The Laws of Human Nature
The Laws of Human Nature

The Laws of Human Nature

If you come across any special trait of meanness or stupidity … you must be careful not to let it annoy or distress you, but to look upon it merely as an addition to your knowledge—a new fact to be considered in studying the character of humanity. Your attitude towards it will be that of the mineralogist who stumbles upon a very characteristic specimen of a mineral. (Location 106)

The truth is that we humans live on the surface, reacting emotionally to what people say and do. We form opinions of others and ourselves that are rather simplified. We settle for the easiest and most convenient story to tell ourselves. (Location 129)

Understand: Like everyone, you think you are rational, but you are not. Rationality is not a power you are born with but one you acquire through training and practice. (Location 458)

Understand: The first step toward becoming rational is to understand our fundamental irrationality. (Location 515)

In other words, we do not have conscious access to the origins of our emotions and the moods they generate. Once we feel them, all we can do is try to interpret the emotion, translate it into language. But more often than not we get this wrong. We latch onto interpretations that are simple and that suit us. Or we remain baffled. We don’t know why we feel depressed, for example. This unconscious aspect of emotions also means that it is very hard for us to learn from them, to stop or prevent compulsive behavior. Children who felt abandoned by their parents will tend to create patterns of abandonment in later life, without seeing the reason. (Location 542)

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The great danger here is that in misreading the present and reacting to something in the past, we create conflict, disappointments, and mistrust that only strengthen the wound. In some ways, we are programmed to repeat the early experience in the present. Our only defense is awareness as it is happening. We can recognize a trigger point by the experience of emotions that are unusually primal, more uncontrollable than normal. They trigger tears, deep depression, or excessive hope. (Location 695)

Sudden success or winnings can be very dangerous. Neurologically, chemicals are released in the brain that give a powerful jolt of arousal and energy, leading to the desire to repeat this experience. It can be the start of any kind of addiction and manic behavior. (Location 703)

The solution here is simple: whenever you experience unusual gains or losses, that is precisely the time to step back and counterbalance them with some necessary pessimism or optimism. Be extra wary of sudden success and attention—they are not built on anything that lasts and they have an addictive pull. And the fall is always painful. (Location 712)

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Under stress or any threat, the most primitive parts of the brain are aroused and engaged, overwhelming people’s reasoning powers. In fact, stress or tension can reveal flaws in people that they have carefully concealed from view. It is often wise to observe people in such moments, precisely as a way to judge their true character. (Location 717)

Note: The time you need to keep cool is especially the time in which you are least likely to do so. Everyone can remain calm when things are going their way.

They make you think of them continually when not in their presence. They have an obsessive quality, and they can lead you to extreme actions as a devoted follower or as an inveterate enemy. On either end of the spectrum—attraction or repulsion—you will tend to be irrational and you will desperately need to distance yourself. A good strategy to utilize is to see through the front they project. They inevitably try to cast a larger-than-life image, a mythic, intimidating quality; but in fact they are all too human, full of the same insecurities and weaknesses we all possess. Try to recognize these very human traits and demythologize them. (Location 731)

Note: Inflamers are people who appear charismatic and they polarize people. Either you love them or hate them. It is important to de-mythologize them.

Being in a group does not stimulate independent reasoning but rather the intense desire to belong. (Location 738)

Rationality is something to be acquired by individuals, not by mass movements or technological progress. Feeling superior and beyond it is a sure sign that the irrational is at work. (Location 762)

Know yourself thoroughly. The Emotional Self thrives on ignorance. The moment you are aware of how it operates and dominates you is the moment it loses its hold on you and can be tamed. Therefore, your first step toward the rational is always inward. You want to catch that Emotional Self in action. For this purpose, you must reflect on how you operate under stress. What particular weaknesses come out in such moments—the desire to please, to bully or control, deep levels of mistrust? Look at your decisions, especially those that have been ineffective—can you see a pattern, an underlying insecurity that impels them? (Location 776)

Examine your emotions to their roots. You are angry. Let the feeling settle from within, and think about it. Was it triggered by something seemingly trivial or petty? That is a sure sign that something or someone else is behind it. (Location 782)

Note: Use a journal with ruthless objectivity.

Increase your reaction time. This power comes through practice and repetition. When some event or interaction requires a response, you must train yourself to step back. This could mean physically removing yourself to a place where you can be alone and not feel any pressure to respond. (Location 790)

Note: More time you buy, the better. With time, comes perspective and a better way to respond to things.

