Just Seven Things

Exploring why and how we do what we do, and how we can do it better

NLP, Social Networks and Smoking

A study in the The New England Journal of Medicine used 32 years of data from 12,000 people who participated in the Framingham Heart Study. The study, launched in 1948 in Framingham, Massachusetts, has provided the strongest evidence of the links between diet, lifestyle, and heart disease.

What’s fascinating is that the researchers seemed so taken aback by the results in relation to smoking habits and the impact that one person within a social network giving up smoking has on the rest of the network.

The doctors’ analysis of the data showed that:

  • When a husband or wife quit, the chance that their spouse would smoke fell by 67 per cent;
  • When a friend quit, the chances of smoking among their other friends fell by 36 per cent;
  • In small firms, a worker quitting would reduce smoking by his or her colleagues by 34 per cent. But in big firms the effect was insignificant;
  • When a brother or sister quit, the other sibling was 25 per cent less likely to smoke.

Drs Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler suggested that: “the closeness of the relationship in the network was the key to the spread of smoking behaviours.” The quitting behaviour is not literally contagious, but a response to the changing social climate that is passed on through people who are linked.

“If there’s a change in the Zeitgeist of this social network, like a cultural shift, a whole group of people who are connected but who might not know each other all quit together,” Dr Christakis said

Taking the four pillars of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP):

  1. Successful Outcomes
  2. Sensory Acuity
  3. Behavioural flexibility
  4. Rapport

I would suggest that what actually happens within the social network is that all the spouses and friends and work colleagues and siblings who already had the objective or goal of giving up suddenly had a whole heap of data that they could suddenly access. This data of the whats and the hows, the behaviours and patterns. The shifts to routines and habits. The thought processes, feelings, challenges and ‘proven’ responses that enable other people to better model the successful outcome.

The successful outcome of giving up smoking.

So, simply put: when you know someone in your network who has achieved a successful outcome you desire you ask questions. You find out how they did it. You model it. And you do it yourself.

Marvellous. I wonder whether rich people hang round with other rich people because they seek them out, or because of the network effect of successful outcome modelling?

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