My church has a code or set of values that we seek to understand and apply in our lives. The eighth value is “We eat the fish and leave the bones.” I found myself applying this principal as I read this book. Just because someone has published books, has done a lot of research, has an extensive amount of knowledge, and has delivered content which is true, does not mean that I need to apply everything they teach. This was the case as I read this book by Robert Greene The 48 Laws of Power. Although I thought all of the history and stories he provides in the book are very interesting, I cannot apply all of the laws to my own life because some of them go against the values that I hold as most important.
In the preface of the book Greene makes a very good point as to why it would be worthwhile for anyone to read this book. “Power is a social game. To learn and master it, you must develop the ability to study and understand people… An understanding of people’s hidden motives is the single greatest piece of knowledge you can have in acquiring power.” Although I may not be willing to make use of all of these laws personally, I can definitely use them to understand what may be driving those around me. I can use these laws to recognize deception and manipulation in those I encounter, even if I am unwilling to practice those same laws. I can use and apply what I find to be helpful and leave the rest.
Law number nine I found to be especially helpful. I may write another blog post about some of the other laws but for now wanted to focus on law nine. Law nine is “Win through your actions, never through argument.” Here are some of the main points from this law:
- “It is much more powerful to get others to agree with you through your actions, without saying a word. Demonstrate, do not explicate.”
- Everyone believes that they are right and arguments rarely change another person’s mind. Arguments only make others feel insecure and inferior in what they believe. “Learn to demonstrate the correctness of your ideas indirectly.”
- When you win through your actions you display power because you can prove your point without offending others.
- In an argument you may communicate something completely unintended. People will interpret what you say based on their own feelings and insecurities.
- “When aiming for power, or trying to conserve it, always look for the indirect route. And also choose your battles carefully. If it does not matter in the long run whether the other person agrees with you – or if time and their own experience will make them understand what you mean – then it is best not even to bother with a demonstration. Save you energy and walk away.”
This law also agrees with an idea from one of my favorite books How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie. I recommend this book all the time and actually have the audiobook on my phone so that I can listen to it whenever I want. In the section called How to win people to your way of thinking, Carnegie makes similar points to those made by Greene. For Carnegie the way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it completely. One of the quotes from Carnegie’s book which I particularly appreciate is “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.” The problem with an argument is that if I hurt someone’s feelings or pride it is very difficult to maintain their goodwill. Since leadership and success have a lot to do with influence, keeping a person’s goodwill toward you is very important. I will not have much influence over someone who harbors negative feelings because of how I have made them feel in the past. Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Another realization I have had about arguments has to do with how they make me feel. I often get into arguments at work where I feel that my position is very logical and makes sense. However, when the other person criticizes my position and does not see my logic, I can easily get frustrated. This frustration often contributes to me letting my emotions get the best of me. It can take me lots of time after an argument to “cool down.” This time is wasted. I am not able to be efficient and productive as I stew over the point that I was trying to make. How can someone hold an opposing view? Don’t they see the logic of my perspective? How can they ignore my justification? Continuing to think about an argument and these questions does not really help me progress. In fact, if anything, this habit holds me back.
As I have learned about how arguments make people feel, it has helped me work on changing myself. I want to learn to avoid arguments more often, to let things go, and perhaps most importantly not be so defensive and sensitive. As Greene’s law points out, it is always better to show others the truth of your perspective rather than argue with them. Although I have a long way to go in regards to this law, I am very happy to be moving in the right direction.