Failing to Foresee the Inevitable: How & Why Al Qaeda Turned On Assad 1

By Chris Simmons

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” So thought Syrian President Bashar Assad when he allowed Al Qaeda (AQ) to create and sustain a “Rat Line” funneling a torrent of foreign fighters into Iraq. Now the stream has reversed course and AQ-trained and equipped fighters are flowing into Syria to fight with the Al Nusra Front. Benefitting greatly from the terrorist group’s extensive infrastructure in Iraq, its Syrian-based affiliate has swelled to 6000 fighters since its establishment in January 2012.Not surprisingly; Al Nusra seeks to replace Syria with a Sunni Islamic state.

For nine long years (2003-2011), Assad allowed AQ foot soldiers to fly into Damascus. There they entered an intricate network of safehouses whose staff smuggled them covertly into northeastern Iraq. Assad helped AQ kill Americans to undermine the US effort in Iraq. According to US media sources, no other leader in the Middle East did more to aid AQ operations in Iraq than President Assad. Yesterday The Washington Times cited retired US General John Keane as claiming even Syrian Intelligence was involved with directly helping AQ in its deadly mission.

Now his former “friends” have used their expertise to create the most powerful force within the diverse array of Syrian opposition groups. Combat seasoned, well-armed and disciplined, the Al Nusra Front has already proven itself capable of coordinated operations with other opposition entities. More importantly, AQ has the ability to make things much worse for Assad. US troops have left Iraq and Baghdad’s military does not threaten AQ the way American forces did. Additionally, AQ has increased the resources available for reassignment to Syria by recently freeing many of its captured combatants from Iraqi jails.

For unknown reasons, Assad did not anticipate AQ’s likely responses to a political opening occurring in Syria. In his dangerous game of “Human Chess,” he not only failed to understand his supposed ally, he also focused solely on his next move instead of his next several moves. President Assad never understood that while his self-interest and that of Al Qaeda’s did overlap on the sole issue of killing Americans, their overall interests could not have been more divergent. Their previous collaboration was merely a short-term marriage of convenience and as so often happens, the divorce has proven itself quite messy.

Aimee Mullins: The Opportunity of Adversity Reply

The thesaurus might equate “disabled” with synonyms like “useless” and “mutilated,” but ground-breaking runner Aimee Mullins is out to redefine the word. Defying these associations, she hows how adversity — in her case, being born without shinbones — actually opens the door for human potential.

Lie-Detection Made Easy: Using a Single Comment to Get the Truth 1

By Chris Simmons

You will be lied to today, most likely several times. Wouldn’t it be nice to protect yourself against the pervasiveness of everyday deceptions?

You can, with a maneuver known as the squeeze play. This technique uses a single sentence to force your suspected liar into making an unforeseen, split-second decision. The tactic does come with a price, however, as your response to the other person’s lie is itself a lie.

As an overly protective father with two lovely daughters, I may have been guilty of using this practice once or twice over the years. Imagine, if you will, a new beau takes my oldest daughter to the nearby theater. I great them at the door as they return home much later than expected. Before he can say anything, I welcome them back by saying “I figured you’d be late since Route 7 was closed because of a bad accident.”

So begins the squeeze play. I know there wasn’t an accident on the nearby highway. However, it can be a dangerous road, making my statement plausible. Now her prospective suitor has a life-changing decision to make. He can choose wisely and deny seeing my mythical accident before explaining why they are late. Or he can choose poorly and claim it took them forever to find an alternate way home because the accident tied up traffic for miles in all directions.

The squeeze play works in virtually any scenario simply by changing the false data introduced. If the other party correctly notes that your comment is incorrect, you can deftly extract yourself with a simple “I must have misunderstood (misheard, etc)…”

Conversely, if he/she opts to lie, you’ll see two distinct responses. First, they will hesitate deciding how to answer. Secondly, they will either “buy-in” to your false fact or try to change the topic. Regardless of their choice, you always walk away knowing the truth.

Three Simple Steps to Becoming More Influential – Instantly! Reply

By Chris Simmons

Think Strategically

Be more successful in getting everything you want by remembering that all communication is theater and every personal interaction a distinct performance. While this may sound like an overstatement, step back and think about it for a second. In one manner or another, all encounters have a set, costumes, sound effects, lighting, acting, and dialogue. While some performances may be more “bare bones” than others, increased audience engagement and recall occurs by integrating as many senses as possible into a performance (i.e., sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell).

