“I could talk about …” but then doesn’t

This is a superb way I’ve seen people establish credibility without ever proving it.

There are often situations where a control freak feels it necessary to exaggerate their experience to gain control, but the usual method that people choose to do this is to say too much, which is where they can get caught out. The more they have to embellish a lie, the less convincing they sound. Some believe that the more that someone lies the more difficult it is for them to maintain consistency of fact and that’s how they get spotted. For some that might be true, but in real life there is no such thing as consistency of recollected fact, it is more consistency of recollected emotion that is the giveaway.

So a manageable alternative to an elaborate lie is to say as little as possible and leave as much unsaid as possible. One way of doing that is using this brilliant construction:

“I could talk about a number of times [insert deterrent] where [insert exaggeration] and what I learnt was [insert lie] so I suggest [insert manipulation]”

The brilliant bit is that they never give any details about those times but end up with people treating them as though they had, accepting the lie without question and so being manipulated!

The key to this is the deterrent that has been inserted, that stops any listener from wanting to talk about those experiences. For example the control freak might give the impression that it would be too painful, say by the phrase “very difficult times” or too long a story, say by the phrase “over a long drink one evening”. Or they could deter with the phrase “in excruciatingly boring detail”, which is doubly-brilliant because it also places the thought that they have analysed it to a great extent. Sometimes people don’t even say anything and just rely on the non-verbal communication to give the impression that those were very difficult times and they would really not like to be asked about them.

Note, that they never explicitly say they won’t talk about them, they always leave that hanging so as to seem as though they offered but nobody took it up. For most people that underlying offer is enough to them to accept what they’ve heard.

The full phrase then become something like this:

“I could talk about a number of times, very difficult times (*long sigh and pause*), when people have said they “just want to get involved” but actually they have then tried to stage a coup and it has been incredibly destructive. I suggest we shouldn’t let that happen here by giving them a chance to “get involved” (*said with as much scorn as possible*)”

So there in one go, they’ve established credible experience without actually having to tell anyone what it is, which is lucky since they’ve largely made it up.

The main danger in this is that pesky person who does want them to talk about what they’ve experienced. Sometimes that’s because they don’t believe them, but it can also be because they admire the person and want to learn from their experience. So it is quite important to prevent that from happening and to have ways to deal with it if it does. Setting the non-verbal volume to maximum is one way to do this effectively.

Another good way is to pick the situation. For example it can be done in a meeting or as a speaker at an event, where there is some degree of formalism, people don’t quite know each other or it is being held in an unusual context. Anything that acts as a barrier to those very direct people who might otherwise cut through the fluff, from speaking up because they are not sure enough of their ground.

If that doesn’t work then there are some ways to deal with the person who pushes for them to talk about those times. The various techniques here are:

  • repeat what they’ve said before. “As I said, …” with the emphasis on the lie because they want to firmly push that this is the important part not the experiences. This is best done if they can give the impression the person is not getting the important point or is not taking it seriously enough. Basically they completely ignore the real question and misdirect onto their own agenda.
  • another way is just to put the person asking down by some other unrelated means or to ignore them. You see this sometimes used rather cruelly (it is always cruel but in this case especially so) when the person asking is not challenging at all but it actually being sycophantic and wants to hear about the experiences of the great person they admire.
  • Then comes the absolute and final fallback, which is to talk about that one and only time where it did happen and use up as much time and patience talking about that so they never have to go onto any other times. This has to be done in such a way as to sustain whatever impression was deliberately given about why they would not talk about it. So if they gave the impression it was painful to talk about – they have to make it painful to talk about with curt phrases spoken through tight lips.

And there you have it – how to get credibility for some things that never happened. Remember the key psychological trick here is the focus on the important point that the exaggeration is intended to substantiate, not the exaggeration itself.

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