Make understanding people a fun game, the solving of puzzles. It is all part of the human comedy. Yes, people are irrational, but so are you. Make your acceptance of human nature as radical as possible. This will calm you down and help you observe people more dispassionately, understanding them on a deeper level. (Location 801)

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By stepping back and imagining their story from the inside, Chekhov demythologized the brutes and aggressors; he cut them down to human size. They no longer elicited hatred but rather pity. (Location 811)

Being able to tame the Emotional Self leads to an overall calmness and clarity. In this state of mind you are less consumed by petty conflicts and considerations. Your actions are more effective, which also leads to less turmoil. You have the immense satisfaction of mastering yourself in a deep way. You have more mental space to be creative. You feel more in control. (Location 832)

(It is ironic that the word narcissism has come to mean Self-love, when it is in fact the case that the worst narcissists have no cohesive self to love, which is the source of their problem.) (Location 941)

Deep narcissism tends to sink you deeper, as your connection to reality lessens and you are unable to really develop your work or your relationships. Empathy does the opposite. As you increasingly turn your attention outward, you get constant positive feedback. People want to be around you more. You develop your empathic muscle; your work improves; without trying, you gain the attention that all humans thrive on. Empathy creates its own upward, positive momentum. (Location 987)

The empathic attitude: Empathy is more than anything a state of mind, a different way of relating to others. The greatest danger you face is your general assumption that you really understand people and that you can quickly judge and categorize them. Instead, you must begin with the assumption that you are ignorant and that you have natural biases that will make you judge people incorrectly. The people around you present a mask that suits their purposes. You mistake the mask for reality. Let go of your tendency to make snap judgments. Open your mind to seeing people in a new light. (Location 991)

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The best place to begin this transformation in your attitude is in your numerous daily conversations. Try reversing your normal impulse to talk and give your opinion, desiring instead to hear the other person’s point of view. You have tremendous curiosity in this direction. Cut off your incessant interior monologue as best you can. (Location 999)

Note: Practicing empathic attitude

When we make a mistake, we attribute it to circumstances that pushed us into doing it. But when others make a mistake, we tend to see it as a character flaw, as something that flowed from their imperfect personality. This is known as the attribution bias. (Location 1004)

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As an adjunct to this, mirroring people on any level will draw out an empathic response from them. This can be physical, and is known as the chameleon effect. People who are connecting physically and emotionally in a conversation will tend to mimic each other’s gestures and posture, both crossing their legs, for instance. To a degree, you can do this consciously to induce a connection by deliberately mimicking someone. Similarly, nodding your head as they talk and smiling will deepen the connection. Even better, you can enter the spirit of the other person. You absorb their mood deeply and reflect it back to them. You create a feeling of rapport. People secretly crave this emotional rapport in their daily lives, because they get it so rarely. It has a hypnotic effect and appeals to people’s narcissism as you become their mirror. (Location 1034)

This can prove particularly helpful with people toward whom we feel resistant and whom we have a hard time identifying with—either because they are very different from us or because there is something about them that repels us. In such cases we naturally resort to judging and putting them into categories. There are people out there who are not worth the effort—supreme fools or true psychopaths. But for most others who seem hard to figure out, we should see it as an excellent challenge and a way to improve our skills. As Abraham Lincoln said, “I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.” (Location 1046)

The key to employing empathy within a relationship is to understand the value system of the other person, which inevitably is different from yours. What they interpret as signs of love or attention or generosity tends to diverge from your way of thinking. (Location 1314)

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Try to mirror them, making comments that play off something they have said and reveal you are listening to them. This will have the effect of making them relax and want to talk more, which will make them leak out more nonverbal cues. (Location 1630)

To take your practice further, try a different exercise. Sit in a café or some public space, and without the burden of having to be involved in a conversation, observe the people around you. Listen in on their conversations for vocal cues. Take note of walking styles and overall body language. If possible, take notes. As you get better at this, you can try to guess people’s profession by the cues you pick up, or something about their personality from their body language. It should be a pleasurable game. (Location 1652)

One final but very subtle nonverbal means of asserting dominance in a relationship comes through the symptom. One partner suddenly develops headaches or some other illness, or starts drinking, or generally falls into a negative pattern of behavior. This forces the other side to play by their rules, to tend to their weaknesses. It is the willful use of sympathy to gain power and it is extremely effective. (Location 1841)

In general, the best thing to do when you suspect people of trying to distract you from the truth is not to actively confront them in the beginning, but in fact to encourage them to continue by showing interest in what they are saying or doing. You want them to talk more, to reveal more signs of tension and contrivance. At the right moment you must surprise them with a question or remark that is designed to make them uncomfortable, revealing you are onto them. Pay attention to the microexpressions and body language they emit at such moments. If they are really deceiving, they will often have a freeze response as they take this in, and then quickly try to mask the underlying anxiety. (Location 1884)

In real life it is not possible to train ourselves to such a degree, but if you have no control, if you are continually emoting whatever comes to you in the moment, you will subtly signal weakness and an overall lack of Self-mastery. Learn how to consciously put yourself in the right emotional mood by imagining how and why you should feel the emotion suitable to the occasion or performance you are about to give. (Location 1931)

Appearing saintly today is certainly different in content from the sixteenth century, but the essence is the same—you embody what is considered good and above reproach. In the modern world, this means showing yourself as progressive, supremely tolerant, and open-minded. You will want to be seen giving generously to certain causes and supporting them on social media. Projecting sincerity and honesty always plays well. A few public confessions of your weaknesses and vulnerabilities will do the trick. For some reason people see signs of humility as authentic, even though people might very well be simulating them. Learn how to occasionally lower your head and appear humble. (Location 1950)

