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Fake self-disclosure technique: give nothing, get valuable intel

How do you get people to open and sharing valuable information, without sharing your own personal information?

Management professor and management consultant Kathleen Reardon talks about this technique, and she dubs it "apparent self-disclosure".

This is how it works (I quote her and paraphrase for brevity):

A person acts as though she is providing confidential or personal information, when in actuality she isn’t revealing anything that couldn’t be learned with a little effort.
It's the way the information is conveyed that implies that it is private and shared only with friends. For example, the person appearing to disclose might whisper or suggest meeting behind closed doors.
When this happens, the information recipient feels obligated to reciprocate. So by feigning closeness and self-disclosure, people can elicit information from you.
If you want to make it into the inner circle, you can’t allow yourself to be so easily duped.

The Neighbor Using Fake Self-Disclosure: An Example

My neighbor used this technique with me once, in combination with strategic (and fake) emotional bond.

The first time I met her she was so happy to see me and meet her new neighbor.
"Finally a southerner nearby, not like these Germans who never say "hi"", you know.

She was so happy and bubbly... Until she shared the sad news about her recent divorce.
She opened up about it, coupled with a sad face and gaze towards the pavement.
Then she told me about the nice house she had just bought and that now she was forced to sell (notice the transition).
And then she got close to me, put a hand on my arm, as if this was now my time to share the secret, and whispered with a chirpy tone:

Neighbor: "how much did you pay here?"

woman whispers into a man's ear

By that time she had forced herself so emotionally close with her fake self-disclosure and made me feel so socially indebted with her compliments, that I felt compelled to reply.
So, it worked.
But since I had started catching onto her games, I gave a different number. I don't feel good lying, but sometimes you must force yourself: you shouldn't feel pressure to be honest with game players.

Little later, she proceeded to inform me about issues in the building and with the people in it. Legal battles, unfriendly neighbors, old pipes, etc.
You know, being a good neighbor and sharing info.
That seemed suspicious, and in hindsight, she was really trying to devalue my flat (in a top location which I had carefully chosen, BTW).

And after more chit chat, guess what?
She said she'd love now to be close to her old mother and buy my house. And she was happy to make a deal with me for her wonderful place in the suburbs.

See how the game beautifully came full circle?
What a cheap game player 😀


Source of the quote: "The Secret Handshake".

Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

For future reference, this is an example of "social scalping" ("social debt inflating", to be precise), such as a manipulative technique to make you feel more socially indebted than you actually are.

Some ways to stop it:

  1. Nip the game in the bud: As soon as they start unloading, say "wait wait, I didn't ask that" or "wait, let's get to know each other a bit more before we go so personal"
  2. Leave as soon as they're done sharing: if you suspect they're playing this game on you, here's a surprise for them: as soon as they shared their personal stuff, say "alright, look, I really got some work to do now, it was nice talking to you, speak soon", then go
  3. Prevent it: if you're not sure they're about to play a manipulative self-disclosure, you can say "thanks for sharing that, it usually takes me more time to get so close to share my personal details" (and then when they get nosy, just repeat "as I was saying, I usually take some more time before getting so comfortable with people")
  4. Call the power move (wich cheekiness): as soon as they deliver their nosy question, say "ehehe nice try, but I'd rather keep that private for now" (slight smile)
  5. Stone-faced refusal: just resist the feeling of indebtedness and outright refuse. "I'm not willing to share that right now"
  6. Play them back: they were being manipulative, so feel free to say whatever serves you interests the best

For an overview:

infographic of social exchange manipulation

Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

She uses that technique with Sansa Stark here plus other interesting ones

I really got some work to do now, it was ... talking.

small typo: nice is probably missing there.

In debt erasing I would said: minimize the value received and not offered (if the deed is done/you already did the scalper a favor) since we are talking from the point of view of the person doing the scalping.

Thank you, Stef, both great points!

 

Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Call the power move (wich cheekiness): as soon as they deliver their nosy question, say "ehehe nice try, but I'd rather keep that private for now" (slight smile)

I've pulled this one before, and sometimes they call you out on the "nice try" with "what do you mean 'nice try'?" I've had some success calling them out with "you sure share a lot of personal details to someone you just met." or a variation of it, when they tell me their life story out of no where. When they ask a nosy question, my swiss army knife for all intrusive questions is "don't worry about it", it's a pretty neutral response and isn't as big of a power move as some other stuff; but if you're caught off guard with a power move, this can easily be deployed.

  • you sure share a lot of personal details to someone you just met

I love this one man :D.

Very dominant, and shames them a bit for their over-sharing. But there is also humor baked into it, so if you do it with a smile, you can be dominant and take leadership of the interaction, while at the same time keeping it friendly.

  • Don't worry about it

Solid.
Simple, assertive, and stops all the games without much effort.

The only downside is that it might break rapport. So if it's a neighbor, or someone you want to maintain a good relationship with, that might be something to think about.

Otherwise, it's a great option.

  • Nice try

Yeah, if you tell them very directly "nice try", people will likely try to hide it.

The way I'd do is to almost mutter it to yourself, so the frame gets set up more subtly and they don't have an opportunity to address it.
It's like you make smile a bit to yourself, then say "nice try", as if to say "ehehe, look at this guy pulling this basic power moves on me", and then you refuse to answer.
That way, your message goes across that you both know what they were trying to do, but that you know better.

Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Another way to handle this is to play dumb and keep asking for details on their story, as if you were really interested.

Other person: "Yeah, I went to XYZ University"

You: "Oh really? What did you study?!"

OP: "Oh I studied law"

You: "Oh really? Did you have Louie G as your prof?!" (Just lie and make up an uncommon name to gauge a reaction, you can always backtrack and say that "you knew someone that went through law" and/or "it was a long time ago")

At this point if the OP says yes, then ask for details (Most liars stumble when forced to make up details of their lies on the spot, because it overloads their brain). As soon as OP gives you details, immediately break rapport and say that who they're describing is not Louie G. If they start stumbling and look uncertain, you've probably got yourself a liar; if they stand their ground, you may have inadvertently name dropped a real person.

Going back to the end of the scenario above, if the OP says "no, I don't know of Louie G", then they're probably telling the truth. Even more so if they keep asking details about him.

This might seem like unnecessary "game-playing", but IMO it's important to be certain when someone is lying. Although Lucio's instance looks like pretty clear cut, most of the time, that's not the case. It's no secret that many people overestimate their ability to judge a person's character, which leads to making bad logic leaps.