The essence of deception is distraction. Distracting the people you want to deceive gives you the time and space to do something they will not notice. An act of kindness, generosity, or honesty is often the most powerful form of distraction disarms people’s attention and suspicions. People turns into children eagerly lapping up any kind of affectionate gesture. This is what I call “giving before you take”. The giving makes it hard for people to notice the taking. This is a strategy with infinite practical uses. Brazenly taking something from someone is dangerous, even for the powerful. The victim of the taking may plot revenge. It is also dangerous to simply ask for what you need, no matter how politely you do it: Unless people see some gain for themselves, they may come to resent your neediness. Learn to give before you take. It softens the ground, takes the bite out of future request, or simply create distractions. The giving can take many forms: An actual gift, a generous act, a kind favor, an “honest” admission, whatever it takes.
Selective honesty is best employed on your first encounter with someone. A first impression lasts a long time. If someone believes you are honest at the start of your relationship, it will take a lot to convince them otherwise. And this gives you plenty of room to maneuver. A single act of honesty is often not enough. What is important is a reputation for honesty built on a series of act. These can be quite inconsequential. Once your reputation for honesty is established, as with first impressions, it is hard to shake.
Honesty is one of the best ways to disarm the wary, but it is not the only one. Any kind of noble, apparently selfless act will serve you. The best such act is one of generosity. Few people can resist a gift, even from the most hardened enemy. Generosity is often the perfect way to disarm people. A gift brings out the child in us, instantly lowering our defenses. Although we often view other people’s actions in the most cynical light, we rarely see the Machiavellian element of a gift, which quite often hides ulterior motives. A gift is the perfect object in which to hide a deceptive move.
Selective kindness should also be part of your arsenal of deception. By playing on people’s emotions, calculated acts of kindness can turn anyone into a gullible child. As with any emotional approach, this strategy must be practiced with caution: If people see through it, their disappointed feelings of gratitude and warmth will become the most violent hatred and distrust. Unless you can make the gesture seem sincere and heartfelt, do not play with fire.
When you have a history of deceit behind you, no amount of honesty, generosity or kindness will fool people. Any such act will only call attention to itself. Once people have come to see you as deceitful, to act honest all of a sudden is simply suspicious. In these cases, it is better to play the rogue. Nothing in the realm of success and power is set in stone. Overt deceptiveness will sometimes cover your tracks, even making you admired for the honesty of your dishonesty.
Michel Ouellette JMD
J. Michael Dennis, ll.l., ll.m.