Sat. Mar 28th, 2020

Law 31: Control The Options: Get Others To Play With The Cards You Deal

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 favour 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 whenever they turn.

Keys To Power

  • When examined closely, the choices we have, in the marketplace, elections, jobs, tend to have noticeable limitations: they are often a matter of a choice simply between A and B, with the rest of the alphabets out of the picture.
  • Yet as long as the faintest mirage of choice flickers on, we rarely focus on the missing options. We “choose” to believe that the game is fair and that we have our freedom.
  • This unwillingness to probe the smallness of our choices stems from the fact that too much freedom creates a kind of anxiety. Unlimited options would paralyze us and cloud our ability to choose.
  • Therefore, setting up a narrow range of choices should always be part of your deceptions.

Forms of “Controlling the Options”

  1. Colour the Choices

Propose 3–4 choices of action for each situation, and present them in a way that the one you prefer always seemed the best solution compared to the others.

2. Force the Resister

Push people to “choose” what you want them to do by appearing to advocate the opposite.

3. Alter the Playing Field

The 1860s, John D. Rockefeller set out to create an oil monopoly. Instead of buying the smaller oil companies (who would fight back), he bought the railway companies that transported the oil. When he attempted to take over the company and was met with resistance, he would remind them of their dependence on the rails.

4. The Shrinking Options

E.g you can raise the price every time a buyer hesitates and another day goes by.

5. Weak Man on the Precipice

This is used for the weak. Work on their emotions, use fear and terror to propel people into action. If you use reason, they will procrastinate.

6. Brothers in Crime

It is often wise to implicate in your deceptions the very person who can do you the most harm if you fail.

7. Horns of a Dilemma

Strike quickly and deny the victim the time to think of an escape. They will be stuck and hurt themselves.


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

The above article is a summary from the book 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene. The article is only for educational and informative purposes to explain and understand formal logic and logical fallacies. It is a great book, definitely worth a read!

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