Understand The Redundancies in Spoken Communication

While it may seem counterintuitive, the pathway to influence comes not from speaking, but from listening and observing. To paraphrase Mark Twain, “No one ever learned a damn thing while they were running their mouth.” Or more to the point, as Steven Covey so famously said “”First seek to understand, then be understood.”

As humans, we are born to over-communicate. In fact, every time we speak, we broadcast our message in three distinct manners. Our words provide the verbal content, while non-verbal communication provides both auditory and visual cues. More importantly, non-verbals generally convey 60-93% of the intent and meaning of a spoken message. Non-verbals consist of utterances and body language. Utterances are the speed, pitch, tone, and volume of what is said, as well as any non-words that may be included (a sigh of exasperation, for example). Body language consists of both intentional and involuntary gestures and physical responses.

Take These Three Steps to Increased Influence

  1. Listen to the words.  Understand that every word has meaning, as does its placement within a sentence or paragraph. Generally, the initial word(s) in a sentence convey the bulk of the message. For example, to say “Tomorrow, I need to head back to school,” emphasizes the timing of the event. In contrast, “I need to head back to school tomorrow,” emphasizes the focus on the speaker.
  2. Watch the body language. Do not assume that all gestures mean the same thing. Observe others long enough to create a “baseline” of their normal mannerisms. Any subsequent anomaly displayed by their body warrants attention. For example, imagine a meeting during which a colleague offers to partner with you on a project. Then, after making the offer, he/she proceeds to lean back and interlace their fingers behind their head. This would generally be an anomaly due to the disconnect between a seemingly genuine offer and a gesture that is a classic sign of perceived superiority.
  3. Take note of the utterances. The manner of delivery is everything. The words “I love you” can be said in every fashion from soft and romantic to mockingly and dishonest.

Ideally, the three communicative streams compliment and reinforce one another. Their purpose is to ensure a message is clearly received and understood. In doing so, they provide a behavioral  “cluster” which paints a much more precise image of the speaker’s intent, areas of interest, and sincerity. Conversely, when the verbal and non-verbal worlds collide, always trust the latter. The body hates deception and will always provide a physical response to reveal the truth.

“You’re Not Pretty Enough” — Cheating Husband’s Cruel Words Inspires Campaign for Change Reply

Cheating Husband’s Cruel Words Inspires Campaign for Change

Jennifer Tress’ marriage and life was forever changed when her ex-husband muttered the four ugly words, “You’re not pretty enough,” as his reason for cheating on her.

Now she is on a crusade to help women build their self-esteem with her empowering book entitled, “You’re Not Pretty Enough,” as she tackles issues most women, and even some men, deal with on a daily basis of not liking what they see on the other side of the mirror.

“Those words really pierce a woman’s heart,” Tress told ABC News. “The pretty thing is more of an entry into the self-esteem issues, because it’s the easiest and laziest way that we assess ourselves.”

She’s bringing multimedia sessions, or what she calls “salons,” to 100 college campuses around the country, where students come to discuss everything from insecurities to self acceptance.

Tress asks them to take a pledge: Give yourself a valued mantra and help spread the word about tips and tools we can all use to develop a healthy self-image when it comes to beauty norms.

Victoria Rocha, 26, says before attending Tress’ sessions she made a lot of poor, and sometimes detrimental, decisions.

“Ultimately, I didn’t boost my self-esteem and it took the time and energy to work on myself,” said Rocha.

Tress’ movement also solicits people to ” Create your own video to contribute to the conversation and help someone else realize they’re not alone.”

Some of the confessions heard in her online movement’s videos include, “You’d be pretty with longer hair,” “There was taunting, there was bullying,” and “There were times when I didn’t feel good in my own skin.”

Experts say this is a real social issue.

“We are far more worried about our own appearances than other people are,” explained Art Markman, a Ph.D. in behavioral psychology.

Thanks to the never-ending and very permanent forms of social media like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, today’s generation has way too many platforms to feel less than pretty.

“While I do think people are more worried about these issues, they are things that they can overcome,” said Markman. “You have to focus on your strengths.”

Today, Tress is remarried to a man who not only thinks she is pretty enough, but is also playing an active role in her crusade.

