Effective intelligence gathering

子禽問於子貢曰:「夫子至於是邦也,必聞其政,求之與?抑與之與?子貢曰:「夫子溫良恭儉讓以得之,夫子之求之也,其諸異乎人之求之與?」
Ziqin asked Zigong: “When the Master arrives in another state, he always manages to find out about how it is governed. Does he have to ask for this information or do people give him it of their own accord?” Zigong replied: “The Master obtains it by being warm, kind, courteous, unassuming, and deferential. He has a quite a unique way of seeking out information, hasn’t he?”

Treating people respectfully is a much more effective way of finding out what is happening than questioning them aggressively. The more interest you show in listening to what they have to say, the more likely they are to reveal what is really going on.

Confucius spent fourteen years trekking from state to state after leaving his home state of Lu in 497 BC in search of a senior government position. However, despite his excellent intelligence gathering skills, he was never able to secure one – probably because he was far too outspoken and refused to tell his prospective employers what they wanted to hear.

Zigong was one of the most faithful disciples of Confucius, and makes frequent appearances in the Analects. Ziqin is only rarely mentioned, and it is unclear whether he was an actual disciple of the sage.

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