|Dean Rusk, former Secretary of State under Presidents
Kennedy and Johnson, said, "One of the best ways to persuade others
is with your ears - by listening to them."
A spyís most valuable skill is listening. When you are
spying on someone, itís important to encourage them to talk. It may take
a lot of time to get close enough to listen. I donít mean hiding in the
bushes or behind a barrel. I mean having a conversation with the person
whose secrets you want to know.
Be a friend. How would a friend respond? What would a
Remember, you are not in charge. You are there to learn.
Ask questions. Be enthusiastic. Make suggestions if you think they are
appropriate. Letís say you think one of the students is going to steal
the history exam questions. Once you are the suspect's friend, you could
try to prevent the crime by offering a group study session. Or if your
goal is to get the suspect in trouble, you could suggest ways to steal the
questions. Or you could just listen and then ask questions, such as: who
will pick the lock? what tools will be used? how will your suspect avoid
the custodian? You must never blow your cover and tell your suspect that
stealing the questions is bad.
Donít interrupt. Silence can be uncomfortable. People
often say more than they intend just to break the silence. Silence is your
friend. You can outwait your suspect. Lean forward. Look interested. Focus
your mind on the topic. No daydreaming, or planning your next snack. Use a
slight smile and nod your head to encourage your suspect once the talking
When you have questions, wait until an appropriate time
and then ask them. Donít be in a hurry. Your suspect may answer the
questions if you just listen while your suspect talks and be patient
during the pauses. If you accept an assignment, repeat your job
description to be sure you understand everything. You want to do a good
job so your suspect will trust you with more important information.
Donít be a sycophant. Donít give your suspect lots
of compliments. Donít agree with your suspect when itís not necessary.
Your suspect may suspect you if you say everything is wonderful all the
The only way to learn secrets is to be trusted with
them. Think about the people you trust. Be honest. Be generous. Donít be
careless, or do anything in a hurry. Let your enemy think of you as
Do your planning before you meet with your suspect. Once
you are in the suspectís domain, your goal is to blend in as part of
your suspectís team. The only difference between a real member of the
suspect team and yourself is that you work overtime Ė against them.
Being a spy requires long hours and lots of planning. And when you are on
duty, it requires acting ability as well.
Here's a website with letters from Sarah E. Thompson who
pretended to be a rebel during the civil war: spy
letters You can see that she was so convincing that a rebel
general wanted to marry her to a rebel soldier.