The Word on Words: What percentage of statistics are made up?

In my Melbourne copywriting business, I get a few questions and a whole mountain of demands. For example, referrals and visitors ask if I can add hypnotic words to my copy to increase sales potential. I reply thus:

If the words you speak of were truly hypnotic, everyone would use them.

If you've ever seen my HECS bill, it's no surprise that I attended university for a long, long time. The heady aroma of freshly-brewed coffee and musty rows of books sends me into a panic, as if I'll fall short of an essay deadline. On my off hours, I'd rummage through old communications journals and books to really understand how we humans exchange ideas via images and sounds we create. A few of my ruminations ended up in said journals.

My first line of inquiry was into what's termed Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), a distillation of several communications theories sold as a sales silver bullet, in many cases. NLP is an offshoot of research into the hypnotherapeutic techniques of Dr. Milton Erickson, Ph.D by Richard Bandler and John Grinder.

For the most part, Bandler and Grinder bundled up swathes of research from the Palo Alto Mental Research Institute into bite-size, pop-psychology chunks and sold it to the masses.

This included research from family therapist Virginia Satir, the father of Gestalt therapy Frederick "Fritz" Perls and the aforementioned Dr. Erickson. Its proponents tout techniques which convince unruly teens to fly straight, recalcitrant spouses to fall back in love and even cure common colds. I know, right?

The NLP mantra of "the map is not the territory" was in fact coined by Count Alfred Korzybski, the originator of the mental discipline (read: not a cure-all) known as General Semantics. (In full disclosure, I am a member of the Australian General Semantics Society.)

Another furphy flying around the Internet at warp speed is the Albert Mehrabian rule. It states that ALL communication adheres to a "7% word choice-38% voice tonality-55% facial expression "rule" that one should apply always and without fail. In reality, the findings were part of an experiment limited to individual words and conducted under controlled laboratory conditions.

It seems like fiction, because the claims practitioners make are factually baseless on the main. In fact, the speculative fiction books Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson and the recent Lexicon by Max Barry use some of Korzybski's work (perhaps unintentionally) to drive exciting plots around dangerous hypno-words dooming the fabric of our reality.

How can you take cover from these "sure-fire sellers?" All it takes is a little credulity.