Realize the following: The word personality comes from the Latin persona, which means “mask.” In the public we all wear masks, and this has a positive function. If we displayed exactly who we are and spoke our minds truthfully, we would offend almost everyone and reveal qualities that are best concealed. Having a persona, playing a role well, actually protects us from people looking too closely at us, with all of the insecurities that would churn up. In fact, the better you play your role, the more power you will accrue, and with power you will have the freedom to express more of your peculiarities. (Location 1967)

You must always keep in mind the primary corollary of this law: people never do something just once. They might try to excuse themselves, to say they lost their heads in the moment, but you can be sure they will repeat whatever foolishness they did on another occasion, compelled by their character and habits. In fact, they will often repeat actions when it is completely against their Self-interest, revealing the compulsive nature of their weaknesses. (Location 2238)

In everyday life people can often do well at disguising their character flaws, but in times of stress or crisis these flaws can suddenly become very apparent. People under stress lose their normal Self-control. They reveal their insecurities about their reputation, their fear of failure and lack of inner resilience. On the other hand, some people rise to the occasion and reveal strength under fire. There’s no way to tell until the heat is on, but you must pay extra attention to such moments. (Location 2262)

In general, people can be divided into introverts and extroverts, and this will play a large role in the character they develop. Extroverts are largely governed by external criteria. The question that dominates them is “What do others think of me?” They will tend to like what other people like, and the groups they belong to frequently determine the opinions they hold. They are open to suggestion and new ideas, but only if they are popular in the culture or asserted by some authority they respect. Extroverts value external things—good clothes, great meals, concrete enjoyment shared with others. They are in search of new and novel sensations and have a nose for trends. They are not only comfortable with noise and bustle but actively search it out. If they are bold, they love physical adventure. If they are not so bold, they love creature comforts. In any event, they crave stimulation and attention from others. (Location 2287)

Introverts are more sensitive and easily exhausted by too much outward activity. They like to conserve their energy, to spend time alone or with one or two close friends. As opposed to extroverts, who are fascinated by facts and statistics for their own sake, introverts are interested in their own opinions and feelings. They love to theorize and come up with their own ideas. If they produce something, they do not like to promote it; they find the effort distasteful. What they make should sell itself. They like to keep a part of their life separate from others, to have secrets. Their opinions do not come from what others think or from any authority but from their inner criteria, or at least they think so. The bigger the crowd, the more lost and lonely they feel. They can seem awkward and mistrustful, uncomfortable with attention. They also tend to be more pessimistic and worried than the average extrovert. Their boldness will be expressed by the novel ideas they come up with and their creativity. (Location 2294)

Strong character has a tensile quality like a good piece of metal—it can give and bend but still retains its overall shape and never breaks. (Location 2311)

The strength emanates from a feeling of personal security and Self-worth. This allows such people to take criticism and learn from their experiences. This means they do not give up so easily, since they want to learn how to get better. They are rigorously persistent. People of strong character are open to new ideas and ways of doing things without compromising the basic principles they adhere to. In adversity they can retain their presence of mind. They can handle chaos and the unpredictable without succumbing to anxiety. They keep their word. They have patience, can organize a lot of material, and complete what they start. Not continually insecure about their status, they can also subsume their personal interests to the good of the group, knowing that what works best for the team will in the end make their life easier and better. (Location 2313)

Remember: weak character will neutralize all of the other possible good qualities a person might possess. For instance, people of high intelligence but weak character may come up with good ideas and even do a job well, but they will crumble under pressure, or they will not take to kindly to criticism, or they will think first and foremost of their own agenda, or their arrogance and annoying qualities will cause others around them to quit, harming the general environment. There are hidden costs to working with them or hiring them. Someone less charming and intelligent but of strong character will prove more reliable and productive over the long run. People of real strength are as rare as gold, and if you find them, you should respond as if you had a discovered a treasure. (Location 2337)

Hyperperfectionists will often have health problems, as they work themselves to the bone. They like to blame others for everything that goes wrong—nobody is working hard enough. They have patterns of initial success followed by burnout and spectacular failures. It is best to recognize the type before getting enmeshed on any level. They cannot be satisfied by anything you do and will chew you up slowly with their anxieties, abusiveness, and desire to control. (Location 2356)

This is the alchemy that you must use on yourself. If you are a hyperperfectionist who likes to control everything, you must redirect this energy into some productive work instead of using it on people. Your attention to detail and high standards are a positive, if you channel them correctly. If you are a pleaser, you have developed courtier skills and real charm. If you can see the source of this trait, you can control the compulsive and defensive aspect of it and use it as a genuine social skill that can bring you great power. If you are highly sensitive and prone to take things personally, you can work to redirect this into active empathy (see chapter 2), and transform this flaw into an asset to use for positive social purposes. If you have a rebellious character, you have a natural dislike of conventions and the usual ways of doing things. Channel this into some kind of innovative work, instead of compulsively insulting and alienating people. For each weakness there is a corresponding strength. (Location 2493)

