Thursday, October 20, 2005


In a moment I’ll continue our talk on why force, anger, and hard-handed efforts at manipulation, i.e. torture, are not only are ineffective, but can remove any chance of later getting information, confessions (GITMO?), or why hard-handed persuasion tactics in sales are tactics of the amateur

…when done correctly a successful agreement occurs because of a collection of events that lead up to the goal…which almost seems to have come to fruition on its own—ah the wonders of POWER PERSUASION!

First, I need to tell you about my friend, Knight Ridder military correspondent Joe Galloway, author of the bestseller We Were Soldiers Once..And Young: Ia Drang--The Battle That Changed The War In Vietnam

Joe sent me a copy of his latest column for Knight Ridder that is so well written and poignant (a remembering and passing of the guard), titled:
Gathering for a dose of fellowship, memories among old soldiers”

If you want to know what these guys went through, you’ve got to read the book or watch the DVD!

Back to PART II:

Most startling about that scene in “Platoon” was that NVA prisoner’s look of defiance…

Defiance is the response most to be avoided in any interrogation, personal interaction, or anytime you’re trying to convince or persuade: you’d be amazed how many are so willing to talk before an interrogation starts, and are so quickly to turned into allies just by letting them…without beating them on the head—physically or verbally…

If you saw the piddly, anger-filled interrogation of an Iraqi terrorista by that ning-nong LT in “Over There” last night, you know exactly what not to do in an interrogation…much less an attempt to persuade.

Would you believe that after my release from Vietnam in 1984, after getting one of those mindless office jobs, i.e. mailboy, at a stockbrokerage, I actually observed a broker yelling at a client to buy?!

Percentage-wise, hammer-handed tactics hardly ever work….and once you build a sense of defiance in your subject, you’ve lost for the very reasons that Lakhani mentions in his persuasion bible: “Persuasion: The Art of Getting What You Want”.

Back to the "Six Tenets of Persuasion" Lakhani describes in his book:

  1. Outcome based
  2. Best-Interest Focused
  3. Truthful
  4. Goal and Time Oriented
  5. Personal
  6. Ethical

Any negotiation, sale (even a piece of sales copy!)… basically every good persuasion event always starts with a detailed outcome if not on paper, then at least in your mind. All great negotiations, sales, and even an interrogation starts with an objective: closing a specific deal, completing sale, or even deciding whether you’re just after accurate information or you want much more—turn an enenmy combatant into a double-agent—all rely on your envisioned outcome.

Then, throughout the process of persuasion, you have to do a self-check to make sure that the whole event and “outcome” passes the “Best-Interest” filter: is this good for you and your subject? That may seem clear in a sales or negotiation: but an interrogation? Absolutely!

How will your subject fare during and after the successful interrogation: will he be taken out and shot ( or put through a mock-execution, as they stupidly did to me in Vietnam) or will the subject get better food, a softer bed to sleep in after being cooperative?

Remember we’re trained like this since childhood: the difference is whether we’re raised by abusive parents who actually beat a kid, or punish appropriately—in the long run, grounding is much more effective on a child than whipping (spare the rod, spoil the child is another topic way too long to get into here).

If you’ve verified the first two tenets, then the third is very easy to confirm: are you being truthful? Remember: all successful persuasion events are based on congruency. Everyone can tell in-congruency, either consciously or through subconscious reaction. If you’re untruthful and incongruent (like an insecure man trying to “act” confident in front of his woman of desire) this occurs, rapport is lost and replaced with lack of trust and ultimately defiance…

Depending on time constraints and environment you may be able to regain trust, but once you hit defiance the subject is basically lost: this is one of the reasons in law enforcement the worst one to interview either the subject or witnesses is the arresting officer—best to send investigators to the interview the list of names previously collected by officers at the scene of the arrest.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS have more importance than most people are willing to admit!

And so we’re brought back to your GOAL and TIME orientation with regards to outcome: you need to ask yourself what achieved goal within what time frame will be interpreted as a success? You need to do this BEFORE you approach the interaction!

Let’s say you’re a field interrogator in a jungle war: if the subject tells you where the boobytrap are placed around the village, and tells you within the next hour will this be a success? What if he/she tells you, but it takes two hours? Two days? Are these acceptable?

