Elicitation is a tradecraft method of extracting key information from an unsuspecting person through “normal” conversation – aka covert interrogation.


Elicitation is an advanced communication tactic used by law enforcement and intelligence operatives as a straightforward yet clandestine approach to intel.

Interrogating without it seeming like it’s an interrogation is the meaning of elicitation.

Its main purpose is getting necessary details from targets that would otherwise be uncooperative through standard questioning and interrogation. It’s also to get talkative yet deceptive / smart / evasive subjects to inadvertently reveal intel.

Its alternate purpose is engaging in reverse interrogation. This is where the target being interrogated instead extracts intel from the interrogator through strategic elicitation.

          The Elicitation Meaning

Elicitation is the process by which an individual can acquire sensitive or confidential information (things the subject wants to intentionally keep secret) through a variety of dialogue techniques.

Since obtaining information from a target that they specifically don’t want to reveal is a resistant task, trying to get that information without arousing suspicion can be effective and sometimes the only way. That is the purpose of elicitation, to use casual conversation or other indirect means, rather than through direct questioning or interrogation.

This type of tradecraft communication can take many forms, including friendly conversation, flattery, or the use of elaborate pretexts or false identities.

The person conducting the elicitation may use subtle psychological or interpersonal techniques; charm, seduction, or deception, to gain the trust of the target and gather the information they are seeking.

          The Elicitation Technique

Elicitation tactics are enacted to obtain information that would otherwise be difficult or even impossible to obtain through traditional means of communication.

When used right, it’s an effective strategy for understanding people’s thoughts, opinions and feelings due to the fact that it guides conversations without leading them in predetermined directions.

As elicitation is primarily used in situations where direct questioning or interrogation may be inappropriate or ineffective because of the target or venue – using situationally strategic styles of questioning can give you greater access to the valuable knowledge you’re looking for.

This makes elicitation an invaluable practice for anyone seeking deeper insight into any given subject.

Although this is mainly used on targets who are reluctant to reveal their information, it can also be used to gather information from individuals who are not aware that they possess valuable information.

          Advantages of Elicitation

The benefits of elicitation are numerous, on and off the intelligence field, at work or in your personal life.

It allows operatives to obtain valuable information seamlessly and frictionlessly without having to resort to more confrontational methods such as coercion, threats, physical force and torture.

By employing subtle psychological tactics rather than outright interrogation techniques, operatives can get their targets talking freely and naturally about topics they might otherwise remain silent on if they felt threatened or coerced in any way.

It also reduces the risk of exposing an operative’s true identity or intentions; since no direct identity confirming signs are there during the “talk.

          How to Use Elicitation

This is a process of obtaining valuable information from another person without them ever knowing that they are actually being interrogated or interviewed.

So the foundation of using elicitation is that it’s never perceived as an interrogation, the 4 methods are:





When using these tactics in an elicitation process, it’s vital to keep the conversation as seemingly “normal” / “friendly” and casual as possible. Without this critical element, the entire process falls apart.

          Elicitation Use Case Examples

In intelligence, gathering intel from assets / sources / allies through normal conversation that may be reluctant to provide it voluntarily.

In law enforcement elicitation is used in interrogation, in order to obtain information from suspects or witnesses.

In a relationship, figuring out why your partner is mad or what is worrying them without asking them directly.

In sales, it’s strategically used in order to gather information about a potential customer’s needs and wants.

In psychology, elicitation is sometimes used in therapy in order to help patients explore their thoughts and feelings.

In education, it’s a method of alternate teaching, in order to help students learn new material or concepts.

In deception tactics, it provides you more optimal ways to deceive your target using their own information against them.

In street smarts, elicitation can be used to build rapport with a stranger in order to gain their trust.

In social matters, it’s an effective tool simply for the purpose of conversation, for small talk or to make friends.

In romance tactics, elicitation can be a part of a powerful strategy to gain an edge in the art of seduction.


Given its ability to provide valuable insight into an individual’s thought processes and motivations, elicitation can be a powerful tool for covert operatives or law enforcement professionals who need access information from noncompliant individuals.

With proper training and practice, the elicitation meaning can become second nature as a part of your standard conversational directive, enhancing communication for work and everyday life.