Monthly : May 2017

in News

How to “Trick” Shady People Into Doing What You Want

I totally blew it.

Two absolutely disastrous personal business deals.  The same tactical blunder.

The details are unimportant.  (This isn’t that kind of blog post.)

What’s important for you, dear reader, is to know …

  • how to avoid this blunder yourself
  • the cost of this blunder, in terms of wasted time and energy, can be extreme (it certainly was for me – lesson learned – moving on)

So, take heed!

The root of my blunder can be found in two apparently conflicting theories of persuasion …

Theory A:  Reciprocity

Popularized by persuasion theorist Robert Cialdini, reciprocity theory states that if you do a kindness for someone, they are likely to feel obligated to repay that kindness in the future.

Theory B:  Appeal to Self-Interest

Best expressed by Robert Greene in The 48 Laws of Power (Law #13), this theory states that reciprocity theory is misguided.  Instead of making one feel obligated, an appeal to past favors will breed contempt and resentment.  So, a more effective approach is an appeal to self-interest.  That is, show them that by doing what you want, they will be rewarded in the future.

So, who is right?

Well, both …

Reciprocity is, indeed, quite powerful in certain cases but can create resentment in others.  And if you’re dealing with a shady actor, your gestures of kindness will only embolden and amuse them.

An appeal to self-interest, however, is always effective – no matter who you’re dealing with.   Honest or shady … everyone wants a future reward.

And this was my blunder.  My default mode is to treat folks with kindness and to see the best in them.  I still believe it’s the best general approach on an individual and global level.  As a species, we need to evolve toward this – especially as the world becomes increasingly volatile.  And often seeing the best in people will bring out the best in people.

But … this can lead to a certain kind of blindness.  Your gut may be screaming, “Do not trust this person!” But this signal is often blunted by cock-eyed optimism and kindness.

A balance of these two approaches, then, is obviously the best choice.

  • If your gut is telling you someone is shady, back out of the deal.  In general, no matter the potential reward, it will not be worth the grief.
  • If you’re committed to a deal, whether the other party is honest or shady, remember the Russian proverb popularized by Ronald Reagan: “trust but verify.”
  • Always structure the other party’s self-interest into the deal (in the form of future reward for doing what you want, or an easily-enforceable penalty for not).

To learn more of Robert Greene’s timeless (albeit utterly amoral) wisdom, check out part two in our four-part summary of his masterful book The 48 Laws of Power.

Simpleology Summaries:
The 48 Laws of Power – Part 2: Laws 13-24
download now (while it’s free)

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