Welcome to the start of the Social Engineering Basics series! Here we'll look at Nietzsche's Perspectivism, The Thomas Theorem, and then dive into abusing people's self interest via our "inner story".
Nietzsche's Perspectivism and The Thomas Theorem
Our world is not a meritocracy; it is not based on fact, merit, or objective reality. Arguing from these stances is usually a fruitless endeavor and a grand waste of time/energy unless your target audience is moved by these types of arguments (think STEM majors etc). It can also lead to the Backfire Effect in which people can become more entrenched in their beliefs even after being presented with evidence showing they are wrong.
In so far as the word â€œknowledgeâ€ has any meaning, the world is knowable; but it is interpretable otherwise, it has no meaning behind it, but countless meanings.
It is our needs that interpret the world; our drives and their For and Against.
Every drive is a kind of lust to rule; each one has its perspective that it would like to compel all the other drives to accept as a norm.
Take a look at the Thomas Theorem as well.
If a person perceives a situation as real then it is real in its consequences.
What these two men are saying boils down to this: a person's perception of a situation has a very real effect on their thoughts, beliefs, and actions regardless of what the objective truth of the matter is. The same can be said for patients suffering from dementia or people hallucinating - if they believe the false reality to be real then it's effects are very real. There are countless meanings that can be derived from both logical and illogical standpoints and the importance of this for SE is immense; a good example is the "imaginary" value people and society ascribe to fiat money.
SE's Golden Rule: Abusing Self Interest
The single best, highest rate of return method for manipulating others has always been/will always be abusing self-interest (not that it is the only way but more on that later). Our goal is to present our manipulation in ways that confirm prior held beliefs, do not conflict with their beliefs, or at least make life "easier" on people in some way. This can be seen rehashed in many places from the 32nd law of power (play to people's fantasies) to quotes from famous writers/thinkers. A few examples:
Blaise Pascal's "Convince by telling them they are right"
When we wish to correct with advantage, and to show another that he errs, we must notice from what side he views the matter, for on that side it is usually true, and admit that truth to him, but reveal to him the side on which it is false. He is satisfied with that, for he sees that he was not mistaken, and that he only failed to see all sides. Now, no one is offended at not seeing everything; but one does not like to be mistaken, and that perhaps arises from the fact that man naturally cannot see everything, and that naturally he cannot err in the side he looks at, since the perceptions of our senses are always true....
People are generally better persuaded by the reasons which they have themselves discovered than by those which have come into the mind of others.
32nd Law of Power - Play to People's Fantasies
"The truth is often avoided because it is ugly and unpleasant. Never appeal to truth and reality unless you are prepared for the anger that comes from disenchantment. Life is so harsh and distressing that people who can manufacture romance or conjure up fantasy are like oases in the desert: Everyone flocks to them. There is great power in tapping into the fantasies of the masses."
From "Lake Woebegon" (as mentioned by V.Rao in "A Playbook for Sociopaths")
Welcome to Lake Wobegon,
where all the women are strong,
all the men are good-looking,
and all the children are above average.
From "Wisdom of the Sands" by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.
The Inner Story
Fundamentally humans are story-tellers by nature and we love a good story; for most we are the center of that story (aka we are the â€œgood guyâ€/protagonist). The world is often cruel, impersonal, and harsh so most will seek â€œcomfort zonesâ€ by ignoring things they don't like, seeking out things that bring pleasure/happiness, or seeking out things that confirm their beliefs. You need to build your plan to fit that model for each person and, for heuristic purposes, you need to build it based on common traits of the group.
Group Heuristic Ex:
At work security guards can often be hated, viewed as a nuisance, or at least get treated indifferently at minimum - being "overly nice" to them, comparing them to say a FBI/Secret Agent, or giving them a moment of happiness/entertainment may be able to work wonders. Just be sure you don't come off as cheesy or an obvious brown-noser; try something like "asking a favor for a young cousin/son who wants to be a CIA agent".
â€œWhat's your story?â€ is such a classic question and nearly everyone has a story with them featured as the protagonist. Even â€œevilâ€ or otherwise â€œimmoralâ€ people often convince themselves that they are the good guy (classic example is Hitler).
Understanding their inner story is the most important part - it's the thread they cling to, the laws of their universe. Abusing people's own self-interest is as close as you can get to a â€œgolden ruleâ€ for SE in terms of effectiveness and the inner story is about as â€œself-interestedâ€ as you can get.
You also get the added advantage of prediction; if you know the inner story then you should have fantastic ability to predict how people will likely react. Now no prediction is perfect and you will still need to have â€œoutsâ€ aka ways to mitigate risk since people are downright illogical (even in their own stories) yet this seems to have the highest return rate I've seen. See below for two examples.
Ex 1: Work Worry Wart
Someone at work keeps wasting time worrying about if we will finish a project on time and how we can improve it which prevents us from doing the actual work. Come to them asking a favor (shows you value their expert opinion) and say some variation of "Hey, I had a rough night last night and was hoping you could check my math to confirm my suspicion. I got worried after hearing your points and you are right! We really don't have much time left and, worse yet, at this point it seems we just barely have enough time to go with the original plan. What do you think?". They feel great because they were validated twice (I think they're expert and I agree) and I get the conclusion I want (shut up and get back to work). This can also create a "graceful exit" in which they can realize a mistake/fact and still have an "out" to believe they've saved face or "pulled one over" on you. You want to engineer "out" situations for people to willingly take and "make their own idea" out of.
Ex 2: Narcissistic Boss
Try persuading a narcissistic boss for a raise by appealing to their ego with something like "I've really learned so much from you this past year, I've been making great strides on these projects thanks to your guidance, have high numbers/satisfaction etc". Be specific, spit back advice they gave you and how it greatly helped - lie about them giving good advice if you have to. This creates a "pleasing" avenue for them to agree with you that validates and fuels their own subjective understanding of reality aka the "story" they tell themselves. In their mind they are likely thinking of you as an apprentice/protege now and are saying to themselves "you know, he/she really has made some great strides under my leadership/guidance".
It's not about objective right and wrong - you can't think like that. Humans are often illogical, irrational and emotional. In this example you originally had something you wanted which indirectly created a problem for the boss; companies don't survive by freely giving out raises so now there is a decision/judgement to make on how "worthy" you are. A narcissist is likely to believe the teams success is based mostly/solely on them and not you (which is a major problem for you) so coming to the conclusion that you really "pulled yourself up by your bootstraps and performed well" conflicts with their understanding of reality and may make them fearful of you gunning for their position. You simplify this conflict by presenting it in a way that reinforces their narcissistic belief that you are the apprentice and that they are ultimately responsible for your success even if they had nothing to do with it.