Law 33: Discover Each Man’s Thumbscrew


Everyone has a weakness, a gap in the castle wall. That weakness is usually insecurity, an uncontrollable emotion or need; it can also be a small secret pleasure. Either way, once found, it is a thumbscrew you can turn to your advantage.

One of the most important things to realize about people is that they all have a weakness, some part of their psychological armor that will not resist, that will bend to your will if you find it and push on it. Some people wear their weaknesses openly, others disguise them. Those who disguise them are often the ones most effectively undone through that one chink in their armor.

In planning your assault, keep these Six principles in mind:

1. Pay Attention to Gestures and Unconscious Signals
As Sigmund Freud remarked, "No mortal can keep a secret. If his lips are silent, he chatters with his fingertips; betrayal oozes out of him at every pore." This is a critical concept in the search for a person's weakness—it is revealed by seemingly unimportant gestures and passing words.

  1. The key is not only what you look for but where and how you look.
  2. Train yourself to listen.
  3. Start by always seeming interested—the appearance of a sympathetic ear will spur anyone to talk.
  4. Share a secret with them. It can be completely made up, or it can be real but of no great importance to you· This will usually elicit a response that reveals a weakness.
  5. Train your eye for details
    · How someone tips a waiter.
    · What delights a person
    · Hidden messages in clothes.
  6. Find people's idols, the things they worship and will do anything to get—perhaps you can be the supplier of their fantasies.

2. Find the Helpless Child Most weaknesses begin in childhood, before the self builds up compensatory defenses. 1. Perhaps the child was pampered or indulged in a particular area.· If they reveal a secret taste, a hidden indulgence, indulge it. In either case they will be unable to resist you. The indulgence or the deficiency may be buried but never disappears.2. Perhaps a certain emotional need went unfulfilled · If your victims or rivals went without something important, such as parental support, when they were children, supply it, or its facsimile3. Learn about a childhood need; a powerful key to a person's weakness.· One sign of this weakness is that when you touch on it the person will often act like a child. Be on the lookout, then, for any behavior that should have been outgrown.

3. Look for Contrasts An overt trait often conceals its opposite. 1. People who thump their chests are often big cowards; a prudish exterior may hide a lascivious soul2. The uptight are often screaming for adventure; the shy are dying for attention. 3. Probe beyond appearances, you will often find people's weaknesses in the opposite of the qualities they reveal to you.

4. Find the Weak Link Sometimes in your search for weaknesses it is not what but who that matters. 1. There is often someone behind the scenes who has a great deal of power, a tremendous influence over the person superficially on top. · These behind-the-scenes powerbrokers are the group's weak link: Win their favor and you indirectly influence the king. 2. Alternatively, even in a group of people acting with the appearance of one will. Find the one person who will bend under pressure.· When a group under attack closes ranks to resist an outsider—there is always a weak link in the chain.

5. Fill the Void The two main emotional voids to fill are insecurity and un-happiness. 1. The insecure are suckers for any kind of social validation; as for the chronically unhappy, look for the roots of their unhappiness. 2. The insecure and the unhappy are the people least able to disguise their weaknesses. · The ability to fill their emotional voids is a great source of power, and an indefinitely prolonged one.

6. Feed on Uncontrollable Emotions The uncontrollable emotion can be a paranoid fear.1. Fear disproportionate to the situation.2. Or any base motive such as lust, greed, vanity, or hatred. · People in the grip of these emotions often cannot control themselves, and you can do the controlling for them.

Five Reminders

1. Since we all try to hide our weaknesses, there is little to be learned from our conscious behavior. What oozes out in the little things outside our conscious control is what you want to know.2. Find the weak link, the person in control is often not the king or queen; it is someone behind the scenes, the favorite, the husband or wife, even the court fool. This person may have more weaknesses than the king himself, because his power depends on all kinds of capricious factors outside his control.3. When searching for suckers, always look for the dissatisfied, the unhappy, and the insecure. Such people are riddled with weaknesses and have needs that you can fill. Their neediness is the groove in which you place your thumbnail and turn them at will.4. Always look for passions and obsessions that cannot be controlled. The stronger the passion, the more vulnerable the person: This may seem surprising, for passionate people look strong. In fact, however, they are simply filling the stage with their theatricality, distracting people from how weak and helpless they really are. 5. Look at the part of a person that is most visible—their greed, their lust, their intense fear. These are the emotions they cannot conceal, and over which they have the least control. And what people cannot control, you can control for them.


Playing on people's weakness has one significant danger: You may stir up an action you cannot control. In your games of power you always look several steps ahead and plan accordingly. And you exploit the fact that other people are more emotional and incapable of such foresight. But when you play on their vulnerabilities, the areas over which they have least control, you can unleash emotions that will upset your plans.

Push timid people into bold action and they may go too far; answer their need for attention or recognition and they may need more than you want to give them. The helpless, childish element you are playing on can turn against you. The more emotional the weakness, the greater the potential danger! Know the limits to this game, then, and never get carried away by your control over your victims. You are after power, not the thrill of control.