48 Laws of Power: Law #14 Pose As a Friend, Work As a Spy

Law 14: Pose as a friend, work as a spy

  •      Learn to probe and find valuable information.
  •      Ask indirect questions.
  •      Every occasion is a chance to spy.

I’m not the biggest fan of Law 14 at the surface and here’s why. I don’t think one is clever when he asks questions that inevitably lead to an answer that reveals any information not intended for that individual. When people probe in this manner I purposely give them an off the wall but believable answer to see just how much the cogs in their minds churn. You can see their interest suddenly peak as they sense they got something juicy, at which point I shut down and ignore them and let their mind wonder. This is usually done by older people who think they are clever, and in my opinion their intelligence is revealed by the reaction they have to me saying something off the wall. One has the advantage of judging the spy because the spy often thinks he is the only one spying. The basic reasoning for this is that idea of probing reeks of the attitude that the person is a source and an intelligent individual can quickly recognize you think he is a source and simply misinform you.

To avoid this pitfall you need to genuinely understand the person you’re speaking to and not probe or pry but change the flow of conversation on a by topic basis. So rule 14 should basically be summarized as be attentive and go with the flow of conversation.

Allowing the speaker to become emotional helps you gauge his/her real motives, which is basically a small window(or sometimes large depending on how emotional the individual is) into their personality. With this information you follow through with topics that further stimulate their excitement. The more excited they are around you the more they will begin to like and even trust you, and as they do they will give you all the real information you want by simply being more or less receptive to your conversational suggestions to do so.


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