Law 3: Conceal Your Intentions:

The 48 Laws Of Power Summary Series

Alexander Emmanual Sandalis
13 min readJul 17, 2016


“Keep people off-balance and in the dark by never revealing the purpose behind your actions. If they have no clue what you are up to, they cannot prepare a defense. Guide them far enough down the wrong path, envelop them in enough smoke, and by the time they realize your intentions, it will be too late.”

Part 1: Use Decoyed Objects Of Desire And Red Herrings To Throw People Off The Scent

“If at any point in the deception you practice people have the slightest suspicion as to your intentions, all is lost. Do not give them the chance to sense what you are up to: Throw them off the scent by dragging red herrings across the path. Use false sincerity, send ambiguous signals, set up misleading objects of desire. Unable to distinguish the genuine from the false, they cannot pick out your real goal.”

Transgression Of The Law

This story centers around Ninon de Lenclos and Marquis de Sevigne. Ninon, at the time 60 years of age, was the most infamous French courtesan of the 17th century. She was an expert in love and relationships. Ninon was instructing Marquis, a young man having troubles seducing a countess. Marquis was handsome and young, but hopeless in the art romance and seduction. Not unlike many of today’s young men.

The first instruction Ninon commanded of him was to approach the countess with some distance — an air of nonchalance so the next time they were together he would only come off as a friend instead of a potential lover. This was done to ‘throw off her scent’ and cause her to question ‘oh, maybe he’s only interested a friendship’. The next step for Ninon was to instill jealousy in the young countess. At major events Marquis would show up with a group of beautiful women by his side to capture the countess’ attention. Not only would this instill jealousy, but he would come across as someone who was desired by others.

It’s such an amazing story because this transgression echoes throughout the entire history of man and woman. It still applies to this day.

Ninan remarked,

“A woman who is interested in a man wants to see that other women are interested in him to.”

Not only does this give a person more value it makes it all the more satisfying to snatch him up from their clutches. It’s a natural instinct for people to want things that they can’t have. This was part of Ninon’s plan to instill jealousy.

The next step for Ninon was to instruct Marquis to fail to show up at events where the countess expected to see him. Furthermore, he would appear at places she did not expect to see him. By visiting places he had never frequented that he knew the countess was attending created an air of mystery. She was unable to predict his next move. This would push her into a state of emotional confusion that is a “prerequisite for successful seduction.”

Through Nina’s spies she heard the countess had been responding more formidably to Marquis’s quips. She would laugh a little harder, listen more closely to his stories and she was asking more questions about him. She had become intrigued and curious. It was only a matter of time now before she would fall under his spell. A few days later Marquis and the countess were at home by themselves. However this time Marquis decided to act on impulse instead of listening to Ninon’s previous instructions. He took the countess’ hand and told her he was in love with her. The countess was confused, which was a reaction he didn’t expect. She politely excused herself from the room and for the rest of the evening she avoided any contact with him.

The next few times he visited her, he was told she was not home. When they finally saw each other again the two felt too awkward and uncomfortable and the spell was broken. There has to be hundreds and thousands of stories of men and women with very similar failed tale’s of seduction.


“Ninon knew that men and women are very different but when it comes to seduction they feel the same: Deep down inside they often sense when they are being seduced but they give in because they enjoy the feeling of being led along. It is a pleasure to let go and to allow the other person to detour you into a strange country. Everything in seduction however depends on suggestion. You cannot announce your intentions or reveal them directly in words. Instead you must throw your targets off the scent, you have to scramble your signals — appear interested in another man or women (the decoy) then hint at being interested in the target, then feign indifference on and on. Such patterns not only confuse, they excite.”

Within today’s reality people usually call this simply ‘playing games’. But done right, it can instill great seduction and can assist in courting a man or a woman. The essence of this law is about exciting emotions and not knowing what’s going to come next. Imagine this from the her perspective; after a few of Marquis’ moves the countess would’ve sensed that he was playing some type of ‘game’. But this made her curious and excited. She didn’t know where she was going, but she was to intrigued to keep going along.

The emotions of jealousy and confusion can often be much better than boredom and insecurity in any relationship. “Better” in the way it is more exciting. But the moment Marquis uttered the word love, it changed everything. It was no longer game with moves of seduction, it had become a artless show of passion. And his intention was revealed which put everything he was doing in a new light. Suddenly a once charming and handsome man seemed ugly and conniving. Naturally, the countess felt embarrassed and used, and a door closed and a bridge burned that would never be rebuilt again.

