Tag Archives: magic

Three Red Lights

“There are three little red lights that sit inside the head of the spectator”, David Williamson said, world leading close-up magician. “When the magician is holding the deck in a strange way, the first light goes off. When the card is put back in a peculiar fashion, the second one goes off. When the third light goes off, the spectator starts thinking of football.”

The three lights inside my head.
The three lights inside my head.

In a ex-DDR lecture hall in the Kulturpalast in Dresden, David Williamson [1] explained the Psychology of Magic from a spectator perspective. Full of energy and slap-stick physical humor, he visualized a very important principle about trust.
When you watch a magic trick, you open a window of trust in which the magician can let you experience something unbelievable in a wonderful way. However, it only works as long as the performer does not rub you off in the wrong way. As soon as there is something inconsistent, you start to get alert and the enjoyment is immediately reduced. The less natural the actions, the less convincing the presentation. Small clues aggregate to strengthen or weaken trust. In management it is the same. And it cuts both ways.

If an engineer in my team is doing something that feels fishy, a red light goes off, somewhere deep inside my head. And it is burning for a long time… If all three lights are on, I lose trust and confidence.
It is also true in the other way. If I as a department manager express something clumsy or insensitive a red light goes on. Three lights and I have lost a big chunk of authority…

I think this is a deeply human reaction. It is not even necessary to have fact-based observations, just indications that something is wrong. Therefore, this mechanism is not “fair” in the legalistic sense of the word. But it is usually correct.
It is captured in the old Dutch saying that “Trust comes on foot and leaves on horseback” (“Vertrouwen komt te voet en vertrekt te paard” [2]).

This energy can be both positive and negative – so we should use it in a constructive way to build stronger teams. We must also be aware of the destructive power: I speculate that this is the power of gossip. The indications are enough to change our perception of people around us.
This powerful force can be channeled to help us take care of the group and find out who needs support in difficult situations. We communicate with so much more than words. How we talk, how we say things and how timely we are say more than words. All these signals are unconsciously recorded and build momentum.

People do not see everything you do, they collect clues.
Or as my friend Ruben says, after the football philosopher JC Watts – “Character is what you do when you think that nobody is looking.”
Use the force of positive power to project energy into the people around you – and they will smile back, whether they want it or not.

[1] See more of the excellent magician David Williamson on: http://davidwilliamson.com/

[2] http://nl.wikiquote.org/wiki/Vertrouwen

[image] http://noveltylights.com

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