How to Find & Exploit Someone’s Weakness

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform summary of "The 48 Laws of Power" by Robert Greene. Shortform has the world's best summaries of books you should be reading.

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How do you identify someone’s weakness? How does knowing someone’s weaknesses help you get them to do what you want?

Everyone has a weakness, a hole in their armor. It’s usually an insecurity, an uncontrollable emotion or need, or a secret pleasure. Once found, you can use it as leverage that you can use to your advantage.

Here’s how to find someone’s weakness and strategically exploit it to your advantage.

The Power of Weaknesses

Everyone has a weakness, a button you can find and push. Some people show their weaknesses openly while others hide them. You can most effectively exploit the weaknesses of those who hide them. Push their buttons and you can easily deceive them or get them to do what you want.

Here are a few tips on how to find someone’s weakness and use it to get what you want:

Look and listen: No one keeps a secret. Even when people aren’t talking they convey a message with other signals such as body language. But talking is the place to start. Routine conversation is revealing—learn to listen.

Always seem interested—a seemingly sympathetic ear will get anyone talking. An old trick is to pretend to share a confidence with them; it can be inconsequential or even fabricated—it just needs to seem sincere. The other person will respond with a confidence of their own, which likely reveals a weakness.

Pay attention to details—what a person laughs at, how they respond to a waiter, what their clothes say about them. Focus on unconscious behavior.

Find out what they like most, and are always looking to get. Indulge their desires or tastes.

Tap into the inner child. Needs and weaknesses develop in childhood as a result of how we were treated, whether we were indulged or neglected, and whether emotional needs were met. These needs follow us into adulthood, although they may be buried, developing into weaknesses you can exploit. One clue that you’ve hit on something is when the person’s response is childlike. If you identify something missing from a person’s childhood, such as approval, provide a substitute.

Look for the opposite. People who display a tendency or trait are often hiding its opposite. Those with big mouths are often cowards; the shy crave attention; the most critical person shares the vices he criticizes. See beyond appearances.

Find the linchpin. In groups and organizations, someone holds the key. Working behind the scenes, they know the score and have power and influence over the person at the top. They are essentially the group’s weak link. Through them, you can influence the boss or break through the group’s cohesiveness.

Fill the void. Everyone has emotional voids, which you can exploit to control them. Two typical voids are insecurity and discontent. Validate the insecure person, and find the source of the discontent or unhappiness. People are malleable when you address their unmet emotional needs.

Play on emotions. You can control people by playing on their strongest emotions and passions—the ones they have little control over or that seem disproportionate. For instance, paranoia, greed, fear, or hatred. An uncontrollable passion for the opposite sex is a weakness that can be used.

How to Find & Exploit Someone’s Weakness

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  • Why you should never outshine your boss
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Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

One thought on “How to Find & Exploit Someone’s Weakness

  • March 14, 2023 at 8:00 pm

    I’m very glad because through my reading I was assisted completely .


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