HAVE YOU WONDERED why some people nearly always get what they want from other people, while you can only manage to do so every now and then? I certainly have, and that question had badgered me for years. Why can one person close the big business deal where ninety-five percent of the people who tried have failed? Why can some men charm and manipulate women into almost anything, when others couldn’t get the time of day from them? Why do certain women seem to get anything they want from men? Surely it comes down to the fact that these people are shrewd in the art of manipulating and handling people. But how do they do it? What are their techniques? As an answer, this article reports the tactics these manipulators use to get what they want in business situations as well as in their personal lives-much of it in their own words. And it’s all tried-and-true street wisdom, not the kind of thing you customarily read in articles. As a result, you’ll find it natural to put these tactics to work getting what you want from people. They’re more comfortable in action, anyway, than they are lying dormant on the written page. The sole criterion: Does it work? Any method I report here can be judged by only one criterion: Does it work well enough to get me what I want? These tactics need not be moral, inspiring, or philosophically sound. They just have to work. Otherwise the manipulators who tutored me in the art of “people-handling” would have long ago discarded them. What remains is the distilled street wisdom of people who either prospered or starved according to their ability to persuade others against their will. I believe their straight-from-the-jungle techniques will work better for you than the ivory tower, armchair theorizing done by most articles on the subject. Necessity forced me to turn to some rather unorthodox characters as sources for this article on manipulation. I’d already exhausted the more respectable alternatives by taking a master’s degree in advertising. But studying Madison Avenue’s methods in detail taught me very little. I found that depending on college and articles to teach me how to handle people was like going to church to learn how to sin. They just didn’t seem to know much about it. Not until I put myself square in the middle of street-wise hustlers, manipulators, and con artists did I gain a working grasp of manipulation. In the process my shady tutors conned me out of considerable money. But I emerged after a year well versed in the art of extracting what I want from people. Learning the art Manipulators and con artists flock to boom towns w here the money comes easy and plentiful, and then move on when the prosperity plays out. Houston, Texas, was just such a boom town in the early 1970s as the energy shortage in the rest of the country pumped a deluge of easy dollars into this city built on oil. By moving to Houston, I had no trouble contacting con artists, because hordes of their numbers roosted in the bars there. Shortly after I arrived there, I took an apartment with Hardy, a habitual drunk who, when sober, is probably the most masterly manipulator I have ever known or expect to know. Hardy was panting hot on the heels of a cafe waitress he had chased into town. He had just departed Mobile, Alabama, in favour of Houston when the easy money had played out in Dixie. The walking personification of the silver-tongued devil, Hardy could talk anybody into nearly anything-women included. And he had successfully hawked everything from stock to land to encyclopaedias door-to-door. But despite the fact that he always made fabulous money, I doubt that Hardy ever worked over three weeks at a stretch before one of his drinking sprees got him fired. He was my major tutor while I studied manipulation. We soon added another charlatan, who was eventually to gull me of a considerable amount of money, to our living arrangement. He had drifted into town from Dallas, Texas, as that city joined the rest of the country in the recession of the 1970s. Next door to our apartment lived a shyster from California who claimed to be a millionaire’s son, and who had never done the proverbial honest day’s work in his life. He had either stolen or conned someone out of everything he owned. The man had so many aliases and bogus pieces of identification that I never did figure out his real name. Finally, I enlisted as “visiting lecturers” on the subject of manipulation two con artist friends of the Dallas man. One had abandoned his New York environs for Houston due to the recession back east. And the other was a hot-check artist from El Paso, Texas. These made up my complement of experts in theart of people-handling. Bear in mind that none of these men fit the category of the dangerous criminal. As far as I know, there wasn’t a criminal record in the bunch. Although none except Hardy demonstrated an inkling of honesty, they didn’t turn their fast bucks by outright thievery. Instead, they generally made their money by using people with a jewel cutter’s precision. (Mostly by selling them cars, stock, land, or possibly a completely worthless item at exorbitant prices-all the while convincing their hapless dupe that they were doing him a favour.) Nor do I mean to imply that the average person would find these men despicable. Certainly, a modicum of charm is essential to the success of any manipulator. And they had plenty of it. In fact, I’ve never been charmed as quickly by a group of people. With only one exception they were all hilarious storytellers. Almost any normal person would be quite taken by them, at least until their ruthless nature reared its ugly head. But by that time, it was usually too late. Women as a rule also found them irresistible, so you can imagine that they kept up a constant parade of females in and out of our apartment. In fact, Hardy was so confident of his abilities as a latter-day Casanova that he paid for a motel room before he went out cruising the bars to pick up women. During my year of this near-cockroach existence, I discovered the key to the mystery of manipulation: a thorough understanding of human nature. First the manipulator must grasp an intimate understanding of human nature. Then he exploits these deeply ingrained human tendencies, instincts, and weaknesses. In the course of this article, I start with the basic traits of human nature and describe the tactics manipulators use to capitalize on them. You can experience their methods by proxy as you read about them. After that you should find it easy to apply them to the situations where you need manipulation. Because the ever-present traits of human nature are universal, once you understand how to exploit them in one situation, other applications come naturally. Learn the techniques quickly. I hope that by reading this article, you’ll learn to harness the considerable power of human nature to get what you want-without having to pay the dues that such an ability usually demands. These tactics are easy to learn from someone who’s willing to teach you, but figuring them out on your own through trial-and-error would probably take a lifetime. I hope this article cuts your period of trial-and-error to an absolute minimum, or possibly eliminates it altogether. Figuring out the tactics of people-handling on your own is usually a syrup-slow process. It’s hard because these techniques run contrary to what you’re used to doing. At times you’ll have to learn to make yourself shut up when your instincts are goading you to “Scream at him!” Or you may have to feign disinterest when your insides plead, “Tell him you’re desperate for his business.” As a result of these unaccustomed stances manipulation often requires of you, only a handful of people-around five percent by my estimate-ever learn to get what they want from other people. The other ninety-five percent just plod along following their natural instincts, unable to tell why they nearly always come out on the short end of situations. I venture to guess that these people, frustrated by their personal failure, flock in droves to John Wayne movies. There they get their vicarious satisfaction by watching The Duke, by golly, see that things are damn well done his way. Unfortunately, Wayne’s clench-jaw method of riding his gut instincts to victory only works on the silver screen, not in reality. A person simply can’t follow his impulses and still get what he wants from people. Impulses are a fool’s compass. Finally, I must confess that few of the techniques in this article represent original thoughts of my own. As a reporter I mostly relate what the old hands in the manipulative art taught me. I’m giving you advice from people who are much more clever than I am. In a sense, I let them take the years of hard knocks necessary to develop these tactics, and paid as few dues as possible myself. I would have undoubtedly been twenty years developing them on my own. Also, in my role as a reporter, I only describe what works-not what is moral. These tactics aren’t either moral or immoral. Like most powerful tools, they can be used for either good or bad ends. For instance, Lyndon Johnson, a master in the use of political manipulation, used the same tactics to gain the passage of good civil rights laws as he used to marshal support for his questionable Vietnam policies. You see, how you use these methods determines whether they will be right or wrong. Undoubtedly there’s a great potential for abuse inherent in these techniques; I can only hope that you’ll apply them toward decent ends. I also trust that the publicity this article gives the methods of manipulators will awaken some of the gullible people in the world from their trances. Then maybe they can defend themselves against being used by these ruthless individuals.