Notes Psychology

Law 31: Control the Options: Get Others to Play with the Cards you Deal (The 48 Laws of Power)

Law 31: Control the options: get others to play with the cards you deal

Ivan the Terrible
Ivan the Terrible

For the wounds and every other evil that men inflict upon themselves spontaneously, and of their own choice, are in the long run less painful than those inflicted by others.

-Niccolò Machiavelli

It is wiser to avoid exerting strength if you don’t have to. Forcing your will on others will lead to resentment and enmity. Ivan the Terrible wanted absolute power of Russia, his strategy was simple. He gave them two options: The first was that of absolute anarchy and the second was an absolute dictatorship. He first withdrew and allowed the public to make their choice. After seeing the catastrophic results of his absence, the people didn’t call his bluff. There was chaos and disorder in the streets, and even a tyrannical was preferable to the current condition if he could restore peace.

Ivan didn’t force his people to accept him, he gave them two options, and coerced them into going for the lesser evil. People don’t like unlimited options. The idea of infinite freedom is more terrifying than it is liberating. To get what you want, offer people constrained options, they will be comforted by it. You are simplifying their reality for them, while giving them the illusion of making the choice completely on their own.

Force the Resister.

Dr. Milton H. Erickson, a pioneer in hypnosis century in the 1950s figured out how to cure the relapse that was experienced by his patients. Erickson’s patients would first exhibit signs of recovery but then would relapse into old habits and they blamed their doctor when they did. Erickson figured out a solution. He ordered his patients to have a relapse – to feel as bad as they did before they started therapy. But when faced with this choice, his patients opted to avoid the relapse. This was what Erickson intended. By appearing to advocate the opposite, you can often get others to “choose” what you want them to.

The Liar

Once upon a time there was a king of Armenia, who, being of a curious turn of mind and in need of some new diversion, sent his heralds throughout the land to make the following proclamation: “Hear this! Whatever man among you can prove himself the most outrageous liar in Armenia shall receive an apple made of pure gold from the hands of His Majesty the King!” People began to swarm to the palace from every town and hamlet in the country, people of all ranks and conditions, princes, merchants, farmers, priests, rich and poor, tall and short, fat and thin. There was no lack of liars in the land, and each one told his tale to the king. A ruler, however, has heard practically every sort of lie, and none of those now told him convinced the king that he had listened to the best of them. The king was beginning to grow tired of his new sport and was thinking of calling the whole contest off without declaring a winner, when there appeared before him a poor, ragged man, carrying a large earthenware pitcher under his arm. “What can I do for you?” asked His Majesty. “Sire!” said the poor man, slightly bewildered

“Surely you remember? You owe me a pot of gold, and I have come to collect it.” “You are a pet feet liar, sir!’ exclaimed the king ”I owe you no money’” ”A perfect liar, am I?” said the poor man. ”Then give me the golden apple!” The king, realizing that the man was Irving to trick him. started to hedge. ”No. no! You are not a liar!” ”Then give me the pot of gold you owe me. sire.” said the man. The king saw the dilemma, He handed over the golden apple.

Armenian Fold Tales and Fables, Retold by Charles Downing, 1993

Read The 48 Laws of Power

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

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