Finally, you need to also refine or cultivate those traits that go into a strong character—resilience under pressure, attention to detail, the ability to complete things, to work with a team, to be tolerant of people’s differences. The only way to do so is to work on your habits, which go into the slow formation of your character. For instance, you train yourself to not react in the moment by repeatedly placing yourself in stressful or adverse situations in order to get used to them. In boring everyday tasks, you cultivate greater patience and attention to detail. You deliberately take on tasks slightly above your level. In completing them, you have to work harder, helping you establish more discipline and better work habits. You train yourself to continually think of what is best for the team. You also search out others who display a strong character and associate with them as much as possible. In this way you can assimilate their energy and their habits. And to develop some flexibility in your character, always a sign of strength, you occasionally shake yourself up, trying out some new strategy or way of thinking, doing the opposite of what you would normally do. With such work you will no longer be a slave to the character created by your earliest years and the compulsive behavior it leads to. Even further, you can now actively shape your very character and the fate that goes with it. (Location 2500)

What one does, one will do again, indeed has probably already done in the distant past. The agonizing thing in life is that it is our own decisions that throw us into this rut, under the wheels that crush us. (The truth is that, even before making those decisions, we were going in that direction.) A decision, an action, are infallible omens of what we shall do another time, not for any vague, mystic, astrological reason but because they result from an automatic reaction that will repeat itself. —Cesare Pavese (Location 2513)

Understand: Just like Chanel, you need to reverse your perspective. Instead of focusing on what you want and covet in the world, you must train yourself to focus on others, on their repressed desires and unmet fantasies. You must train yourself to see how they perceive you and the objects you make, as if you were looking at yourself and your work from the outside. This will give you the almost limitless power to shape people’s perceptions about these objects and excite them. People do not want truth and honesty, no matter how much we hear such nonsense endlessly repeated. They want their imaginations to be stimulated and to be taken beyond their banal circumstances. They want fantasy and objects of desire to covet and grope after. Create an air of mystery around you and your work. Associate it with something new, unfamiliar, exotic, progressive, and taboo. Do not define your message but leave it vague. Create an illusion of ubiquity—your object is seen everywhere and desired by others. Then let the covetousness so latent in all humans do the rest, setting off a chain reaction of desire. (Location 2657)

In all these cases, if we got closer to the people we envy, to that supposed happy family, to the other man or woman we covet, to the exotic natives in a culture we wish to know, to that better job, to that utopia, we would see through the illusion. And often when we act on these desires, we realize this in our disappointment, but it doesn’t change our behavior. The next object glittering in the distance, the next exotic cult or get-rich-quick scheme will inevitably seduce us. (Location 2689)

One of the most striking examples of this syndrome is the view we take of our childhood as it recedes into the past. Most of us remember a golden time of play and excitement. As we get older, it becomes even more golden in our memory. Of course, we conveniently forget the anxieties, insecurities, and hurts that plagued us in childhood and more than likely consumed more of our mental space than the fleeting pleasures we remember. But because our youth is an object that grows more distant as we age, we are able to idealize it and see it as greener than green. (Location 2692)

We survived and thrived through our continual conscious alertness, which predisposed us to thinking and imagining the possible negative in any circumstance. We no longer live in savannas or forests teeming with life-threatening predators and natural dangers, but our brains are wired as if we were. We are inclined therefore toward a continual negative bias, which often consciously is expressed through complaining and griping. (Location 2707)

The key to making this law work for you is to objectify yourself and what you produce. Normally you are locked in your own thoughts and dreams. You imagine people should love and respect you for who you are. You believe that what you produce should naturally excite people. After all, you have invested a lot of effort and have high hopes for success. But others see none of this. To them, you are just a person among others, and as a person you inspire either curiosity and excitement or indifference, and, even hostility. They project onto you their own fantasies and preconceptions. Once made public, your work is also an object completely divorced from your own hopes and dreams, and it inspires emotions that are weak or strong. To the degree that you can see yourself and what you produce as objects that people perceive in their own manner, you have the power to alter their perceptions and create objects of desire. (Location 2738)

This is the essence of the art. You have a presence that people see and interpret. If you are too obvious with this, if people can read you too easily and figure you out, if you show your needs too visibly, then they will unconsciously begin to have a degree of disrespect; over time they will lose interest. Your presence must have a touch of coldness to it, as if you feel like you could do without others. This signals to people that you consider yourself worthy of respect, which unconsciously heightens your value in their eyes. It makes people want to chase after you. This touch of coldness is the first form of withdrawal that you must practice. Add to this a bit of blankness and ambiguity as to who you are. Your opinions, values, and tastes are never too obvious to people. (Location 2746)

You must learn how to exploit this. If you can somehow create the impression that others desire you or your work, you will pull people into your current without having to say a word or impose yourself. They will come to you. You must strive to surround yourself with this social aura, or at least create the illusion. (Location 2782)

Consider it this way: You are embedded in an environment that consists of the people you know and the places you frequent. This is your reality. Your mind is being continually drawn far away from this reality, because of human nature. You dream of traveling to exotic places, but if you go there, you merely drag with you your own discontented frame of mind. You search for entertainment that will bring you new fantasies to feed upon. You read books filled with ideas that have no relation to your daily life, that are full of empty speculations about things that only half exist. And none of this turmoil and ceaseless desire for what is most distant ever leads to anything fulfilling—it only stirs up more chimeras to pursue. In the end you cannot escape from yourself. (Location 2844)

