The Fit Student—How to Snare Secrets

Would you fib to nudge a friend to spill secrets?  A white lie may coax a secret but leave you feeling low-down.  Yet, loads of people lie.

For instance, I confessed to a store clerk I could hardly swim—just dog paddle and backstroke.   She admitted she couldn’t swim either.  We giggled.  So, I let it slip I use life jackets when swimming indoors.  She howled and said she used water wings.  But minutes later, she let on to a customer that she had her level six swimming.  She had duped me.  So now, I safeguard my secrets when she says “Hi.”

Yet detectives and corporate competitors bait secrets with lies.  Lies are loathsome, aren’t they?  So, how do flattery and gifts—the sweet stuff—fare for coaxing secrets?

I love to flatter females, not to bait secrets, but to build rapport.   If I spot a positive trait about a person, it’s my task to share the kudos.  After all, a kind word can change a life.  I love to buy gifts, too.  One year I went gung-ho gift-giving, but only one friend gave in return.  The adage that gifts beget gifts didn’t hold.  Yet, giving feels great.

But offering flattery or gifts to snare secrets sickens me.  So does offering sexuality.  One woman used sexuality to win over clients.  A pal urged me to learn her tactics.  But I’d rather learn from a saint without a single client.

But sometimes baiting secrets is ethical.  Do you plan to become a psychologist, detective, police officer, or teacher?  If so, David Craig shows how to lure people to share secrets in his book Unlocking Secrets: How to Get People to Tell You Everything:

  • Psychologists often use flattery to snare secrets: “Flattery is difficult to use convincingly as an elicitation line … Flattery should be delivered in small amounts and where possible it should focus on the secret subject area” (location 1485, 55%).
  • But the worst folk lie to tease out secrets: “With the view to accessing hidden information … a company employee … shares a fabricated intimate secret with a friendly competitor to create an impression that the relationship is closer than it actually is” (location 1583, 58%).
  • And the wicked use lies to draw out insider info: “Stan has shared a (false) secret about his company’s research and development budget. This made Simon feel as if the relationship had progressed to the point of sharing confidential information” (location 1648, 61%).
  • So, what lie can the baiter use? “To assist in unlocking a secret, we can give a person some information—of the same or similar kind that we want from the secret keeper” (location 1606, 59%).
  • And how does the baiter coax the secret-keeper to fess up? “Sharing a secret to unlock a secret … you need to pause … forcing the secret-keeper to make a comment about this secret information” (location 1617, 59%).

My boyfriend ranks high on social skills.  People share with him their life’s secrets.  When they do, he offers them ways to cope, dispelling their worries.  But he does this out of love—never with a lie; never with a scheme.

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