If you come across someone using techniques from the 48 Laws Of Power, you might wonder how can you fight back? What counter moves can you utilize against those attacks?
We will cover a few ways to respond to the types of strategies described in the 48 Laws.
Accept This Or Fail
The first thing you must do when dealing with someone familiar with power strategies, is to clear up your vision. A clear understanding of the world, yourself, and the people in it will allow you to strategically respond in a way that is maximally effective. You can’t fight back if you live in ‘fantasy.’
First you must accept that our brains are biased and imperfect. This means we are emotionally and irrationally driven to certain conclusions. These false conclusions will make it more difficult to strategize effectively. Eliminate your emotion driven reasoning with one question. “What do I want to believe in this situation?” “What evidence do I have for and against that belief?”
We must be willing to accept realistic appraisals of ourselves and others, and what they want. A difficult truth for some, is that people exist in the world who are simply aggressive and controlling. Their negative behavior isn’t always driven by ‘insecurity,’ but instead by aggression. See this book on Narcissistic manipulation for more information. Those who employ the 48 Laws techniques often fall into this category. Once you accept this truth, you can fight back.
Here is another difficult realization. You yourself have probably used these techniques. For example, one of the most important techniques according to the author, is to avoid offending your superiors. If you’ve successfully climbed any corporate ladder, you’ve followed this rule, at least to some degree. Other techniques like conceal your intentions, recreate yourself, and plan all the way to the end, are commonly used by many types of people. Those techniques are simply called different things like ‘not running your mouth,’ ‘being adaptable,’ and ‘long term planning.’ Accepting that you’ve used some of the techniques described in this book will help you realize that strategic thinking isn’t always bad. This realization will help in the next set of steps.
The most basic defense against anyone who is toxic is to first ask yourself what you gain from interacting with them. Make sure your answer is specific. Do they make you feel confident? Are they entertaining? Are you simply too guilty, cowardly, or too obligated to walk away? Understanding this answer is necessary to the next step.
Next, balance the pros and cons of the relationship. Do you gain or lose more from interacting with this person? Do you have specific evidence that they have changed, or are they just saying they will change? If you lose more from interacting with them, why haven’t you stopped? If you don’t prioritize your best interests, who will?
Some people are just controlling, aggressive, and manipulative. Be humble and accept that there is nothing you can do to change them. The only move you can make is to respect yourself and distance yourself from them.
Occasionally you can’t separate yourself from this person. Maybe you are a parent who’s child is dating someone who is extremely disagreeable or disrespectful. In situations like this, you must take the next step to countering the 48 Laws. We discuss the next step in the following paragraphs, but also in the Advanced Defenses section.
Develop clear, consistent, healthy boundaries. After general awareness, boundaries are the most important step to countering an aggressive attack. Boundaries have two parts. First a clearly defined rule. Second a clearly defined punishment. Both are equally necessary. Defining realistic boundaries and holding up the punishment for crossing them is a form of self respect.
A clearly defined rule means a rule that you have written down and are willing to instantiate with others. It is important to write the rules down because writing can assist the brain in processing. You must be certain when you write down a rule. One way of deciding your boundaries is to look at rules others have for themselves. Another is to look for the situations where you’ve felt resentful or angry, and then decide what was wrong about the situation.
Second, you must be willing to enact punishment when your boundary is crossed. This means being willing to have a verbal discussion with the violator about what they did. It also means being willing to play chicken with the person. Often when you set a boundary on someone, they will get angry and threaten you back. You must be willing to hold up your end of the deal until they cave. Whoever caves first loses. For example, if you say one boundary of yours is that no one can hit you, you must be willing to kick the person out of your house permanently, or you must be willing to enter into a physical altercation to enforce the boundary. If you aren’t, it isn’t much of a boundary.
Boundaries force people to treat you with respect. The more you enforce realistic boundaries, the more people must choose between treating you with respect and finding someone else to manipulate.
One defense is called draw out and brand. Often people using the 48 Laws are trying to be covert about their behavior. The best way to deal with them is to point out what they are doing and label it. You can do this by simply asking “Is there anyone here who meets that description” when an individual says something indirect about a group member. This forces them to commit to the attack and own their behavior. Then the group can either label them as correct or incorrect. For more information on this tactic, see this article about how to deal with the passive aggressive personality type. The general idea with this tactic is to point their behavior out so others recognize it. This makes the attack less effective.
Another method is more positive. If someone is attacking you, simply use the character method. This mean go out of your way to demonstrate that you have a certain trait. If the person is accusing you of not being truthful, go out of your way to be more truthful than you would normally be. This will ruin the individual’s credibility.
Finally you can reframe and attack back. Sometimes you need to fight back with people who are trying to take your power. First, reframe the attack as evidence that you have something of value. Why would someone waste their time trying to manipulate and attack you if you weren’t impressive in some way. See the attack as a challenge to yourself. You get to demonstrate your stoic attitude and practice your verbal debate skills. Next, consider rewarding their good behavior and punishing their bad behavior. For example, if an employee is always late to a meeting, give them all the tasks that their other coworkers didn’t want. An important aspect of dealing with people who are more aggressive is disincentivizing their behavior. Learn more about how to build leverage that you can use here.
Specific Counters To Major Laws Of Power
Law 4: Always Say Less Than Necessary. Counter this law of power by developing rapport and genuine curiosity about the person. It is very difficult to with hold information if someone makes you feel heard and significant. Read this guide on rapport for more.
Law 11: Learn To Keep People Dependent On You. Counter this law by developing your independence. Think of the areas where you don’t have control over your own decision making and ask yourself how you can change this. For example, if you hate your job, but need your job to pay the bills, ask yourself how you can cut down on debt or expenses. Could you get a second job?
Law 20: Do Not Commit To Anyone. If someone refuses to commit to you, they are saying they don’t value you. Walk away from such people. Also, consider ways to increase your value so you have greater pull or sway in relationships.
Law 21: Play A Sucker To Catch A Sucker – Seem Dumber Than Your Mark. Learn scientific ways of profiling people so you don’t underestimate their capabilities. Look at their accomplishments and actions and ignore their words.
Law 33: Discover Each Man’s Thumbscrew. Everyone has weaknesses. Instead of hiding from them, confront them head on. Eventually you can overcome many of your weaknesses. Consider hiding weaknesses if you are entering competitive situations.
If you need help dealing with people who are passive aggressive or just generally verbally aggressive, check out our guide here. It gives you specific ways to respond to toxic coworkers and people. It describes in detail the kinds of behaviors and sayings they use, and what you can do about it.