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We can compare this to the following visual phenomenon: At the base of a mountain, in a thick forest, we have no ability to get our bearings or to map out our surroundings. We see only what is before our eyes. If we begin to move up the side of the mountain, we can see more of our surroundings and how they relate to other parts of the landscape. The higher we go, the more we realize that what we thought further below was not quite accurate, was based on a slightly distorted perspective. At the top of the mountain we have a clear panoramic view of the scene and perfect clarity as to the lay of the land. (Location 3035)

It would seem, then, that wisdom tends to come to us when it is too late, mostly in hindsight. But there is in fact a way for us humans to manufacture the effect of time, to give ourselves an expanded view in the present moment. We can call this the farsighted perspective, and it requires the following process. First, facing a problem, conflict, or some exciting opportunity, we train ourselves to detach from the heat of the moment. We work to calm down our excitement or our fear. We get some distance. Next, we start to deepen and widen our perspective. In considering the nature of the problem we are confronting, we don’t just grab for an immediate explanation, but instead we dig deeper and consider other possibilities, other possible motivations for the people involved. We force ourselves to look at the overall context of the event, not just what immediately grabs our attention. (Location 3044)

Note: By prologing the time we look to find a solution we engage the system 2 better.

If possible, avoid deep contact with those whose time frame is narrow, who are in continual react mode, and strive to associate with those with an expanded awareness of time. (Location 3087)

You cannot possibly map out these chains or get a complete handle on consequences. But by making your thinking more consequential you can at least become aware of the more obvious negative consequences that could ensue, and this often spells the difference between success and disaster. You want depth of thinking, to go to several degrees in imagining the permutations, as far as your mind can go. (Location 3134)

Your task as a student of human nature, and someone aspiring to reach the greater potential of the human animal, is to widen your relationship to time as much as possible, and slow it down. (Location 3238)

Note: Journals, done lists, living deliberatelh

As the story of Johnson demonstrates, the royal road to influence and power is to go the opposite direction: Put the focus on others. Let them do the talking. Let them be the stars of the show. Their opinions and values are worth emulating. The causes they support are the noblest. Such attention is so rare in this world, and people are so hungry for it, that giving them such validation will lower their defenses and open their minds to whatever ideas you want to insinuate. (Location 3454)

Your first move then is always to step back and assume an inferior position in relation to the other. Make it subtle. Ask for their advice. People are dying to impart their wisdom and experience. (Location 3457)

What matters is how people perceive their own character and worthiness. And there are three qualities to people’s Self-opinion that are nearly universal: “I am autonomous, acting of my own free will”; “I am intelligent in my own way”; and “I am basically good and decent.” (Location 3500)

Note: And people will go to greath lengths to defend it.

Many of these types of Self-opinions are related to developmental issues in early childhood. For instance, the rebel type had a father figure who disappointed him; or perhaps he suffered from bullying and cannot bear any feeling of inferiority. He must despise all authority. The Self-reliant type may have experienced a very distant mother, be haunted by feelings of abandonment, and have crafted a Self-image of rugged independence. (Location 3517)

Your task is simple: instill in people a feeling of inner security. Mirror their values; show that you like and respect them. Make them feel you appreciate their wisdom and experience. Generate an atmosphere of mutual warmth. Get them to laugh along with you, instilling a feeling of rapport. All of this works best if the feelings are not completely faked. By exercising your empathy, by getting inside their perspective (see chapter 2 for more on this), you are more likely to genuinely feel at least a part of such emotions. (Location 3537)

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One caveat: most people have a relatively high Self-opinion, but some people have a low opinion of themselves. They tell themselves, “I am not worthy of good things” or “I am not such a nice person” or “I have too many problems and issues.” Because they generally expect bad things to happen to them, they often feel relieved and justified when bad things do happen. In this way their low Self-opinion serves to calm their insecurities about ever getting success in life. If your targets have a low Self-opinion, the same rule applies. If you insist that they can easily better their lives by following your advice, this will clash with their belief that the world is against them and that they really do not deserve such good things. They will discount your ideas and resist you. Instead you must work from within their Self-opinion, empathizing with the injustices in their life and the difficulties they have faced. Now, with them feeling validated and mirrored, you have some latitude to make gentle corrections and even apply some reverse psychology (see the section below). (Location 3542)

Note: Meow

Your goal is to make them come away from the encounter feeling better about themselves. You have let them be the star of the show. You have drawn out of them the wittier, more fun-loving side of their personality. They will love you for this and will look forward to the next encounter. As they become increasingly relaxed in your presence, you will have great latitude for planting ideas and influencing their behavior. (Location 3589)

When you disagree with another person and impose your contrary opinion, you are implying that you know better, that you have thought things through more rationally. People challenged in this way will then naturally become even more attached to their opinions. You can prevent this by being more neutral, as if this opposing idea is simply something you are entertaining and it could be wrong. But better still, you can go much further: you see their point of view and agree with it. (Winning arguments is rarely worth the effort.) With their intelligence flattered, you now have some room to gently alter their opinion or have lowered their defenses for a request for help. (Location 3652)

