The Charm Offensive in Diplomacy

Diplomacy is so much more than simply ordering F Lon – Nth.

You have to interact with players, build trust and at times, charm and beguile.

This article was first published in Diplomacy Briefing (15th July) as part of a series on “The Charm Offensive” in Diplomacy.

Original Article:



“Hey Pootle, would you be interested in writing a series of articles on the use of charm in diplomacy?”

*Raises eyebrows, smiles into my piece of cake*


“Of course,” I mumble cakily, through the mouthful. “Wotcha looking for Umble?”

“Well……. nothing flirtatious or… errr… too controversial?”

I stifle a laugh and look innocent.



So here is Pootle’s take on Diplomacy and The Charm Offensive

Episode One: The Sullivan Model

“It’s not lying if I believed it when I said it”

What is Charm?

Aristotle defined persuasive communication as comprising three components: ethos (the trustworthiness of the speaker); pathos (the emotion aroused in the recipient); and logos (the content and logic of the argument).

There are many examples of it. The politician who draws followers that act like they’re under a spell. A speaker who holds the entire room enthralled. The diplomacy player who charms everyone into making sub-optimal or suicidal moves.

Basically, there are three means of communicating in order to influence your opponents:

Persuasion: Uses logical argument. The recipient is aware of the intent. No one is hiding anything and the facts are known to both sides. If the argument holds, your opponent may accept the case and move as you want them to.

Manipulation: Where facts or knowledge are hidden in order to bring about the result you want. Reciprocity can fall into this category. Giving your opponent something often makes them feel obligated to return the favour.

Seduction: The term seduction derives from the latin sēdūcō which literally means‘to lead astray’.

It first appears in English around 1520’s in the sense: ‘to persuade a vassal etc to desert his allegiance or service.’

If you get it right, this is the most powerful of the influencers.

It’s personal and plays to an opponent’s wants, desires and emotions. Whether that’s to feel secure; liked; the best; to move up-tempo; to feel smart; to get the better of A or B; to not repeat the mistakes of X and Y games. A lifetime of diplomacy and personal baggage.

To seduce well, you need to create the conditions. If you want to be your opponent’s saviour, you need to create the thirst as well as supply the drink. The deceit is subtle. Seduction works on happiness and promises.

Good players will duck and dive in and out of all three methods and you’ll never know quite which angle is being worked.

The Sullivan Model (aka How to Win Nexus Season 7)

If you haven’t watched the Diplomats series of interviews with the seven Nexus Finalists, then GOOD GRIEF! WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN DOING?

Pour a Laphroaig. Butter a pancake. Make yourself comfy.

This article is based on Part 1 of the Interview with fabulous Nexus Season 7 winner, Ed ‘GoHornsGo’ Sullivan.



Be the person everyone turns to look at when they walk into the room. Charming, visible, funny, engaging. Someone you want to spend your time and your game with.

So we have the “Let Ed Win Decisively – The LEWD Plan.” Before the game starts, Ed sends a well-crafted, humorous mandate to all the players to quite literally put him on the map (and in everyone’s consciousness).

He’s walked into the room, ladies and gentlemen.


The most important factor in diplomacy is identifying, driving and staging the specific want that your presence will satisfy.

In his video interview, Ed talks a lot about creating the conditions for influencing the board. Hundreds of messages were sent each phase. As he notes: “I am not as adept tactically, but I am more adept diplomatically.”

“Diplomacy is a game of relationships and if someone can laugh at you there’s nothing better.”

Ed’s pre-game power selection was made knowing his neighbours were likely to find it impossible to work together. “Their philosophies are incompatible with the core human beings they are.”

Greg is a cautious, methodical ‘creeper’ who knows exactly where he’s going and what he needs to do to get there. He communicates largely using logical argument and upfront intent. Jordan on the other hand, is a tempo player, happiest submerged intellectually in layers of subterfuge.

Both incredible players.

But being next to each other puts both in an uncomfortable state of hypervigilance. Ripe for Ed’s cups of tea, soothing arms and mastermind brain.

Greg describes Ed as ‘the Belle of the Ball’.

Less Belle, but if Lady Macbeth had been a lawyer from Texas….

The scene is set.

Perfect primary ingredients to sprinkle with added angst and an extended stage of complex characters as the Shakespearean drama unfolds.


I’ve written before about the neuroscience of diplomacy and the important of Ghandi or mirror neurons.

Human beings are hard wired for empathy and connection.

Our brains have evolved the ability to know what it feels like to be someone else, and to be able to analyse and interpret things as though you were the other person.

Diplomacy is intense, high-stakes, complex.

Persuasive communication activates the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (the vMPFC), the part of the brain involved when people are thinking about themselves and evaluating the world around them.

You want your Ghandi moments being about quenching everyone’s angst, steering those mirror neurons towards the dagger for someone else’s back.


“For who so firm that cannot be seduced?” (Julius Caesar, Act 1, Scene 2)

Which pretty much means you shouldn’t hang around with bad boys, because they’ll eventually seduce you into doing bad things.

Julius Caesar?

It’s very, very slashy. A mostly male cast who are fond of professing their love of each other, whilst impaling one other on ready-to-hand daggers.

It just felt right.


Throwing things up in the air re-sets the board. It’s what makes Sullivan’s model a dynamic and self-sustaining process that activates time after time. It keeps the board in a state of flux and opportunity.

Gosh, which surprise? There were many!

Germany’s surprise take of Nth in 02? Germany’s take of Rum? (Germany in Rum!!). The big move against Russia? The final move on Italy? Budapest?


I came here to talk about charm, but the rest of it is pretty awesome too.

Congratulations to Ed Sullivan.

It was great to watch from the side-lines, but do hurry up and make Part 2 of the Diplomats Interview.

All the finalists played a blinder.

I have booked my front row seat for the Charm of Nexus Season 8.

Maybe I’ll get to formulate a new model.

“Cowards die many times before their deaths, The valiant never taste of death but once. Et tu, Brute?”

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