If you’re in a sales environment, what if you get the sale, but the customer can’t pay you in one payment—is this acceptable? What if she can pay the whole amount in one payment, but it’ll take one more week? Will you accept a contract to pay? Or word? These are all possible outcomes and it’s up to you to have them clear before going in, because….

Your goal and time objectives will be matched against the subjects.

Now for the hardest tenet for many, especially if you don’t take to heart first four: PERSONAL.

To this day, I still have no strong animosity to Mr. Le, one of my interrogators in Vietnam, who was also the translator. Why? He was very personable. Except for the time I tried to escape, he never hit me…unlike some of other apes. He also had a very likeable aura about him: he was after all a French language teacher at a local Saigon university…and during the war he had spent time in a South Vietnamese prison for his college demonstration participation. Once he realized I was just a kid on his first photo assignment, he softened up and was quite friendly…as much as permitted within an interrogator/political prisoner interaction.

My memory of him was recalled when I later studied one of the most effective German interrogators during WWII: master interrogator Hans Scharff at Dulag Luft. As one Allied prisoner said of him: “Hanns could probably get a confession of infidelity from a nun”


--he treated his subjects with “RESPECT and DIGNITY”. It’s that simple…well not THAT simple, but you get the drift...

Scharff was known for many acts of kindness and looking out for the well-fare of the prisoner—how many other prisoners who were hung for their warcrimes could say that? Would you believe that many of the Allied pilots he debriefed actually became friends after the war? Now that’s a GREAT PERSUASION—though he didn’t have access to Lakhani’s book, he intuitively knew all of six of Lakhani’s “Tenets of Persuasion”!

Many of Scharff’s most productive interrogations occurred while making a leisurely stroll around one of the compounds gardens…simple conversations in deep rapport—you can’t get into rapport if you don’t give of yourself, first: being PERSONAL. Very much in contrast to the fist and boot tactics of the SS, and Stalin’s KGB, or the amateurs of Abu Ghraib for that matter. And I bet you Sen. John McCain has no interest in writing to his interrogators…

And so we arrive at the last tenet: ETHICAL

Scharff had impressive ethics and they came through in his interactions which easily helped drop the defense (defiance) posture of his subjects, and also enabled him to reach rapid rapport: substitute “being one” for rapport and you get the deep meaning of “being in rapport”. He was able to become the “head” of this “body in rapport” (his subject) leading the body to speak and deliver what he needed.

Without an ethical center, rumors would have run rampant about Scharff’s in-congruency, bringing into question his truthfulness, personability, and best-interest focus. Without a center on some form of strong ethics, Scharff would have been labeled a person simply on the make…a manipulator: he would have been forced to act out of frustration, like the other interrogators, who physically tortured their subjects to arrive at questionable results.

As everyone successful in sales and business knows: your best customer is the one you already have—break the Six Tenets and the best you can expect is a one-time sale…and worse: a BAD REPUTATION!

Man, I love Lakhani’s book!

I wish I could spend days writing about all that he has written, but it’s best to just lead you there so that you can enjoy all the rest he has…especially his “Persuasion Equation”, where he has created a solid formula that can be minimized or expanded as you so desire.

What’s better about Lakhani’s book is that thought it offers you everything you need to know about amazingly effective persuasion, it’s a book about business and personal interactions, from a sociological and psychology point of view—very powerful!

Also, definitely check out this book on Scharff:

If you’re like me you like to make money not just when you’re actually working but also when you’re having fun…would you believe that I love to write not only for my full-time work, but also during play? Matter of fact, I use eBay to test new and innovative sales copy writing techniques. In the next installment, I’ll save you money on any TV course you might be thinking of buying on how to make money on eBAy. Until then, you can check out my play page: Cork’s eBay Page

I’ll also let you in on a NOT SO SECRET fundraiser for the Vietnamese-American community hit by the hurricanes in the Southeast: Joe Galloway, me and the actor, Don Duong, who played Lt. Col. Nguyen Huu An in “We Were Soldiers Once”, and who is signed to play my interrogator, Mr. Le, in the upcoming movie based on my memoir, will all be attending Nov. 18th in Washington D.C. Joe and I will be donating signed copies of our books to the cause!

