The Forbidden Keys To Persuasion By Blair Warren (Summary & Review)

About The Book

This book is structured in the layout of a course. It includes information on how to be more persuasive using examples from cults and persuasive situations. The author says he believed certain things about communication and a few events made him dismiss all he believed. First he spoke to his friend about how people needed his product and still didn’t buy. Second he came across a cult situation where people acted against their own best interest and killed themselves. These two contradictory experiences led to his journey trying to understand persuasion. His journey led to him writing this book.


This book does a great job both teaching and illustrating persuasion. Not only are there useful anecdotes to expound on the principles taught, but the book itself uses the persuasive principles. For example, just look at the title “Forbidden …” The book appears to be written in the first few chapters to someone hesitant to pick up a book about forbidden persuasion tactics, for moral reasons. It then proceeds to explain why it is okay to study these tactics.

But all isn’t as it appears. The audience he appears to be writing to wouldn’t have even picked up the book. He is actually writing to people who are allured by the idea of forbidden persuasion. Such people might feel a tinge of guilt for that desire. So what does he do? The whole first chapter serves to simply justify that feeling of interest and to quell the feeling of guilt. These techniques are basic persuasive ones he covers later in the book.

The book includes some scientific references that bolster the arguments. It is designed well visually, using bolds, italics, and space well, which means you can either skim or read more in depth if you find a principle you are more interested in.


One criticism is that there aren’t many studies directly referenced. He does quote psychotherapists and other experts, but sometimes we wondered if their quotes were taken out of context a bit. He also takes a few phrases and words out of context to some degree in order to make his point. See the part on gaslighting.


We’ve summarized the book below, chapter by chapter so you don’t have to read it yourself.

Table Of Contents

The Table Of Contents

Lesson 1: The Basis Of Forbidden Persuasion And The Achilles Heel Of The Human Mind

The first lesson shares Two Ugly Truths about humans that are geared towards people who are appalled by the idea of forbidden persuasion.

The first Truth is that everyone is a manipulator. Everyone alters or changes the world to serve their own purposes. Accepting this makes us more persuasive because we become more willing to use the most effective tools.

The second Truth is that our sense of values or morality can get in the way of truly understanding people. We think our way of looking at the world is superior, and this keeps us from seriously considering other people’s viewpoints. We over simplify and reject their way of thinking and this blinds us to really understanding them.

Accepting these two ideas allows us have the foundation necessary for becoming maximally persuasive.

He then discusses Three Human Tendencies that make indirect persuasion necessary.

The First Tendency is that people resist persuasion especially when it is unwelcome.

The Second Tendency is that people won’t resist what is undetectable. This means cloaking your persuasion is necessary if you want to become a master persuader. You do this by making all the premises that lead to your persuasive conclusion really simple and easy to accept.

The Third Tendency is that people believe conclusions they come to on their own more than those that they are told to believe. This means you must used methods that help people get to your conclusions with out you forcing those ideas on them.

Next comes the Achilles heel of the mind. It is the fact that people have a strong need for their attention to be captured and focused. He also discusses how it is important to stand out in a busy world. He suggests using Incongruity Theory to stand out and give yourself a chance to persuade. When two facts seem to contradict each other but are clearly true, people pay more attention. For example take the riddle “what mammal can jump higher than a house?” (The answer is every mammal since houses can’t jump.) Incongruity can be anything from what you say or write to how you dress and act.

Homework is included in each section. This homework is to look out for the principles discussed above and then write down each time they happen. Describe the dynamics of the situation in detail. He also says to select one area of persuasion you want to work on. Identify one area of resistance discussed above that could be holding you back.

Lesson 2: The Mechanics Of Cult Mind Control Part 1

This section talks about three concepts that cults use to control people, to gain followers, and to keep members.

Everyone has Hidden Addictions and if you fulfill them they allow you to control people by promising the object they desire. You can find out what people really want by asking, but often people’s answers will be affected by social pressure. They want to appear moral and good. Their answers will be distorted by how they want to be perceived. Instead look at things like the news. What do you see, disaster, tragedy, betrayal, sex. “If it bleeds it leads.” The real things we are persuaded by are appetites, fears, and our vanity most of all.

Hidden Addiction 1 is people want to feel needed and adored.

Hidden Addiction 2 is that people will do anything to regain hope when they are at an impasse. If you can give them hope they will do anything.

Hidden Addiction 3 is that people need a scapegoat to blame their problems and mistakes on.

Hidden Addiction 4 is that people want to feel noticed and understood.

Hidden Addiction 5 is that people want to know things that are restricted. They want to have information that they aren’t supposed to have or that others don’t have.

Hidden Addiction 6 is that people want to be right. This comes from their need for stability and superiority.

Hidden Addiction 7 is that people need to feel powerful or influential.

Homework is to make a list of times in your life where these addictions were met or unmet. Second practice using these addictions in one professional relationship.

Lesson 3: The Mechanics Of Cult Mind Control Part 2

This section is all about what you can learn from cult’s practices of isolation and gaslighting. These techniques teach us more about persuasion.

Isolation is used by cults to increase their ability to control people. They do this by creating an out group for the people to focus on like a rival. This rival group unified the first group. Isolation can be physical or mental. Physical isolation means physically separating people from others by distance.

Mental isolation can be created through secret sharing, predicting the future, or shared experiences. Secret sharing creates a sense of family or team and isolation. Predicting the future takes place when cults predict that their new members will experience ridicule. Predictions give a person a point of reference through which the can interpret events. Cultivating shared experiences creates connection by promoting social bonding. These could be positive or negative.

