By now you know how much I love understand how people can be manipulated, oups… I meant influenced. No, really I meant what I said.  How to make people do, what they think they would not.

And this is a different take from the last post about we all follow like sheep.  It is not about getting a critical mass of people to do something, so that your mark, oups again, your negotiation partner does what you want him/her to do.  This is the art of influencing someone step by step to do what you want in the long run.

It sounds cryptic. Let me take a concrete example from the book “the spy’s son“.  The most famous US double agent.  He is not only famous for all the intel he gave to the Soviet Union during the cold war, he is infamous for having convinced his son to continue spying for the Soviet Union while he was in prison. Yes, this guy would never get dad of the year award and must be seriously twisted.  What needs to be unpacked is how did he manage that.  He is in prison, and his son who comes to visit him in prison, and knows that his dad is in there because of spying on his own country, would nevertheless continue spying for the Soviet Union.  How did he do it? He did not say “you will pick up where I left it”.  Instead, he first asked his son to do something small, like sending a postcard to an address in the US, then it would be to pick up an envelope, then it would be to transport a small package, then he would start receiving money and before the son realizes it, he would have meetings with the head of the rezidentura (the Russian spy big boss). If you asked the son “give this secret message to a chief Russian spy” most likely the answer would have been “hell no”.  But asking a small, innocent looking favour for his dad, what kind of son would say no…

The reality is “what separates honest people from not-honest people is not necessarily character, it’s opportunity” says Dan Ariely, a professor of psychology and behavioural economics at Duke University in his book The Honest Truth about Dishonesty.  Because behind big lies are a series of small deceptions.  Some people may take advantage of this bias with people to lead them step by step.  My personal opinion is that the saying “this is a slippery slope” may well come from that bias too. Watch out and use with care.