"Get the Truth: Former CIA Officers Teach You How to Persuade Anyone to Tell All," by Philip Houston, Michael Floyd and Susan Carnicero (St. Martin's Press), $24.99, 288 pp.

Former CIA interrogator Philip Houston tells the story of a colleague who arrived at the airport for a much-needed vacation, only to discover that the clerk at check-in wanted paper tickets.

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The man turned to his wife, who had handled the flight arrangements: "Do you know anything about paper tickets?" "You know, I'm really not sure," she said.

Rather than challenging that statement directly, the man deployed several of Houston's favorite techniques for coaxing confessions out of spies and miscreants: rationalizing the suspect's actions, minimizing the consequences and deflecting blame: "This is my fault. I know I was rushing you -- and this whole week has been crazy," the man told his wife. "But if you think there might have been paper tickets, let me know that and we'll work it out." "I think I left them on the nightstand," his wife said.

Houston and his co-authors aren't suggesting that you treat your nearest and dearest like threats to national security. But he does say that a modified version of the approach he honed at the CIA can be highly effective.

"The delivery's got to be really, really toned down," says Houston. "It's almost like you're putting yourself in someone else's shoes."