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Law 4: Always Say Less Than Necessary

In the image: Xi Jinping is a Chinese politician who has served as General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party and Chairman of the Central Military Commission since 2012, and President of the People’s Republic of China since 2013.

When you are trying to impress people with words, the more you say, the more common you appear, and the less in control. Even if you are saying something banal, it will seem original if you make it vague, open-ended, and sphinxlike. Powerful people impress and intimidate by saying less. The more you say, the more likely you are to say something foolish.

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Keys To Power

  • Your silence will make other people uncomfortable. Humans are machines of interpretation and explanation; they have to know what you are thinking. When you carefully control what you reveal, they cannot pierce your intentions or meaning.
  • The less you say, the more profound and mysterious you appear.
  • Andy Warhol realised that it is impossible to get people to do what you wanted them to do by talking to them.
  • The less you say, the less risk you run of saying something foolish or dangerous.
  • When words are out, you cannot take them back. Keep them under control. Be careful with sarcasm: the momentary satisfaction you gain with your biting words will outweigh the price you pay.

Reversal

  • There are times when it is unwise to be silent. Silence can arouse suspicion and insecurity, especially in your superiors.
  • Words can sometimes act as a kind of smokescreen for your deception. By bending your listener’s ear with talk, you can distract and mesmerize them — the more you talk, the less suspicious they become of you.

Example

In the image: Louis XIV

Due to his unpredictability, Louis XIV would have his courtiers tremble in fear when delivering bad news. He would say “I shall see”, have them leave the room and either take action or decide to do nothing about the issue, but always with an intimidating silence. Only speak when you have something meaningful to say. Actions speak louder than words.

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.

Buy The 48 Laws of Power or Listen to it for FREE on Audible