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If your targets are powerful and quite Machiavellian, they might feel somewhat insecure about their moral qualities. Flattering them about their clever manipulations might backfire, but obvious praise of their goodness would be too transparent, because they know themselves too well. Instead, some strategic flattery about how you have benefited from their advice and how their criticisms helped improve your performance will appeal to their Self-opinion of being tough yet fair, with a good heart underneath the gruff exterior. (Location 3706)

With people who are your equals, you have more room to flatter. With those who are your superiors, it is best to simply agree with their opinions and validate their wisdom. Flattering your boss is too transparent. (Location 3713)

Some people are particularly resistant to any form of influence. They are most often people with deeper levels of insecurity and low Self-opinion. This can manifest itself in a rebellious attitude. Such types feel as if it is them against the world. They must assert their will at all costs and resist any kind of change. They will do the opposite of what people suggest. They will seek advice for a particular problem or symptom, only to find dozens of reasons of why the advice given won’t work for them. The best thing to do is to play a game of mental judo with them. In judo you do not counter people’s moves with a thrust of your own but rather encourage their aggressive energy (resistance) in order to make them fall on their own. Here are some ways to put this into practice in everyday life. (Location 3727)

His motto in life had become “The unexamined life is not worth living.” The charm of Socrates, what made him so devilishly fascinating to the youth of Athens, was the supreme openness of his mind. In essence, Socrates assumed the weaker, vulnerable position of the ignorant child, always asking questions. (Location 3794)

Come to terms with the fact that you are not as free and autonomous as you like to believe. You do conform to the opinions of the groups you belong to; you do buy products because of subliminal influence; you can be manipulated. Realize as well that you are not as good as the idealized image of your Self-opinion. Like everyone else, you can be quite Self-absorbed and obsessed with your own agenda. With this awareness, you will not feel the need to be validated by others. (Location 3817)

Your task as a student of human nature is twofold: First, you must become aware of your own attitude and how it slants your perceptions. It is hard to observe this in your day-to-day life because it is so close to you, but there are ways to catch glimpses of it in action. You can see it in how you judge people once they are out of your presence. Are you quick to focus on their negative qualities and bad opinions, or are you more generous and forgiving when it comes to their flaws? You will see definite signs of your attitude in how you face adversity or resistance. Are you quick to forget or gloss over any mistakes on your part? (Location 4080)

If you notice such tendencies in yourself, the best antidote is to pour your energies into work. Focusing your attention outward into a project of some sort will have a calming effect. As long as you rein in your perfectionistic tendencies, you can channel your need to control into something productive. (Location 4151)

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Note: Anxious tendencies

If you notice traces of this attitude in yourself, a good strategy is to take on a project of even the smallest scale, taking it all the way to completion and embracing the prospect of failure. If you fail, you will have already cushioned the blow because you anticipated it, and inevitably it will not hurt as much as you had imagined. Your Self-esteem will rise because you finally tried something and finished it. Once you diminish this fear, progress will be easy. You will want to try again. And if you succeed, all the better. Either way, you win. (Location 4178)

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Note: Avoidant tendencies

The best way to handle recurrent depression is to channel your energies into work, especially the arts. You are used to withdrawing and being alone; use such time to tap into your unconscious. Externalize your unusual sensitivity and your dark feelings into the work itself. (Location 4215)

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Never try to lift up depressive people by preaching to them about the wonderfulness of life. Instead, it is best to go along with their gloomy opinion of the world while subtly drawing them into positive experiences that can elevate their moods and energy without any direct appeal. (Location 4217)

For many people, such difficult moments inspire them to restrict what they see and experience. They go through life trying to avoid any kind of adversity, even if this means never really challenging themselves or getting much success in their careers. Instead of learning from negative experiences, they want to repress them. Your goal is to move in the opposite direction, to embrace all obstacles as learning experiences, as means to getting stronger. In this way you embrace life itself. (Location 4275)

“Never get discouraged, never be petty; always remember, others may hate you, but those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself.” (Location 4502)

This dark side haunts your dreams. It leaks out in moments of inexplicable depression, unusual anxiety, touchy moods, sudden neediness, and suspicious thoughts. It comes out in offhand comments you later regret. (Location 4538)

Your task as a student of human nature is to recognize and examine the dark side of your character. Once subjected to conscious scrutiny, it loses its destructive power. If you can learn to detect the signs of it in yourself (see the following sections for help on this), you can channel this darker energy into productive activity. (Location 4542)

we experience success in our lives, we become addicted to positive attention, and in the inevitable down moments when the drug of such attention wears off, the Shadow will be disturbed and activated. (Location 4603)

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Concealing this dark side requires energy; it can be draining to always present such a nice, confident front. And so the Shadow wants to release some of the inner tension and come back to life. As the poet Horace once said, Naturam expellas furca, tamen usque recurret (“You can throw out Nature with a pitchfork, but she’ll always come back”). You must become adept at recognizing such moments of release in others and interpreting them, seeing the outlines of the Shadow that now come forward. (Location 4605)

Note: Contradictory behavior Emotional outbursts Vehement denial all gives us a peek into the persons shadow.

