A young Giraffe was startled to meet a Leopard at her favorite watering-hole. She was about to run for cover when the Leopard called out to her in a soft, sweet voice: “Don’t you recognize me?”

Startled and confused, the Giraffe paused. “Do I know you?” she asked.

“I’m your father’s cousin,” the Leopard said reproachfully. “Can’t you see that you and I have similar coats? We are both tawny yellow, with brown spots.”

“Well, yes, but that hardly means –”

“Don’t interrupt, youngster. Your father and I were dear friends, long before you were born, but I had to leave the Veldt. Now I have returned in my old age, and I am overjoyed to see how you have grown into such a fine young giraffe.”

The Giraffe, a little mollified, said: “Well, then, if there is anything you ever need, you just let me know.”

The Leopard laughed and answered: “I am an old Leopard, and proud of my self-reliance. I have given up hunting, and spend my days in prayer and contemplation. I hope to see you more often here, and you can tell me all about your family – consider me part of your family, in fact: come give me a hug!”

The Giraffe thought to herself: “This is a pious Leopard, indeed! Surely I have nothing to fear from him.” And she gladly bent down her long neck for the Leopard, who struck her down with a single blow.

Although we can easily see how foolish the Giraffe was to offer her neck to the Leopard in this old Hindu fable, the love-bombing, claims of piety and protestations of familiarity that predators use to lure us in aren’t so transparent in the real world. Too often, we think: “These people can’t be in a cult – they’re so nice!”, forgetting that, in fact, the real tragedy of destructive groups is that “nice” people can and do become entrapped, ending up recruiting for the very organization that keeps them imprisoned.

But even those who are not so nice – fraudsters, groomers, and all sorts of predators – will confuse us with their charm, and disarm us by telling us how very much like us they are, using a combination of the Unity and Liking principles of persuasion outlined by Robert Cialdini.

From a politician dressing in workers’ coveralls to seduce votes at a factory, to the long lost “schoolmate” reaching out to us on Facebook, it is always a good idea to use healthy skepticism, and make sure that your new “best friend” really is a friend, and, if a strange Leopard offers you a hug, to simply say, “no thanks!” and save your neck.

Editor's Note: While we at OMF value all free expression of opinion, the views expressed by our contributing authors are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of OMF, its board members, or trustees.

What do you think about this article? Do you agree? Have you read Spike’s dystopian novel? Do you have a story about love-bombing that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you!