Conceal Your Intentions– The 3rd Law of Power, Simplified

A boy concealed by smoke

See Law 1 Here

See Law 2 Here

This is the 3rd installment of my reviews over the 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene, and already I’m starting to feel intimidated by the absolute manipulation being taught.

With that said, I present the 3rd law: Conceal your intentions.

The chapter starts of with this excerpt:

Keep people off-balance and in the dark by never reveal-

ing 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, envelop them in

enough smoke, and by the time they realize your inten-

tions, it will be too late.

Basically, you are supposed to lead someone to believe your intentions are so opposite of what they really are, they have no chance to prepare. It’s evil. It’s genius.

To illustrate why it’s a bad idea to reveal your intentions up front, we have the story of Sevigne of seventeenth-century France. Sevigne expressed interest in a young lady, asking his friend Ninon for advice. Ninon was an expert on love and instructed him on three steps to make the countess fall in love:

  1. 1. Confuse her by acting like he is only interested in friendship.
  2. 2. Make her jealous by being around other beautiful women– appearing desirable.
  3. 3. Charm her by showing up in unexpected locations– becoming unpredictable and exciting.

Initially, Sevigne followed these steps perfectly. Ninon observed his progress and noticed the countess was beginning to laugh more at his jokes, and listen more intently to his stories. She was showing interest, and all would come together in a few months’ time.

In a moment of vulnerability, however, Sevigne came clean. He told her he was in love with her, and was trying to win her over. The countess turned him away, now knowing that his actions were conniving, and feeling embarrassed for falling for it.

This is to show how the end looks if you fail to conceal your intentions. In this story, he loses his charm and his influence the moment he breaks character.

To display the correct observance of the law, the story of the famous Otto von Bismarck of Prussia is told. Bismarck wanted to wage a war with Austria, but was under the rule of a peace-loving king. In his role, Bismarck simply did not have the power to go to war anyways. Fortunately, he had a strategy. Known to be a big supporter of war, Bismarck did something entirely unexpected in a speech to the parliament: he ridiculed the idea of supporting a war, calling it “madness”. The king ate this up, and promoted Bismarck to a much more powerful role. Once he gained this power, he was able to lead his country into a war against Austria– easily won since Austria had heard his message of peace.

Old photo of war on horseback

Key Takeaways

According to Greene, our instinct is to trust appearances. It is much easier to believe what you see than to assume everything could be a lie. This is unfortunate for the average person, but great news for the manipulator.

However, hiding your intentions cannot be done by just closing up and staying silent. Instead, you must talk incessantly about a completely different intention, this way people do not suspect a thing. They will trust what you say.

Greene also goes on to talk about concealing your intentions with a “smoke screen”. I would liken this to a poker face. You should seem kind and appear open, but also not put on a colorful show. If you come up with elaborate false stories, people will begin to see you as, well, off your rocker.

A pattern is also a great smoke screen. By keeping a pattern you rarely stray from, it will be completely unexpected when you do.

Do I believe this book is evil yet?

I’m going to be honest… I think this is a great book for people with bad intentions. I’d definitely hope it didn’t fall in the hands of Q-Anon or something.

However, this excerpt taught me a valuable lesson about blind trust. Anyone could be leading you astray, and you should be prepared for the unexpected no matter what someone says. 

Anyways, I stand by my first conclusion. A book cannot be evil, only the person reading it.

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