Steven-son’s idea is that the more civilized and moral we outwardly become, the more potentially dangerous is the Shadow, which we so fiercely deny. As the character Dr. Jekyll describes it, “My devil had long been caged, he came out roaring.” (Location 4682)

The solution is not more repression and correctness. We can never alter human nature through enforced niceness. The pitchfork doesn’t work. Nor is the solution to seek release for our Shadow in the group, which is volatile and dangerous. Instead the answer is to see our Shadow in action and become more Self-aware. It is hard to project onto others our own secret impulses or to over-idealize some cause, once we are made aware of the mechanism operating within us. Through such Self-knowledge we can find a way to integrate the dark side into our consciousness productively and creatively. (For more on this, see the last section of this chapter.) In doing so we become more authentic and complete, exploiting to the maximum the energies we naturally possess. (Location 4684)

We can see two forms of this: Early on in life some people sense a softness, vulnerability, or insecurity that might prove embarrassing or uncomfortable. They unconsciously develop the opposite trait, a resilience or toughness that lies on the outside like a protective shell. The other scenario is that a person has a quality that they feel might be antisocial—for instance, too much ambition or an inclination to be selfish. They develop the opposite quality, something very prosocial. (Location 4694)

Never be taken in by the strength of people’s convictions and their flair for drama. Always operate by the rule that the greater the stridency in what they say, the deeper the underlying insecurities and doubts. Do not become a follower. They will make a fool of you. (Location 4756)

Embrace the Shadow. Your natural reaction in uncovering and facing up to your dark side is to feel uncomfortable and maintain only a surface awareness of it. Your goal here must be the opposite—not only complete acceptance of the Shadow but the desire to integrate it into your present personality. (Location 4854)

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Note: Find an avenue for the dark qualities rather than suppressing them.

He recognized the trait in himself and would not deny it. Instead he would pour his aggressive, competitive energy into winning debates and elections. (Location 4863)

In a similar vein, you want to explore from within your own darkest impulses, even those that might seem criminal, and find a way to express them in your work or externalize them in some fashion, in a journal for instance. We all have aggressive and antisocial desires, even toward those we love. We also have traumas from our earliest years that are associated with emotions we prefer to forget. The greatest art in all media somehow expresses these depths, which causes a powerful reaction in us all because they are so repressed. Such is the power of the films of Ingmar Bergman or the novels of Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and you can have the same power by externalizing your dark side. (Location 4888)

Learn to deflect envy by drawing attention away from yourself. Develop your sense of Self-worth from internal standards and not incessant comparisons. (Location 4934)

Note: Things that help you draw attention away from yourself could help a lot here.

The Leveler: When you first meet them, levelers can seem rather entertaining and interesting. They tend to have a wicked sense of humor. They are good at putting down those who are powerful and deflating the pretentious. They also seem to have a keen nose for injustice and unfairness in this world. But where they differ from people with genuine empathy for underdogs is that levelers cannot recognize or appreciate excellence in almost anyone, except those who are dead. They have fragile egos. Those who have achieved things in life make them feel insecure. They are highly sensitive to feelings of inferiority. The envy they initially feel for those who are successful is quickly covered up by indignation. They rail at high achievers for gaming the system, for being far too ambitious, or simply for being lucky and not really deserving praise. They have come to associate excellence with unfairness, as a way to soothe their in-securities. (Location 5258)

Note: Dude jesting

If you experience success, those in your field who have similar aspirations but who are still struggling will naturally feel envious. You should be reasonably tolerant of this because if the tables were reversed, you would probably feel the same. Do not take so personally their faint praise and veiled criticisms. But be aware that among some of these peers envy can turn active and dangerous. (Location 5352)

In a similar vein, never make the mistake of praising a writer in front of another writer, or an artist in front of an artist, unless the person being praised is dead. If you detect signs of a more active envy in peers, get as far away from them as possible. (Location 5360)

If you have any natural gifts that elevate you above others, you must be aware of the dangers and avoid flaunting such talents. Instead you want to strategically reveal some flaws to blunt people’s envy and mask your natural superiority. If you are gifted in the sciences, make it clear to others how you wish you had more social skills. Show your intellectual clumsiness at subjects outside your expertise. (Location 5370)

Note: John F. Kennedy seemed almost too perfect to the American public. So handsome, intelligent, and charismatic, and with such a beautiful wife—it was hard to identify with or like him. As soon as he made his big mistake in the failed invasion of Cuba (known as the Bay of Pigs) early on in his administration, and took full responsibility for the debacle, his poll numbers skyrocketed.

