Law 31: Control The Options: Get Other’s To Play With The Cards You Deal

The 48 Laws Of Power Summary Series


“The best deceptions are the ones that seem to give the other person a choice: Your victims feel they are in control, but are actually your puppets. Give people options that come out in your favor whichever one they choose. Force them to make choices between the lesser of two evils, both of which serve your purpose. Put them on the horns of a dilemma: They are gored wherever they turn.”

Superficially this law seem’s quite manipulative to the average person. Don’t forget, that doesn’t mean other’s won’t try and play this law on you. There is value in this law. For lack of better phrasing, “controlling the options” means being tactful with the manner you communicate when trying to attain the most advantageous situation.

Keys To Power

Consider how the wide variety of products or services you’re attempting to offer you’re customer may confuse them and stray them further from making a decision. Consider how a visual merchandiser has set up a space a retail store to optimize you’re experience as a customer in order to be comfortable and purchase something.

Limiting the options can often be more effective to drive someone to a certain behaviour than having a maximalist approach.

The following are among the most common forms of “controlling the options”

Controlling The Options: Color The Choices

Henry Kissinger, President Richard Nixon’s secretary used this to his advantage. “Kissinger considered himself better informed than his boss, and believed that in most situations he could make the best decisions on his own. Instead of offending or enraging the a notoriously insecure man Kissinger would propose three or four choices of action for each situation, and would present them in such a way that the one he preferred always seemed the best solution. Time after time Nixon feel fro the bat, never suspecting that he was moving where Kissinger pushed him. This is an excellent device to use on the insecure master.”

Henry Alfred Kissinger is an American diplomat and political scientist who served as the United States Secretary of State and National Security Advisor under the presidential administrations of Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.

Controlling The Options: Force The Resister

“One of the main problems Dr. Milton H. Erickson, a pioneer of hypnosis therapy in the 1950s, was their relapse into old habits. They would blame the doctor, and stop coming to see him. To avoid this, Erickson began ordering some patients to have a relapse, to make themselves feel as bad as when they first came in — to go back to square one. Faced with this option, the patients would usually “choose” to avoid the relapse — which, of course was what Erickson really wanted. This is a good technique to use on children and other willful people who enjoy doing the opposite of what you ask them to: Push them to “choose” what you want them to do by appearing to advocate the opposite.”

Milton Hyland Erickson was an American psychiatrist and psychologist specializing in medical hypnosis and family therapy.

Controlling The Options: Alter The Playing Field

“In the 1860s, John. D Rockefeller set out to create an oil monopoly. If he tried to buy up smaller oil companies they would figure out what he was doing and fight back. Instead, he began secretly buying up the railway companies that transported the oil. When he attempted to take over a particular company, and met with with resistance, he reminded them of their dependence on the rails. Rockefeller altered the playing field so that the only options the small oil producers had were the one’s he gave them. In this tactic your opponents know their hand is being forced, but it doesn’t matter. The technique is effective against those who resist at all costs.”

John Davison Rockefeller Sr. was an American oil industry business magnate and philanthropist. Widely considered the wealthiest American of all time and the richest person in modern history.

Controlling The Options: The Weak Man on the Precipice

“Cardinal de Retz, served as an unofficial assistant to the Duke of Orleans, who was notoriously indecisive. It was a constant struggle to convince the duke tot ake action — he would weight the options, and wait til the last moment. But Retz discovered a way to handle him: He would describe all sorts of dangers, exaggerating them as much as possible, until the duke saw a yawning abyss in every direction except one: the one Retz was pushing him to take. This tactic is similar to “Color the Choices”, but with the weak you have to be more aggressive. Work on their emotions — use fear and terror to propel them into action. Try reason and they will always find a way to procrastinate.”

Jean François Paul de Gondi, cardinal de Retz was a French churchman, writer of memoirs, and agitator in the Fronde.

Controlling The Options: Brothers In Crime


“Controlling the options has one main purpose: to disguise yourself as the agent of power and punishment. The tactic works best, then, for those whose power is fragile, and who cannot operate too openly without incurring suspicion, resentment and anger. Even as a general rule, however, it is rarely wise to be seen as exerting power directly and forcefully, no matter how secure or strong you are. It is usually more elegant and more effective to give people the illusion of choice.

On the other hand, by limiting other people’s options you sometimes limit your own. There are situations in which it is your advantage to allow your rivals a large degree of freedom.”

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Self reflective writings & book summaries on philosophy, psychology and human behaviour.

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