The 7 Warning Signs That Someone is Trying to Manipulate You Reply

By Chris Simmons

Any attempt to manipulate another individual is directed not against one’s logical/rationale persona, but rather their emotional side. An objective, sterile appeal is inherently doomed because it provides no reason for “buy-in” or commitment. As a result, your adversary (for lack of a better word) must appeal to your emotions in order to gain advantage over you.

The individual seeking to exploit you will almost always target one or more of several emotional themes. The seven “hooks” of manipulation are:

  1. Ego:  “Everyone knows you are the most talented programmer in this company. That’s why you should talk to the boss about all the problems in the new software. She’ll listen to you.”
  2. Love:  “Who told you I was out with John last week?  If you loved me, you wouldn’t say that. I would never betray you or do anything to hurt you. I thought we shared something special.”
  3. Likability:  “Don’t start having second thoughts now. We need you to stay the course. Everyone is counting on you. Don’t back out on us. Everyone will be so disappointed”
  4. Curiosity“Come on, do it. You only live once! Haven’t you always wanted to be a cliff diver? It will be a rush. You’ll never get another chance to do this. Just do it!!!”
  5. Intimidation“What’s your problem? It’s not that big a decision. Stop being a jellyfish and show some backbone!”
  6. Guilt:  “Seriously?  You think I broke my old phone on purpose so you’d have to get me a new one? I’m hurt that you would even think that.”
  7. Fear“The family that was here this morning really loves this place and they made a verbal offer at full asking price. If you’re serious about this gorgeous home, I need a really good written offer today or it will be gone.”

By recognizing a manipulator’s feelings-based appeal and the “hot buttons” he/she will push, you can avoid being their puppet.  Their high-pressure tactics are designed to disrupt your thought process, that is, the integration of relevant facts with self-interest and your associated emotional needs and wants. To defeat their abusive maneuver, remain calm, remove their emotive red herring from consideration, and allow yourself the time to make a reasoned, well-informed decision.

Dr. Brené Brown: The Power of Vulnerability Reply

Brené Brown studies human connection — our ability to empathize, belong, love. In a poignant, funny talk at TEDxHouston, she shares a deep insight from her research, one that sent her on a personal quest to know herself as well as to understand humanity.

Dr Brown is author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead. Her other bestselling books include The Gifts of Imperfection, and I Thought It Was Just Me.

“Schooling” Al-Qaeda: How We Learned to Terrify Terrorists Reply

By Chris Simmons

In Iraq, I led interrogation operations so feared by Al-Qaeda that they dubbed my interviewing center, “The Cemetery” and “The Devil’s Den.” The terrorist group’s fear was well founded, as our success rate in getting useful information from detainees was unprecedented, exceeding 99 percent.

This achievement came about because I ensured every one of my people understood that interrogation is not about the physical act of talking to someone. Interrogation is a performance – it is theater of the mind.

We are all familiar with the adage, “Perception is reality.” I believe this axiom doesn’t go far enough. Perceptions, be they short-term or permanent, are living “beings.” They can grow, shrink, bend, twist, or die. For us, perception management was a key tool in mentally wearing down detainees before we ever spoke to them. A premium was placed on their perceived self-interest and total lack of control.

For example, a classic resistance technique used by detainees was to focus on anything that had a schedule. The predictability of routines was often quite reassuring. It could also help measure time or provide a comforting feeling of stability.

We shattered this detainee countermeasure by eliminating every trace of patterns. Watches, clocks, and all verbal references to time were prohibited. Our guards did not appear to keep a set schedule and equally important, seemed to randomly move to other shifts. We began feeding detainees two to six times a day. Detainees were also arbitrarily removed from their cells and taken to the toilet. To complete the effect, the location where our guests were quartered had no windows or doors to the outside world.

For our detainees, time ceased to exist. From a psychological perspective, this is critical as the brain – when striped of any means to measure time – actually compresses it. I recall one detainee who, six hours after arriving at my facility, was absolutely convinced he had been with us for three days.

Another protocol we developed to sow mistrust and further wear down detainees was to change at least one standard procedure on a biweekly basis. You see, when we finished questioning a detainee, we would often transfer him/her to the prison at Abu Ghraib. This compound essentially operated as a “catch and release” program. Prisoners were required to be released within six months of their arrival. This enabled Al-Qaeda to establish a “snitch line” within the stream of prisoners being steadily released.