In meetings in which he was clearly the most knowledgeable person, he would make a point of asking for the opinions of the most junior associate in attendance, and of listening to what he or she had to say with rapt attention. When people who worked for him asked him what should be done in relation to some crisis or problem, he would look at them calmly and ask first, “What do you think?” He would take their answer quite seriously. (Location 5393)

If you find yourself under an envy attack, your best strategy is to control your emotions. It is much easier to do this once you realize that envy is the source. The envier feeds upon your overreaction as material to criticize you, justify their actions, and entangle you in some further drama. At all costs, maintain your composure. If possible, get some physical distance as well—fire them, cut off contact, whatever is possible. Do not imagine you can somehow repair the relationship. Your generosity in trying this will only intensify their feelings of inferiority. They will strike again. By all means defend yourself from any public attacks or gossip that they spread, but do not harbor revenge fantasies. The envier is miserable. The best strategy is let to them stew in their “cold poison” from a distance, without any future means of wounding you, (Location 5400)

Move closer to what you envy. Envy thrives on relative closeness—in a corporate environment where people see each other every day, in a family, in a neighborhood, in any group of peers. But people tend to hide their problems and to put their best face forward. We only see and hear of their triumphs, their new relationships, their brilliant ideas that will land them a gold mine. If we moved closer—if we saw the quarrels that go on behind closed doors or the horrible boss that goes with that new job—we would have less reason to feel envy. (Location 5437)

As a related exercise, you can write up all the positive things in your life that you tend to take for granted—the people who have been kind and helpful to you, the health that you presently enjoy. Gratitude is a muscle that requires exercise or it will atrophy. (Location 5453)

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Note: As an addenum to doing downward comparisons for envy.

Related to this, having a sense of purpose, a feel for your calling in life, is a great way to immunize yourself against envy. You are focused on your own life and plans, which are clear and invigorating. What gives you satisfaction is realizing your potential, not earning attention from the public, which is fleeting. You have much less need to compare. Your sense of Self-worth comes from within, not from without. (Location 5474)

Note: To get away from envy

Finally, it is worth cultivating moments in life in which we feel immense satisfaction and happiness divorced from our own success or achievements. This happens commonly when we find ourselves in a beautiful landscape—the mountains, the sea, a forest. We do not feel the prying, comparing eyes of others, the need to have more attention or to assert ourselves. We are simply in awe of what we see, and it is intensely therapeutic. This can also occur when we contemplate the immensity of the universe, the uncanny set of circumstances that had to come together for us to be born, the vast reaches of time before us and after us. These are sublime moments, and as far removed from the pettiness and poisons of envy as possible. (Location 5483)

Counteract the pull of grandiosity by maintaining a realistic assessment of yourself and your limits. Tie any feelings of greatness to your work, your achievements, and your contributions to society. (Location 5501)

Grandiose people are generally big talkers. They take credit for anything that is even tangential to their work; they invent past successes. They talk of their prescience, how they foresaw certain trends or predicted certain events, none of which can be verified. All such talk should make you doubly dubious. If people in the public eye suddenly say something that gets them into trouble for being insensitive, you can ascribe that to their potent grandiosity. They are so attuned to their own great opinions that they assume everyone else will interpret them in the right spirit and agree with them. (Location 5834)

Note: Grandiose types display a lack of empathy. They take credit for tangential things. People are just tools to be used in their schemes. And they are baffled when the world doesn’t agree with their opinions.

The greatest protection you can have against grandiosity is to maintain a realistic attitude. You know what subjects and activities you are naturally attracted to. You cannot be skilled at everything. You need to play to your strengths and not imagine you can be great at whatever you put your mind to. You must have a thorough understanding of your energy levels, of how far you can reasonably push yourself, and of how this changes with age. And you must have a solid grasp on your social position—your allies, the people with whom you have the greatest rapport, the natural audience for your work. You cannot please everyone. (Location 5855)

Our avoidance leads to a low-grade, continual anxiety. (Location 7043)

Note: Avoidance of the anxieties that life presents by means of escape, addictions, results in a persistent low grade anxiety .

With this guidance system in place, we can turn anxiety and stress into productive emotions. (Location 7095)

Note: Aligning primal inclinations (childhood likings) with what y To find a sense of purpose in life, you should have an inner guidance system. What guides you must be aligned with wha you enjoy. Explore the connections etgween what you enjoyed as a child nd what you enjoy right now. Primal inclinations. That will help you adopt stress and anxiety as productive emotions

We can say something similar about your life: operating with a high sense of purpose is a force multiplier. All of your decisions and actions have greater power behind them because they are guided by a central idea and purpose. The many sides to your character are channeled into this purpose, giving you more sustained energy. Your focus and your ability to bounce back from adversity give you ineluctable momentum. (Location 7114)

As another sign, examine moments in your life when certain tasks or activities felt natural and easy to you, similar to swimming with a current. In performing such activities, you have a greater tolerance for the tedium of practicing. People’s criticisms don’t discourage you so easily; you want to learn. You can contrast this with other subjects or tasks that you find deeply boring and unfulfilling, which frustrate you. (Location 7168)

Stir conflicting emotions: the Aura. Most people are too predictable. To mix well in social situations, they assume a persona that is consistent—jovial, pleasing, bold, sensitive. They try to hide other qualities that they are afraid to show. As the leader, you want to be more mysterious, to establish a presence that fascinates people. By sending mixed signals, by showing qualities that are ever so slightly contrary, you cause people to pause in their instant categorizations and to think about who you really are. The more they think about you, the larger and more authoritative your presence. (Location 8805)