Home » Law 3: Conceal Your Intentions

Law 3: Conceal Your Intentions

In the image: Warren Edward Buffett is an American investor, business tycoon, philanthropist, and the chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway. He is considered one of the most successful investors in the world and has a net worth of over US$85.6 billion as of December 2020, making him the world’s fourth-wealthiest person.

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, envelope them in enough smoke, and by the time they realize your intentions, it will be too late.

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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.

Keys To Power

  • Most people are open books. They say what they feel, blurt out their opinions at every opportunity and constantly reveal their plans and intentions.
  • It is easy and natural to always want to talk about one’s feelings and plans for the future, but it takes effort to control your tongue and monitor what you reveal.
  • Many believe that by being honest and open they are winning people’s hearts and showing their good nature. They are wrong. Honesty bloodies more than it cuts.
  • By making yourself so predictable and familiar, it becomes almost impossible to respect or fear you, and power will not accrue to a person who cannot inspire such emotions.
  • Lay honesty aside, and train yourself in the art of concealing your intentions.
  • Basic to an ability to conceal one’s intentions is a simple truth about human nature — our first instinct is to always trust appearances. We cannot go around doubting the reality of what we see and hear — constantly imagining that appearances concealed something else would exhaust and terrify us.
  • 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. Most people will believe you have experienced a change of heart since it is so unusual to play so lightly with something as emotional as one’s opinions and values.
  • Another powerful tool in throwing people off the scent is false sincerity. People easily mistake sincerity for honesty.
  • It is important to not go too far in this area. Appear overpassionate and you raise suspicions. Be measured and believable or your ruse will seem the put-on that it is.
  • To make your false sincerity believable, espouse a belief in honesty and forthrightness as important social values. Do this as publicly as possible. Emphasize your position on this subject by occasionally divulging some heartfelt thought — though only one that is meaningless or irrelevant.
Tom Hanks and Felicity Jones star in Inferno, a film based on the book by Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code.

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 people’s 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.

Keys To Power

  • The best deceivers use a bland and inconspicuous front that calls no attention to themselves. They know that extravagant words and gestures immediately raise suspicion.
  • People can only focus on one thing at a time. It is really too difficult for them to imagine that the bland and harmless person they are dealing with is simultaneously setting up something else.
  • The simplest form of smokescreen is facial expression.
  • One of the most effective smokescreens is a noble gesture. People want to believe noble gestures are genuine, for the belief is pleasant.
  • Another effective smokescreen is the pattern, the establishment of a series of actions that seduce the victim into believing you will continue in the same way.
  • Another psychological weakness to construct a smokescreen — if someone seems to belong to your group, their belonging must be real.


  • No smokescreen, red herring, etc. will succeed in concealing your intentions if you already have an established reputation for deception.
  • In such cases, it is better to own up, to appear the honest rogue, or the repentant rogue.
  • Although it is wiser to divert attention from your purposes by presenting a bland exterior, there are times when the colorful, conspicuous gesture is the right diversionary tactic.


The Marquis de Sevigne wanted to seduce a young countess. Instead of being indirect and subtle, he exposed his true feelings for her and she lost all interest as he blurted out that he loved her. Add a sense of inexplicable mystery to your character.

About The Book

The 48 Laws of Power (1998) is a non-fiction book by American author Robert Greene. The book is a bestseller, selling over 1.2 million copies in the United States.

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