“THE ONLY WAY YOU CAN CONTROL PEOPLE IS TO LIE TO THEM. You can write that down in your book in great big letters. The only way you can control anybody is to lie to them.” – Lafayette Ronald Hubbard, Born Mar. 13, 1911.
Get out the Preparation H because every time his topic comes up, some people get really butthurt.
Look, what we do is lie. Persuasion is deception. Selective application of the truth creates a false version of reality. That's inherently and inescapably deceptive. There is no clean way to be a deliberate persuader or influencer.
If you told people the truth, you would give them a choice. They can choose to believe truth, or they can decide that they don't. That's how real truth works.
But that's not what we do. We aren't dealers of truth. We don't give choice. We give the ILLUSION of choice. We conceal or remove all the possible choices that don't fit our own goals.
Now listen, don't feel bad. Whoever told you that lying is automatically bad was full of shit. Fiction is lying, and people love fiction. Being nice to comfort someone when you don't really mean it is also lying. Lying can 100% be a good thing.
And people tell lies thousands of times, every day – even people who think of themselves as always honest. Hell, people even lie to themselves.
Some scientists even think that our ability to imagine, to create fictional narratives in our minds, is what led to our evolution to sapient, self-aware creatures.
But yet, people deny the saturation of lies in human communication.
Don't believe me? Think about WHY you may think lying is automatically bad? When did you learn it? Who told you that? Your parents and other childhood authorities? Can you think of a reason they might instill such absolutes in their young charges?
Because if kids lie to you, you can't control them. Now, ask yourself if these same authority figures who instilled this rejection of dishonesty – did they hold to that same standard?
Fuck no. Grown ups lie to kids all the time. This store doesn't have candy. Santa is watching. That's just uncle Aaron's good friend. Braces won't hurt.
Why? Because you're getting the kid to do what's good for them. Is it the best way? It depends. Do you want to be in control? Because the truth doesn't give you that. Honest truth has zero control.
Lying gives you total control. The more well crafted the lie, the more control you can exert on the outcome of telling it.
But again, lying is NOT always bad. Say it. Learn it. Believe it. Embrace it.
Is telling kids about Santa bad? That's a bold faced insane lie that parents tell their kids right to their faces, deliberately to control their behavior, and no one feels the least bit fucked up about it. If that's not a bad thing, then admit to yourself that sometimes lying is GOOD.
What makes the difference?
It depends entirely on what you want for the other person. If you leave them better than when you found them – happier, richer, stronger, smarter, whatever – then you did well.
If you want to harm them, it's not the lie that did it. Lies are just a communication tool. Bad people can use them as well as good.
But you MUST accept that to persuade is to lie. Own it. True mastery won't ever be yours if you don't.
Because owning it opens your mind to the real possibilities. It helps you stop holding back. It helps you stop pulling punches. It frees you to really TRY, fully unlimited, to move people with your words and ideas.
No guilt. No fear of a naughty word you were raised to believe was a bad thing you must never ever do.
Have your best intentions to help people. Pledge to not harm them. And then get to work crafting a story that they will buy and accept that will put positive change into their lives and leave them better than you found them.
Because the truth is not always hopeful, and sometimes better lies can come true if you can get people to believe them.
Now, you tell me: am I lying?
<!—- lagniappe If you don’t believe me that good copywriting is ALWAYS deceptive, here are some commonly accepted “best practices” for sales messages that are inherently dishonest. 1. Testimonials. Testimonials work because the reader believes that someone else’s experience SHOULD be predictive of their own. The more like them the testifier is, the more likely they will believe this. Completely illogical, and works because the reader doesn’t know the trick, and obviously the copywriter isn’t going to tell them they should disregard it for irrelevance. 2. Endorsements. Same deal. Some celebrity or authority getting paid to tell you that a product is good has no REAL bearing on whether you should buy it or not. But we include it, because we know it tricks people. If we disclosed how the trick works, it wouldn’t work. 3. Price anchoring. I show you a larger number than my price before I tell you my price, because I know your brain is bad at perceiving numbers and that will make the price seem lower than it would if I didn’t give you a comparison. Again, I’m certainly not going to go full honesty and explain that to you when I am using the trick on you. 4. Pricing in general. While $9.97 is TECHNICALLY cheaper than $10, you’re more likely to buy it than if it was $10.03. Why? People have mental breakpoints for dollar amounts and our brain rounds down. Even though the prices are six cents apart, and you can’t even buy a gumball for that. 5. 30 day money-back guarantee. Why do most offers include that? Well, psychologically, it’s risk-reversal. If you know I will give you your money back, you feel like you can take the chance and try the product. The thing is, if they’re buying with a credit card, or a debit card backed by most major banks, they have 30 days to reverse the charges if you lied to them about the sale anyway. But sure, I’ll take credit for it and seem like I am doing it out of kindness and fair play. 6. Urgency/scarcity. Especially when artificial, even if truthfully enforced. If I say I am only going to sell 10 copies at a certain price, even if I keep that promise - if that setup is artificial, SOLELY for the purpose of putting time pressure on people to act fast without thinking too long - that’s pretty blatant manipulation. 7. Emotional agitation. Me and you messing with people’s emotions and distorting time, agitating pain, inflating perception of a problem to create a desire for the solution we are selling? Without perceiving we are doing it to them, without permission, consent, disclosure, etc? Pretty much the DEFINITION of deception. And it is literally FUNDAMENTAL to the job. Just remember, leave people better than you found them. Sell stuff that works. If it doesn’t work, make it right. —->
1 thought on “Don’t Lie to Yourself – Deception is What Fuels All Persuasion”
Yes. But you lie so good. And it left me better than it found me.