Tactics of ‘Coercive Persuasion’ – by Dr. Margaret Singer


‘Coercive persuasion’ is a method of slowly manipulating the way a person thinks and feels. It doesn’t happen overnight and all seven tactics do not need to be used. But, in time, a person exposed to these tactics can be influenced and conditioned.

The seven tactics she’s outlined can be summarized as:

  • ‘Softening Up’ – First a victim is prepared by focusing them on REPEATED activities, ideas or senses. This is to make the person more receptive to further suggestion.
  • ‘Social support’ – By using rewards and punishments, the victim is separated from their friends and family who are not part of the group. Being part of the group is rewarded, spending time outside of it is punished. Making a person reliant upon the group for money and other needs helps this immensely.
  • ‘Censorship’ – Rules are put in place where certain thoughts are not allowed to be expressed. What can be said to an outsider from the group is also controlled, as is communication in general. Usually a group will come up with its own ‘language’ for describing things.
  • ‘Peer pressure’ – The group makes a constant, firm effort to convince a person to rethink their own beliefs and their past life. The victim is made to believe their past way of life is wrong and that they must fit into the group.
  • ‘Low self-esteem’ – The group seeks ways of breaking a person’s self-confidence and faith in their own judgement. The idea is to make a person not wish to act on their own and instead be guided by the group.
  • ‘Non-violent punishment’ – Anything from intense humiliation to loss of privilege, social isolation, loss of status, intense guilt, anxiety, manipulation and other techniques. This is all done to make the person afraid of disobeying.
  • ‘Threats’ – A victim is lead to believe that failing to fit into the group will mean terrible things. Not just punishment mentioned in tactic six, but things such as mental illness, drug habits, being poor and homeless, a miserable love life and general unhappiness.

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