In this manner, the terrorists sought to maintain an awareness of our latest interrogation procedures. They then shared this information with other terrorists in an effort to make their resistance (after capture) more successful. By training its members in our procedures and routines, Al-Qaeda became more effective in defeating my interrogators. However, the afore-mentioned biweekly changes negated Al-Qaeda efforts. For example, if we held a detainee for several weeks, he/she experienced several of our new procedures. The detainee then went to Abu Ghraib where he/she was debriefed by other Al-Qaeda members and their “new” information passed to a soon-to-be released snitch. This step could take days-weeks, possibly allowing us to introduce yet another new tactic. As a result, Al-Qaeda was suddenly playing catch-up.

This also opened the door to us applying more psychological pressure on detainees, as we could then estimate what U.S. tactics they had been taught based on their date-of-capture. This enabled us to confront the detainee and tell them we knew Al-Qaeda had trained him/her that we would do “x, y, and z.” We then lied to the detainee and told him/her we stopped using those tactics a long time ago. We would tell the detainee that Al-Qaeda taught them these old procedures because they were incompetent, grossly uninformed, or simply because they viewed their personnel as “disposable.” We then appealed directly to their self-interest, asking them why they should remain loyal to an organization that had so clearly betrayed them.

For the most part, interrogation techniques have changed little over the last millennium. That said, our ability to get valuable information from detainees far exceeded every other organization in Iraq. While many items factored into our success, the three key components were:

  • Our creative latitude;
  • The speed in which we could move from one tactic/procedure to another, and
  • Our willingness to take calculated risks.

As any fan of American football will tell you, the only thing that matters is the size of your “Play Book” and your ability to execute the plays.

Retired FBI Agent Joe Navarro on “The Art of Influence” Reply

Learn how to speed-read your employees and colleagues from retired FBI Special Agent, Joe Navarro. By understanding both the verbal and non-verbal exchanges that occur in the workplace, you’ll gain valuable insight into what people are really thinking. Plus you’ll learn the key behaviors that project confidence and authority.

Analysis of Alex Rodriguez’s Press Conference Reveals Guilt, Intent Reply

By Chris Simmons

Yesterday, ESPN covered the press conference of Alex Rodriguez (“A-Rod”) regarding his suspension by Major League Baseball (MLB). He is accused, in part, of obstructing MLB’s investigation into player use of performance-enhancing drugs. As expected, the media event didn’t shed much light on anything until A-Rod was asked if he had any regrets over the way things have played out recently. This was his answer:

“I’m sure there’s been some mistakes made along the way. We’re here now. I’m a human being…I’m fighting for my life. I have to defend myself.” (Source:  Washington Post)

What appears to be a very simple response actually contains a wealth of insights.

Trained investigators know that every word has meaning, as does the placement of a word(s) within a sentence and paragraph. A-Rod’s comments actually reveal four very distinct messages:

MESSAGE 1:  ““I’m sure there’s been some mistakes made along the way.”

This sentence fulfills multiple roles. First and foremost, it is a statement of fact and as such, a “soft admission” of guilt. [a “hard admission” would be “I did it”]. Pay particular attention to the reality that a soft admission is not quantifiable. It is a mechanism to gently admit guilt without revealing the scope of the misconduct.

A-Rod’s comment also serves as a bridging statement, setting the stage for the transition from his past denials to future hard admissions. This bridge also opens the door to deflecting statements (e.g., “I’ve already said mistakes were made. This is old news”), a useful tool in damage control.

MESSAGE 2:  “We’re here now.”

Having made his soft admission, A-Rod hopes to put the past behind him and move on. He seeks to avoid making hard admissions, which generally come with accountability and consequences. In essence, this can be seen as a de facto negotiating position. He sees himself as having taken some responsibility with his soft admission and would like to resume playing baseball without further injuring his reputation.

MESSAGE 3:  “I’m a human being…”

The subtle theme here is human fallibility and is intended to remind the audience “we all make mistakes.”

MESSAGE 4:  “I’m fighting for my life. I have to defend myself.”

In a very hard transition, A-Rod justifies and rationalizes his lack of cooperation with the MLB inquiry. He goes from quasi-apologetic (without actually apologizing) to defiant. In these two brief sentences, he makes it clear to MLB that he has no intention of cooperating.