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Law 12: Use Selective Honesty and Generosity to Disarm your Victim (The 48 Laws of Power)

Law 12: Use Selective Honesty and Generosity to Disarm your Victim

Honesty can be used as a weapon in the realm of deception. This will especially work against the most suspicious people, for they will never see honesty coming.

In 1926, Count Victor Lustig paid a visit to the most feared gangster of his time, Al Capone.

Lustig tells Capone that he can double his money, $50,000, in a couple of months. Capone agrees, sensing there was something different about this man by the way he spoke and dressed – and he was curious to see where this was going. A couple of months later, Lustig appears before Capone with $50,000. Lustig did nothing in those two months. He returned the original sum to the gangster.

Capone expected to either double his money or get nothing at all – in the latter case, he was prepared to kill him. But he was shocked to see the tall man return his money to him and then turn around and leave. Capone stopped him, and paid him $5,000 out of mere charity, and out of confusion. Lustig used selective honesty to disarm Capone, who was surrounded by thieves and liars. Capone couldn’t believe that for once, someone didn’t try to scam him. Lustig was subsequently rewarded for his troubles of doing nothing.

Everything turns gray when I don’t have at least one mark on the horizon. Life then seems empty and depressing. I cannot understand honest men. They lead desperate lives, full of boredom. – Count Victor Lustig

Lustig’s act of selective honesty disarmed Capone because it was so unexpected. A con artist loves conflicting emotions like these, since the person caught up in them is so easily distracted and deceived. Do not shy away from practicing this law on the Capones of the world. With a well-timed gesture of honesty or generosity, you will have the most brutal and cynical beast in the kingdom eating out of your hand.

The Trojan Horse

Over three thousand years ago, the Greeks attacked Paris’s city, Troy, and to recapture Helen, who was said to be the most beautiful woman in the world, from Paris. This siege lasted a decade, culminating in many deaths, and yet neither side emerged victorious. The prophet Calches then told the Greeks that they should find another way. They would make no progress without some form of deception. Odysseus, the cunning Greek leader, suggested that the idea of building a giant wooden horse, disguising it as a gift, only to have soldiers hidden inside of it. Some thought the idea was unmanly. But given the choice between manliness and countless more deaths, or unmanliness and a swift victor, the Greeks chose the latter. The ruse worked, and in one move, the Greeks accomplished more than they did in 10 years.

Read The 48 Laws of Power

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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