Gaslighting is used by cults to change what someone believes, does, or feels. We want to be able to correct a person with out making them feel that they are incorrect, lesser, or wrong. Gaslighting is sometimes defined as an “attempt to influence… by causing the latter to doubt the validity of his or her judgement, perceptions and/or reality…” He points out that gaslighting and persuasion sound close.

Gaslighting have 5 practical strategies. First is repetitive questioning. When we have to explain things over and over again we begin to doubt our own thought process. Second is pointing out the invisible. When someone points out something we should have been aware of we question our feeling of certainty. What else could we have overlooked? Next is alluding to the mysterious. When someone blames something on a mysterious process, they become the mediator between that mysterious thing and a solution. Another trick is to reveal the secret thoughts of other people. Basically claim that other people hold an opinion but are hesitant to actually voice it. It can be used to enhance perceptions. Last is the technique of ganging up on them. Social pressure is persuasive. If a group of people think something people will open their minds to being persuaded of that thing. You can use this trick by establishing your social credibility before it ever is under question.

Homework for this lesson is to ask yourself where you are most likely to experience issues getting the attention of your target. He also says to identify areas where you lose influence over people and figure out what the cause of it is.

Lesson 4: Psychological Ventriloquism

This section is about how you can learn to put a thought into a person’s mind while they are completely unaware. The key is to lead people to the conclusion you want them to have, but not to force it on them. Comedians, conmen, and magicians all require that their practitioners have the ability to lead people to a false idea before they reveal the truth. The key is to control a person’s assumptions. Those assumptions will then lead a person to the conclusion.

Awareness is what allows you to perform psychological ventriloquism. There are four areas called self restraint, triggers of assumption, saying versus conveying, and examples. Self Restraint is simple in theory but it requires practice to not jump in an bluntly force some fact down someone’s throat. Self restraint comes from observing ourselves over a long period of time. Triggers of assumption form an important part as well. These are the assumptions that lead to the conclusion you want. Simply think about what beliefs would lead you to a conclusion and then focus on those. One way to trigger this is by creating a pattern of regularity that people can follow. Music does this when it has a constant beat before it is interrupted by the chorus. Also think about how you can use a person’s existing assumptions for your good. Think about the assumptions they already have that will hinder or help your cause. Saying not conveying is when you show the right way indirectly. This can mean things like symbols of success or stories that illustrate your point.

Homework in this section is to focus on increasing awareness. Identify at least half a dozen examples of the techniques above in your life. Ask yourself how ads and movies plant assumptions in your mind.

Lesson 5: Persuasion And The God Complex

This section is about the mindset that persuasive people have.

First they must believe in what they are doing and saying. This conviction and certainty comes from having a larger purpose in life and seeing how your actions fit into that purpose. He suggests asking yourself how your product or service serve a higher or more noble purpose?

Second they must feel intense concern for those that they are trying to persuade. This means never letting your attention waver from the person you are talking to.

Third is the idea of focus. Don’t let yourself get distracted by anything. He suggests looking back at your day and identifying when you lost focus and why.

Finally he points out that another key is to define success in a persuasion context in a way that it is actually achievable. Cults do this when they focus on getting outsiders to buy into the group’s basic definitions of things. Focus on smaller and more achievable goals that will lead you to the end goal.

The homework for this section is to do four things. First is to find how your product serves a higher purpose. Second is to ask yourself the ways your hidden lower level needs have blocked you from paying attention to the person you are talking to. Next is to list the times when you lost focus and figure out what caused this. Finally is to stop being a victim and take responsibility for your actions.

An Excerpt From Joe Vitale’s Seven Lost Secrets Of Success

This section talks about one secret to persuasion. The secret is to reveal something no one else knows. The best way to do this is to think of what people really want, like security, sex, power, immortality, love, wealth, safety, health, and happiness. Think about how you deliver those needs in your product. For example instead of selling a course on how to write a book, sell the secret to immortality, having your words live on beyond you.

Lesson 6: Context And Persuasion

This chapter talks about how context can effect persuasion. One example of the power of context is how people who are seen as authorities can be seen as wise. But those who aren’t seen as an authority can say the exact same thing and no one will think they are saying anything important. Authority and respect can be developed with a few techniques.

First people attribute their knowledge to a mysterious source. When they share the conclusion of this mysterious process, it makes people feel they now know something they aren’t supposed to know. Second they make people believe they are pattern finders. Pattern finders find order in chaos. Third they are label makers, also known as branders. If you can name or label an experience, you can effect how people see it. Fourth they make others feel powerful. They give other people the sense of control and free will in their decision making. Fifth they are scarce. This means they aren’t always around for a chat.

Contextual Message Design (CMD) is also discussed in this section. Its purpose is to help you organize your persuasion into an effective format. First he says to be clear about the problem you are trying to solve. How does your product fix a fundamental desire? Second he says to figure out how you will measure success. How can you break it down into achievable pieces? Breaking it down into smaller things you can accomplish will allow you to build momentum. Third is to think about context. Think about what they are doing and what they want to hear when you approach them. What do they expect and not expect? How can you get their attention? Fourth is to figure out what the major elements of your pitch are. Figure out the smaller steps and beliefs that people must have to make that decision. What ideas do you need to undermine so they will agree? Fifth is to figure out how to convey what you need to say. How can you show and not tell?

Questions And Answers

This section is a series of questions he has had people ask about his approach. These questions are answered above but this section reinforces his prior work.

Where Can You Buy This Book?

This book is available on his site.

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