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Book Summaries Psychology

Part 2: Master the Art of Insinuation (The Art of Seduction)

What distinguishes a suggestion from other kinds of psychical influence, such as a command or the giving of a piece of information or instruction, is that in the case of a suggestion an idea is aroused in another person’s brain which is not examined in regard to its origin but is accepted just as though it had arisen spontaneously in that brain.

—SIGMUND FREUD

Being honest might feel good, but it usually won’t get you anywhere. You must understand how your words are received. People’s minds are filled with thousands of ideas – that is what you are competing with. People resent it when you try to persuade them, they have a natural resistance to it. That is why insinuation is powerful. It requires patience and art, but it’s worth it.

The way insinuation works is simple: disguised in a banal remark or encounter, a hint is dropped. It is about some emotional issue—a possible pleasure not yet attained, a lack of excitement in a person’s life. The hint registers in the back of the target’s mind, a subtle stab at his or her insecurities; its source is quickly forgotten. It is too subtle to be memorable at the time, and later, when it takes root and grows, it seems to have emerged naturally from the target’s own mind, as if it was there all along.

Robert Greene, The Art of Seduction

Count Saint-Germain was a strange man who once arrived to the court of Louis XV. No one knew anything about him, but he wore all kinds of gems and diamonds. He could play the violent perfectly and pain wonderfully, but it was his conversation that was intoxicating. The count was the greatest charlatan in the eighteenth century – he had mastered the art of insinuation. He spoke and occasionally and vaguely alluded to the philosopher’s stone, which turned base metal into gold, or he spoke about the elixir of life. He never said he possessed these things, but people came to associate him with these powers. The key to his strategy was vagueness. He only dropped hints that people would think about later and then they would start to come to him and ask about the philosopher stone or the elixir of life. He engaged their imaginations and their fantasies. They came to him thinking it was their idea all along.

Glances are the heavy artillery of the flirt: everything can be conveyed in a look, yet that look can always be denied, for it cannot be quoted word for word.

—STENDHAL, QUOTED IN RICHARD DAVENPORT-HINES, ED., VICE: ANANTHOLOGY

It’s not only words that insinuate, but gestures too.

Madame Récamier’s favorite technique was to keep her words banal and the look in her eyes enticing. The flow of conversation would keep men from thinking too deeply about these occasional looks, but they would be haunted by them…The face speaks its own language. We are used to trying to read people’s faces, which are often better indicators of their feelings than what they say, which is so easy to control.  Since people are always reading your looks, use them to transmit the insinuating signals you choose.

Robert Greene, The Art of Seduction

The reason insinuation works is because the world is often too dull. The little mystery it has makes us yearn for something different and enigmatic. When someone breaks the routine we are used to and doesn’t say exactly what they mean, we wonder what they are up to? We think about what they want, and this way, we travel to another realm, away from the mundane predictability that are imposed on us by our routines.

Remember that insinuation is good only when you want to lure in a target that does not already desire you. If she does, then it is better to be direct.

Casanova often played things that way. When he could sense that a woman desired him, and needed little preparation, he would use a direct, sincere, gushing comment to go straight to her head like a drug and make her fall under his spell.

Robert Greene, The Art of Seduction

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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