Sunday, October 16, 2005


Flashback Central last week: I get an e-mail from my friend, fellow journalist and author, Zalin Grant (If you were in Saigon during the Tet Offensive of 1968, you’ll recognize the name). Anyway, Zalin had read my first memoir a while ago, and wanted to know what I thought about Bush preparing to veto Sen. John McCain’s torture amendment. Within that same week I was watching a re-run of Oliver Stone’s "Platoon", and my eyes keyed in on the defiant look of an NVA prisoner being slapped around during what I like to call a “Hollywood” interrogation. And finally, I’m in a wonderful interview with a man of impeccable credentials in persuasion, a best-selling author of the best business book on the fine art of persuasion…which is what an effective interrogation is really supposed to be—it helps that he’s also an ex-high-level military and DEA operator with a TOPSECRET clearance!

First, I must say that I’m confounded by Bush’s resistance: anyone who has been in the US military knows that personnel are prevented from torturing because of the Geneva Convention, and even the Army Field Manual states that torture is not only illegal, but ineffective. More importantly, signing the amendment removes another propaganda opportunity for the terrorists.

But, it’s torture's ineffectiveness that revolves around TOLERANCE that really makes me ask—have we not learned? See when the Vietnamese were torturing me, I would have said anything to get them to stop—there would have been no accuracy in anything I said. There would have been more effect in the fear of torture than in the actual beating because what we create in our minds is what we have no defense against. Like working out in a gym, we can all build tolerance against pain...

SIDE NOTE: Many of you have written to me after reading my memoir to find out if I was tortured more than I described: of course I was, but for me to mention that extra amount in the The Bamboo Chest would have been distracting and off the point of the story—I basically used the events that fit the “coming of age” and “healing PTSD” story that is “The Bamboo Chest”.

Now if I were to have written about torture and interrogation tactics which are all directed toward persuading and manipulating, then I would have included more, or done something more beneficial…reveal persuasion techniques that don’t involve torture and are light years ahead of the pack!

As a negotiation specialist hired by Fortune 500 companies and government agencies to teach the fine art of negotiation, I am always on the lookout for the latest information that can’t be ignored: such as Dave Lakhani has delivered in his brilliant collection of battle-tested ideas in “Persuasion: The Art of Getting What You Want”

Almost magical persuasion revolves not around beating someone on the head, or putting them into embarrassing positions in front of the camera as in Abu Ghraib, but in making them see the similarities, building on those similarities and showing how unlike the enemy the subject is: an effectively turned enemy can be one of your most effective allies—if for no other reason than the information they carry from the other side!

It all comes down to what Lakhani calls “Tenets of Persuasion: if you follow them you not only get what you want, but you leave the person as an ally and potential “true believer”.

Here are the "Six Tenets of Persuasion" Lakhani describes in his book:
  1. Outcome based

  2. Best-Interest Focused

  3. Truthful

  4. Goal and Time Oriented

  5. Personal

  6. Ethical

Lakhani listed these because he wrote a book for people in dealing with people in business deals, marketing, and sales, even for just making a profoundly efficient impressions on people in day-to-day interactions, but how many of you would find that effective interrogations need these same tenets, not just for how we look to other countries, or how to do contrary only offers more fodder for the TERRORIST public relations fires?

Well as you’ve guessed this is a subject that I’ve learned not to take lightly. So, I’ve realized that I’ll have to make this a two-part series…

You can wait until the next installment to find out what’s more amazing about Lakhani’s book…how there are NEVER BEFORE PRINTED persuasion secrets that only the most effective orators, salespeople, politicians, military interrogators, and marketers know…or you could just get reading now getting his book here:
NEXT INSTALLMENT: You think you don’t need to know the skills of persuasion offered by Dave Lakhani, yet they’re used on you everyday. You think it’s only for people in sales, politics, or interrogation…but you can’t understand why your loved one can’t understand you… you’re about to get into a divorce…your team is just not getting the objectives and you’ve supposedly made them all clear…all the reasons for this will be revealed and what you can do about!