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Applying pressure to adversaries: a journeyman's guide


Life is full of examples when you want to force someone to do something they do not want to do. The collection of techniques for doing this is known under the umbrella term 'appoying pressure', and it is a common skill in all of the three principle core areas of our practice: law; security; and intelligence.


Let us suppose that your goal is a fairly straightforward one: for example, persuading someone to stop working for Russian intelligence. The first question to be asked is, do they want to do this? Because if they do, the range of tools at your disposal is quite different from those you may use of they do not want to stop doing this. In both cases it will be important to establish why they do or do not want to do this.


So your initial enquiry, before doing anything else, is to enquire into intent: motives driving intent; and anassesement of to what extent they are telling you the truth


Establishing whether someone is telling the truth is easy for experienced lawyers. Lawyers do it all the time. It is called cross-examination With sufficient cross-examination, it is virtually always possible to force the person testifying to lapse into inconsistency, so forensic skills and attention to detail are important This is because when you start lying you have to keep going when pushed on lots of irrelevant detail, and you have to lie about them and the world is so full of details that the liar cannot keep up with their own web of lies. You just need a sufficiently intelligent lawyer, investigator, etcetera to keep on top of all the lies and to be highly perceptive and forensic. You will get them in the end. The first inconsistency is indicative of a high likelihood of lying. The best liars lie only very slightly, and keep everything else to the truth. That is because telling the truth is easy. Your mins has all the facts at its disposal. Nevertheless even the very best liars in the modern world, with its masses of data, media, observation, details and everything you can now collect that you couldn't collect before, will get caught out in the end. Lying has become vastly more diffi ukt in the internet technology age.


Of course you should never believe anyone who. Insists they are. telling the truth, or who repeats the principal lie more than once without prompting. People who do this are lying about lots of things and are untrustworthy. You don't have to put it to them that they are lying (unless you are in a certain sort of courtroom operating under certain sorts of rules). Just note the inconsistency or unnatural emphasis, and move on. Also be very cautious about having emotional capital invested in case the person does turn out to be lying. If you are suspicious your partner is cheating on you, don't question him or her yourself. Get someone else to do it, who will be cold and calm and will not engage in your propensity to want to believe the person with whom you have an emotional investment.


Incidentally,.if you suspect your partner is cheating on you then they probably are - or they are doing something even worse that they want to hide from you Unless you are completely paranoid (and some people are), follow your first instincts on such things. But don't confront. Just walk away and get a new partner. If they are not cheating, they will run after you.


Forensic cross-examination is a very easy way to establish cheating. If they are being faithful, they will pass it like a breeze. If they are not, they will quickly get incensed as they realise they haven't thought it all through. (Persons under the influence of sexual urges rarely do think things through. That's why abortion rates are so high in many societies.)



Once you have established what they are doing, you need to understand why they are doing it. It is very difficult to apply pressure unless you know the person's motives. To a hieve this is really an art. You have to put yourself in the person's mind, imagining you were them knowing what you do about them (that by this time is hopefully a lot}. Ask yourself: what would I be thinking and doing and why would I be doing it in this situation? This requires a certain skill in detachment from self and intuitive sympathy with others; an egomaniac finds it virtually impossible. Anyway that is the skill and you probably either have it or you do not. If you do not, then ask somebody else who is better at this to do it for you


Honest people are likely to tell you the truth if you ask them why they are doing something. Dishonest people will likely lie about their motives. So forensic dispassionate cross-examination can also be undertaken on motives .


Once you understand why they are doing it, you can establish whether they really rather wouldn't be doing it (i.e. they want to change); or if they are perfectly happy keeping on going (one variant on this is people who say they don't want to think about it. These people are perfectly happy doing what they are doing )


For a person who wants to change, the key is to give them the means to walk away from the situation they are in. This may be easy. Give them money; or a drying out. Linic; or a home to go to in order to get away from the violent husband. Just establish what they need to get out of the situation, give it to them, and they will gratefully follow.


For the person who is happy to keep going, the first question to ask is 'do i really need them to change?'. Because it'll be hard work. Some drug addicts simply don't want to stop, and they are the hardest to persuade to stop. If you can live without them changing, then opt for that. Because forcing people to change their minds when they don't want to is very difficult,skilled, time-consuming work. We call it applying pressure.


So the standard approach to applying pressure is called 'causing problemss'. This can be anything from physical pain to lawyers' bills. The problem is that problems can be overcome. So you need to make problems that cannot be overcome or lived with, to force someone to change their minds like this. This is why litigation typically takes years: endless bulldozing, hard work and conflict until you get your opponent so into a corner that they must change their mind or face ruin of some kind. It is a long-term process, typically to force someone to change their mind who doesn't want to, just as it is hard work to force an Executive or wealthy person to pay a sum of money they owe, when they don't want to.


You need to hire a skilled professional for a long-term job, and we call these people lawyers. They are experts in applying relentless pressure, although it is very hard, exhausting work and most lawyers decide they want to retire early at some point because the mental emotional and physical punishment the practice of law inflicts upon a person - particularly if they are very good at it.



Before we move on from causing problems, the causing of problems may be a means of eliciting information from people who have gone non-conmunicative and they won't explain why; hence their incentive structure seems to have changed dramatically and you don't know in what way or why. Then causing problems, if the problems are intelligently created, can be a way of getting information out of counterparts who have suddenly stopped speaking or have disappeared. Depending on how they react to different kinds of problems you create, you can tell many things, such as whether they are still alive; whether their movements are under some restriction; what they are most afraid of; and what sort of person may be threatening them in what way.


If the contact is intelligent, you can design the problems you make for them to give them an opportunity to contact you in orthodox ways if the regular ones are being monitored or restricted. Unfortunately this latter, rather sophisticated approach to tailor-making problems to allow for opportunities for coded messages to be conveyed, only works with a reasonably sharp and spot-on person A less clever person will fail to appreciate the sophistication of the approach.


Another approach to applying pressure is less confrontational and also equally expensive and slow, but it operates in a different way. It is called 'creating dilemmas'. In other words, you keep acting in such ways as to compel the adversary to keep making choices. The point is that if you are skilful enough, then eventually they will make a serious mistake and that is the point at which you can seize the opportunity to force them to change their mind (or you can have another person do it for you).



This approach - we might call it 'givong options' - is a standard diplomatic rouse to waste time. If you give your opponent options, then he will have time to think about them and then to implement them. True, he might slip up in his decision making; but the same is true when simple pressure is applied to him in a single direction. He has to do something and he may get it wrong if he is placed under sufficient pressure.


There is no negotiating advantage to be obtained in giving one's opponents options, unless the purpose is delay. You should not give your adversaries options. Let them work out for themselves what their options are. This way they are more likely to foul it up and you can take, hopefully, supreme advantage of the situation and be able to force them to do what they do not want to do.


Litigation is resolved at the doors of courts because your adversary has run out of options. There is only one left: the judge (and maybe jury). And if you have undertaken your calculations properly, you know that before the Judge you will win. So your adversary has really then run out of options. Either he does what you want, or he loses at the hands of the judiciary.


This is the true art of negotiation: backing your opponents info a brick wall so that they finally realise they have no other choice but to concede. It is in this skill that lawyers invariably succeed over diplomats, for whom the process is more important than the outcome (compared to lawyers, who are being paid to win).


You will often have to go a long way. Desperate and often delusional opponents will try every way to wriggle and struggle out of the final brick wall of the courtroom. But in the end you will get them; if they do not concede they will be ruined and they eventually realise this and give in.


Such are the elements of the art of applying pressure.

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