that the audience cannot close. If A opens the loop, B will attend to it until B closes it.
Charisma is about, at a bare minimum, opening loops of both sorts: opening positive feedback loops (tilt, flash, and smile!) to make your audience feel good, and opening Zeigarnik Effect loops to hold your audience’s attention.
Opening loops is so crucial to charisma that whoever opens the loop has the charismatic advantage.
Not that it’s a competition.
In fact, it’s the opposite of competition, as exemplified by the ultimate competition (war). In war, you want to get inside your adversary’s loop, which means making your loop as tight as possible. In charisma, you want to bring your audience into your loop, which means making your loop as large as possible.