Law 14: Pose As a Friend Work As a Spy

The 48 Laws Of Power Summary Series


“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.”

When you read this law’s title ‘Pose As a Friend Work As a Spy’ you may question it’s true authenticity and intention. After diving deep into this law to understand it more thoroughly I’ve discovered it simply means that you are ‘gathering information on people in order to better understand them’. Through my interpretation that’s what this law encompasses

If you have read the previous article on Law 13: ‘How to Appeal to People’s Self Interest’ than you will find this law assists in a deeper comprehension of the previous. They both work in conjunction with each other. By ‘posing as a friend and working as a spy’ you are essentially gathering information. By gathering information you can appeal to people’s self-interest more effectively.

Gathering information.

Keys To Power

AKA, you are gathering information in a tactful manner.

I believe the practical nature of ‘spying’ has changed quite a bit throughout history. What we witness in Game of Thrones depicts the character Varys deploy dozens of ‘little birds” (street children) to act as a network of spies and informants in an effort to gain knowledge and power.

Yes this is a fictional show, but it’s applications of power ring true to depict how history may have behaved.

This is not something that has to be done today. Spying can easily be done with a couple clicks and some intelligence without the risk of any real danger.

Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, a politician and diplomat consistently suppressed his need to express his ideas as he let other’s talk endlessly about themselves as they inadvertently revealed intentions and plans.

“Wit and grace marked his conversation. He possessed the art of concealing his thoughts or his malice beneath a transparent veil of insinuations, words that imply something more than they express. Only when necessary did he inject his own personality.” — Baron de Vitrolles (A contemporary of Talleyrand)

“The key here is Talleyrand’s ability to suppress himself in the conversation, to make others talk endlessly about themselves and inadvertently reveal their intentions and plans.”

In a world where everybody loves to talk about themselves we don’t see this to often. People seem to love to talk on subjects that you don’t even ask them on. They will answer on topics you never even brought up. They will tell you about their day without you even asking. If you can’t quite resonate with that statement than attempt to execute Law 3 & 4 and you will soon see exactly what I mean.

Once you create an environment that allows another to be comfortable in disclosing information and communicating with you your relationships will grow stronger and you will come to understand the person you are communicating with on a much deeper level. One method to execute this law is to ask small open ended questions that allow a lot of room for the other to freely speak. A very intriguing tactic that the French Foreign Minister Talleyrand used is described as follows:

At the Congress of Vienna (1814–1815) he did his spying in other ways:

Number 22 is Talleyrand.

“He would blurt out what seemed to be a secret (actually something he had made up), then watch his listeners’ reactions. He might tell a gathering of diplomats, for instance, that a reliable source had revealed to him that the czar of Russia was planning to arrest his top general for treason.

By watching the diplomats’ reactions to this made-up story, he would know which ones were most excited by the weakening of the Russian army — perhaps their governments had designs on Russia? As Baron von Stetten said, “Monsieur Talleyrand fires a pistol into the air to see who will jump out the window.”

There’s no reason why you can’t experiment with such a method by subtly interjecting a rumor you made up or “heard”, in order to observe and gather information on one’s concealed thoughts and intentions.

How does their body language change upon your short interjection?

Where do their eyes go?

How does the tenor of their voice change?

The little things make the big things and will reveal information you didn’t know previously.

These methods must be practiced with caution and grace because the intuitive can suspect you are trying worm secrets out of them. Especially if you’re to pushy or go about it in an inauthentic manner.

By creating a lie or exaggerated version of the truth you may find the real truth.


As Winston Churchill said,

“You must surround yourself with such a bodyguard, so that your truth cannot be penetrated. By planting the information of your choice, you control the game.”

No, you do not have to take Churchill’s quote so literally where you begin lying about what you did today. But maybe there’s some things about you that you want kept private, or only for a very select few people. In those cases you may find guarding your truths to be helpful.

Originally Posted

Self reflective writings & book summaries on philosophy, psychology and human behaviour.

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