Conversational hypnosis is a form of hypnosis where a person induces a trance-like and suggestible state in a subject during a seemingly ordinary conversation. It requires building a strong rapport, introducing elements of confusion, and then inserting suggestive statements to guide the subconscious of the subject. People may also refer to this as covert hypnosis, a reference to the goal of accomplishing the hypnosis so subtly that the subject is not aware.
Some conspiracy theories suggest that conversational hypnosis can be a tool for things like brainwashing people into joining cults or believing ideas antithetical to their stated beliefs. Studies on hypnosis suggest that while people tend to be more susceptible to influence when they are in a hypnotic trance, the person performing the hypnosis cannot actually shape the subject's mind or cause someone to engage in uncharacteristic behavior, making these claims somewhat dubious.
A form of conversational hypnosis is taught to some salespeople, where training focuses on getting the salesperson to establish a connection, getting the customer to view the salesperson as a trustworthy and reliable source of information. Once the salesperson has this rapport, confusing elements can be introduced to the conversation to get the subject to feel off-balance, followed by soothing suggestions to resolve the confusion. These suggestions, of course, revolve around buying the product or service the salesperson is marketing.
Conversational hypnosis techniques rely on careful word use and body language to set the subject at ease and then slowly direct and shape the conversation. The conversation induces a feeling of disorientation and people may later forget about the content of the conversation, or have difficulty following the series of logical twists that led to a conclusion. People may use these techniques in activities like debating, where the goal is to get the subject so confused that he may argue against earlier points, not make sense, or fail to respond to the points being made, creating weaknesses in the argument.
The effectiveness of conversational hypnosis is a subject of debate. It helps to work with a subject who is already suggestible; someone who is preparing to buy a used car, for example, is more suggestible to a car salesperson than someone casually walking past a lot and inspecting the cars on offer without a firm intent to buy. Practice and skill can also increase the success of a positive outcome. People who find it easy to build friendly rapport in conversation will master this technique more quickly than those who struggle at making conversational connections.