Observance Of The Law

In 1850 there was a young deputy in the Prussian Parliament by the name of Otto von Bismarck. At this time in history Germany was divided in a war with Austria. Bismarck’s true intentions was that he was loyal and passionate supporter of Prussia’s power and might. He dreamed of German unification by going to war against Austria.

However when Bismark gave his speech to parliament he instead went to talk about the madness of War; condemning it, going against everything he supposedly stood for. Bismark was well known as an advocate for war, so this confused everybody. His new feelings subsequently had an effect on the voting within Parliament, largely as a result, the war was averted. The king who was an advocate for peace was grateful for this. Consequently he gave Bismark a promotion making him Cabinet Minister. A few later years he had become the Prussian Premier. Once Bismark had this power he used it to destroy Austria, creating the German state with Prussia at it’s head.

Bismark knew that the king and his conservative ministers wanted piece, but Bismark wanted power and he wanted war. Though to gain this he needed to bide his time and throw people off the scent through supporting a cause he deeply detested. Bismark has been cited through history as a master strategist and one of the cleverest statesmen who has ever lived. No one knew he’s real intentions. If Bismark had played this situation differently asking the king to be made minister in exchange for supporting peace, he would not have succeeded. The king would have distrusted his ambition, and doubted his sincerity seeing through his facade to get ahead. However by concealing his intention he attained the power that he desired. Such is the power of hiding your intentions.

Keys To Power

People love talking about themselves. It is easy and natural to always
want to talk about ones feelings for the future. It takes great effort to control your tongue and monitor what you reveal.

Many believe that by being honest and open you win people’s hearts and show your good nature. By being unabashedly open you make yourself so predictable and familiar that it is almost impossible to respect or fear you, and power will not accrue to a person who cannot inspire such emotions.

A human’s instinct is always to trust appearances, we can’t walk around doubting everything we see in reality. Greene notes…

“Simply dangle an object you seem to desire, a goal you seem to aim for in front of peoples eyes and they will take the appearance for reality. Once their eyes focus on the decoy they will fail to notice what you are really up to. In seduction, set up conflicting signals such as desire and indifference and not only will you throw them off the scent, you inflame their desire to possess you. A tactic that is often effective in setting up a red herring is to appear to support an idea or cause that is actually contrary to your own sentiments, as Bismark did.”

Robert notes that you do not have to hide your intentions by closing up (with the risk of appearing secretive and making people suspicious) but by talking endlessly about your desires and goals — just not your real ones. You appear friendly, open and trusting; you conceal your intentions; and you send your rivals on time consuming wild goose chases.

One thing Greene doesn’t touch on is how concealing your intentions makes your story and legacy all the more impressive. If people don’t expect what you’re going to do and you suddenly reveal your accomplishments it looks all the more astonishing to others. They weren’t expecting it and they were caught off guard by your greatness — you appear as if you didn’t even try.

Your reputation is all the more better because you become known as someone who is unpredictably successful. People don’t know what you’re going to do next and you can’t wait for whatever’s coming. It’s like an artist releasing a piece of music without any warning or promotion. They just drop it out of nowhere, they’ve concealed their intentions and they just let the world have their art without notice. Beyonce previously did this with her album titled ‘Beyonce’ and J Cole did it with ‘2014 Forest Hills Drive’ and both were a huge success.

Would you rather be a person who talks about accomplishing things, or a person who actually accomplishes things?

Get The 48 Laws Of Power here.

Part 2: Use Smoke Screens To Disguise Your Actions

Deception is always the best strategy, but the best deceptions require a screen of smoke to distract peoples attention from your real purpose. The bland exterior — like the unreadable poker face — is often the perfect smoke screen, hiding your intentions behind the comfortable and familiar. If you lead the sucker down a familiar path he won’t catch on when you lead him into a trap

Observance Of The Law II

In the mid 1920’s warlords ruled Ethiopia. There was a young man of nobility named Halile Selassie (alos known as Raf Tafari). Selassie was out competing all the other warlords and was close to proclaiming himself as their leader. He had begun summoning the warlords one at a time to come to Addis Ababa, declare their loyalty, and recognize him as their one true leader.

Halile Selassie: Emperor of Ethiopia from 1930 to 1974.

Some hurried, some hesitated, but only one named, Dejazmach Balcha of Sidamo dared defy Selassie. Balcha considered this new leader unworthy and weak. But Selassie, in his gentle but stern manner commanded Balcha to come. For protection, Balcha would take his 10,000 men with him, perhaps a civil war would break out.

