Article PDF: 2.3.6 Promises and Threats

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Six rules describing the use of promises and threats as strategic moves.

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This article describes how, in The Art of War, Sun Tzu constantly warns that we must judge people's intentions by their actions, especially when people communicate their commitment to future actions. We all communicate commitments in order to encourage people to act in a way that we desire today in order to get a reward or avoid a punishment tomorrow. The problem at the heart of any commitment is our believability. Making a threat or promise is easy, executing either commitment is costly. Making good on a threat requires punishing someone. Making good on a promise rewards someone. Both are costly to us.