Law 12: Use Selective Honesty and Generosity to Disarm Your Victim


One sincere and honest move will cover over dozens of dishonest ones. Open-hearted gestures of honesty and generosity bring down the guard of even the most suspicious people. Once your selective honesty opens a hole in their armor, you can deceive and manipulate them at will. A timely gift—a Trojan horse—will serve the same purpose.

7 Ways You Can Disarm Anyone

1. Through an act of apparent sincerity and honesty.

This is called selective honesty. Who will distrust a person literally caught in the act of being honest? This is an unexpected, well-timed gesture that conflicts the emotions and distracts the one being disarmed and have the most brutal and cynical beast in the kingdom eating out of your hand. In ancient China this was called the “giving before the take.” The giving makes it hard for the other person to see the taking.

Count Victor Lustig is one of the best examples of this law at work. Lustig was a con man of great distinction, refinement and culture, and his knowledge of human psychology was his most important characteristic. He was so confident in himself that he was able to con Al Capone, the most feared gangster of his time, out of $5,000. Capone never knew what happened because Lustig disarmed him through selective honesty.

Lustig returned $50,000 to Capone for allowing him to take the money in order to double it in sixty-days. Lustig took the money and left it in a safety deposit box until the sixty-days were up. He went back to Capone, apologized profusely about the deal falling through and returned the original $50,000. Capone had already pegged Lustig as a con artist, but when Lustig returned the money, it confused Capone and he dropped his guard and gave Lustig $5,000 just for “being honest.”

2. Learn to give before you take.

It softens the ground, takes the bite out of a future request, or simply creates a distraction. And the giving can take many forms: an actual gift, a generous act, a kind favor, an "honest" admission—whatever it takes.

3. Use selective honesty on your first encounter with someone.

First impressions last a long time. If someone believes you are honest at the start of your relationship it takes a lot to convince them otherwise.

.A con man by the name of Lord John Gordon-Gordon proved to Jay Gould, another con man, that phony Erie railroad stocks that Gould had invested in was the work of top executives at railroad. Gould was so grateful to Gordon-Gordon that they became friends buying the controlling interest of the railroad. Soon Gordon-Gordon betrayed Gould and disappeared. Gordon-Gordon was a con man, but his initial act of honesty and support had so blinded Gould that it took the loss of millions for him to see through the scheme

4. You must build a reputation for honesty based on a series of acts.

Duke Wu of Cheng married off his daughter and killed one of his ministers in order to take over the powerful kingdom of Hu. The ruler of Hu heard that the minister was executed for telling Cheng to conquer the kingdom of Hu. Hu’s ruler also considered the marriage of Cheng’s daughter and other acts of kindness from Cheng and let down his guard. A few weeks later Cheng forces swept through Hu and took the country, never to relinquish it.

5. Give a gift.

Few people can resist a gift, even from the most hardened enemy, which is why it 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.

6. Practice the tactic with caution

Unless you can make the gesture seem sincere and heartfelt, DO NOT PLAY WITH FIRE. If people see through it, their disappointed feelings of gratitude and warmth will become the most violent hatred and distrust.

7. It is better to play the rogue

When you have a history of deceit behind you, no amount of honesty, generosity, or kindness will fool people. In fact it 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. Overt deceptiveness will sometimes cover your tracks, even making you admired for the honesty of your dishonesty.