Dejazmach Balcha Safo was an accomplished Ethiopian military commander who served in both the First and Second Italo-Ethiopian Wars.

He stationed his forces 3 miles from the capital and waited for the king. Balcha wanted Selassie to come to him. Selassie sent missionaries to ask Balcha to attend a banquet in his honor. But Balcha was no fool, he knew previous kings had used banquet’s as a trap. So he agreed on one condition, if he could bring his personal bodyguard — 600 of his best soldiers, all armed and ready to fight.

Selassie responded with politeness and respect, he honored the guest. There was a large banquet, they were singing his name and offering him the best drinks they had to offer. Selassie treated Balcha as if he needed his approval, as if he needed him. Balcha was a stubborn man though, he refused to be charmed. He didn’t drink and passed on the same message to all his guards. Balcha had told his army if they didn’t return by nightfall his army had order’s to attack the capital.

Selassie didn’t want war. So he acted as if he was intimidated by this great warrior. Acting as if he was trying to give power to Balcha. Later that night Balcha and his army all walked back to camp. They were celebrating, they thought they had the upper hand. However when Balcha arrived at his camp he noticed something terribly wrong. All of the thousands of tens were gone. Only smoke and doused fires remained.

A witness told Balcha during the banquet a large army commanded by Selassie had stolen up on Balcha’s encampment. The army hadn’t come to fight. They surrounded Balcha’s army and purchased every weapon from them. Within a few hours Balcha’ entire army had been disarmed and scattered in all directions. At this point Balcha didn’t have a lot of choice. If he marched south the same army that had disarmed his soldiers blocked his way. The other way out was to march on the capital, but Salassie had a much larger army defending it.

Salassie had predicted Balcha’s moves and checkmated him. For the first time in his life Balcha surrendered, repented for his sins, pleaded loyalty to the emperor and entered the monastery.


Selassie played on Balcha’s wariness, his suspicion that the banquet was a trap — which in fact it was. Selassie’s actions made Balcha feel like he was in control — it created a thick smoke screen concealing the real action three miles away.

Remember: The paranoid and wary are often the easiest to deceive. Win their trust in one area and you have a smoke screen that blinds their view in another, letting you creep up and level them with a devastating blow. A helpful or apparently honest gesture, or one that implies the other person’s superiority — these are the perfect diversionary devices.

Keys To Power

If you believe that deceivers are colorful folk who mislead with elaborate lies and tall tales, you are greatly mistaken. The best deceivers utilize a bland and inconspicuous front that calls no attention to themselves. They know that extravagant words and gestures immediately raise suspicion.

The simplest form of a smoke screen is a facial expression, a smile, a frown or a stoic blank expression. Behind a bland unreadable exterior no one knows what you’re planning.

It was said that no one could read Franklin D Roosevelt’s face.

Franklin D Roosevelt: President of the United States from 1933 to 1945.

Henry Kissinger would bore his opponents around the negotiating table to tears with his monotonous voice, blank look and endless recitation of details. But as their eyes glazed over, he would suddenly hit them with a list of bold terms. Caught off guard they would he would regain their attention and instill intimidation.

Henry Kissinger: American diplomat and political scientist. He served as National Security Advisor and as United States Secretary of State in the administrations of presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.

One of the most effective smoke screen’s is the noble gesture. People want to believe, and usually do, that noble gesture’s are genuine. For the belief is pleasant. They rarely noticed how deceptive these gestures can be.



Have you ever heard of a skillful general who intends to surprise a fortress by announcing his plan to his enemy? Conceal your purpose and hide your progress. Do not disclose the extent of your designs until they cannot be opposed, until the combat so is over. Win the victory before you declare the war. In a word, imitate those war-like people whose designs are not known except by the ravaged country through which they have passed. (Ninon de Lenclos, 1623 — 1706)


No smoke screen, red herring, false sincerity, or any other diversionary
device will succeed in concealing your intentions if you already have an established reputation for deception. And as you get older and achieve success, it often becomes increasingly difficult to disguise your cunning. Everyone knows you practice deception; persist in playing naive and you run the risk of seeming the rankest hypocrite, which will severely limit your room to maneuver. In such cases it is better to own up to appear the honest rogue, or better the repentant rogue.

A colorful smoke screen should be used cautiously, then, and only when the occasion is right.

Get The 48 Laws Of Power here.

Originally Posted



Alexander Emmanual Sandalis

Self-reflective writings & book summaries on philosophy, psychology and human behaviour. Video’s + podcast →