Law 14: Pose As A Friend, Work As A Spy

In the image: Shinzo Abe is a Japanese politician who served as Prime Minister of Japan and President of the Liberal Democratic Party from 2006 to 2007 and again from 2012 to 2020. He is the longest-serving prime minister in Japanese history.

Knowing about your rival is critical. Use spies to gather valuable information that will keep you a step ahead. Better still: play the spy yourself. In polite social encounters, learn to probe. Ask indirect questions to get people to reveal their weaknesses and intentions. There is no occasion that is not an opportunity for artful spying.

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Keys To Power

  • People won’t tell you all their thoughts, emotions, and plans. As such, you cannot predict their movies and are constantly in the dark.
  • The trick is to find a way to probe them, to find out their secrets and hidden intentions, without letting them know what you are up to.
  • The most common way of spying is to use other people. The method is simple, powerful but risky — risked being exposed, or fed wrong information.
  • It is better to be the spy, posing as a friend while secretly gathering info.
  • Practice this tactic with caution and care. If people begin to suspect you are worming secrets out of them under the banner of conversation, they will avoid you. Emphasize friendly chatter, not valuable information.
  • By pretending to bare your heart to another person, you make them more likely to reveal their own secrets.
In the image: Daniel Craig as master spy Agent 007 from the James Bond Franchise

Reversal

  • Just as you spy on other people, you must be prepared for others to spy on you.
  • You can feed the wrong information.

Example

Napoleon Bonaparte. Portarit of Napoleon Bonaparte 1769-1821 at the battle. Detail of a painting by Joseph Chabord 1786-1848. Museo Napoleonico, Rome Italy

Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, French politician and mastermind behind Napoleon Bonaparte’s defeat would hold himself back in conversation and get others to talk endlessly of themselves to the point of betraying their own thought, intent and strategy. An interrogation disguised as a friendly chat, so subtle that the victim did not notice. 

Learn to judge a person’s character by what they reveal of themselves so that you can recognize a threat before it arises. Test people’s honesty before you consider trusting them.

About The Book

The 48 Laws of Power (1998) is a non-fiction book by American author Robert Greene. The book is a bestseller, selling over 1.2 million copies in the United States.

Buy The 48 Laws of Power or Listen to it for FREE on Audible