The Laws of Human Nature by Robert Greene

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The Laws of Human Nature will help you understand why people do what they do. It will teach you how you can use both your psychological flaws and those of others to your advantage at work, in relationships, and in life.

It will make you a calmer and more strategic observer of people. It will teach you the true levers for motivating and influencing people. It will make you realise how deeply the forces of human nature operate within you. It will turn you into a more rational, self-aware and productive individual.

1. Master Your Emotional Self
You may think you are rational, but you are not. Rationality is the ability to counteract your emotional effects, to think instead of react, to open your mind to what is really happening, as opposed to what you are feeling. Our minds are governed by emotion, but with enough practice, we can cultivate rationality.

  • Step One: Recognise the Biases– The most common emotion is the desire for pleasure and the avoidance of pain. We recoil from ideas that are unpleasant or painful to us, often through biases.
  • Step Two: Beware the Inflaming Factors– There are certain moments that will trigger your emotions more and capture your attention completely. Beware of these factors and stop your mind from tunnelling.
  • Step Three: Strategies Toward Bringing Out the Rational Self – Know yourself thoroughly. Examine your emotions to their roots. Increase your reaction time. Accept people as facts. Find the optimal balance of thinking and emotion. Love the rational.
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2. Transform Self-love into Empathy

Empathy is the most remarkable tool for connecting to people and attaining social power. When cultivated and properly used, it can allow us to see into the moods and minds of others, giving us the power to anticipate people’s actions and gently lower their resistance.

Stop your incessant inner monologue and pay deeper attention to people. Attune yourself to the shifting moods of individuals and the group. Try to take their perspective, enter their world and their value system.

3. See Through People’s Masks

People tend to wear a mask that shows them off in the best possible light. They learn to conceal their insecurities. Sometimes the masks have cracks and people leak out their true feelings. Learn to read facial expressions, vocal inflexions, tension in the body, and nervous gestures. The three categories of the most important cues to observe and identify are dislike/like, dominance/submission, and deception.

Playing a role well actually protects us from offending others and revealing unflattering qualities. In fact, the better you play your role, the more power you will accrue. Here are some things that will help:

• Master the nonverbal cues.
• Be a method actor.
• Adapt to your audience.
• Create the proper first impression.
• Use dramatic effects.
• Project saintly qualities.

4. Determine the Strength of People’s Character

People’s character is what compels them to repeat certain actions and fall into negative patterns. Surround yourself with people who display good, strong character. Gauge the relative strength by how well they handle adversity, their ability to adapt and work with other people, their patience and their ability to learn.

First, you must come to understand your own character, examining as best you can the elements of your past that have formed who you are.

Second, you must develop your skill in reading the character of people you interact with. This comes through observing their actions over time. Look at how people handle stressful moments and responsibility. Look at their patterns.

5. Become an Elusive Object of Desire

Humans have the continual desire to possess what we do not have. Learn to create some mystery around you, to use strategic absence to make people desire your return. There are three main strategies for stimulating desire:

• Know how and when to withdraw.
• Create rivalries of desire.
• Use induction.

Instead of constantly chasing after the latest trends and modelling our desires on what others find exciting, we should spend our time getting to know our own tastes and desires better so we can identify the things we truly need or want. Do not constantly wait and hope for something better. Make the most of what you have.

6. Elevate Your Perspective

Learn to measure people by the narrowness or breadth of their vision; avoid entangling yourself with those who cannot see the consequences of their actions. Never lose sight of your long-term goals.

In the present moment, we lack perspective. With the passage of time, we gain more information and see more of the truth. When facing a problem, train yourself to detach from the heat of the moment. Then, dig deeper and consider other possibilities. Get a wider perspective on the overall context of the solution and look further into the future. Beware of unintended consequences, circular battles, nervous impatience, and getting lost in the details. Pay attention to your long-term goals and be deliberate with your planning.

7. Soften People’s Resistance by Confirming Their Self-opinion

Humans must look after our own interests. We also want to feel independent and we get defensive if we feel that people are trying to persuade or change us. Create a feeling of mutual warmth to soften people’s resistance.

If you put the focus on others and give them validation, they will lower their defences and open their minds to your ideas.  When people feel secure, they are more openminded. There are five strategies for becoming a master persuader:

• Transform yourself into a deep listener.
• Infect people with the proper mood.
• Confirm their self-opinion (autonomy, intelligence, and goodness are nearly universal)
• Allay their insecurities.
• Use people’s resistance and stubbornness.

8. Change Your Circumstances by Changing Your Attitude

Each of us has a particular way of looking at the world, and it determines a lot of what happens to us in life.  If we have a bad attitude, we see the negative in every circumstance. But we can change our attitude. If we make our attitude more positive, open and tolerant of other people, we can learn from diversity, create opportunities out of nothing, and draw people to us.

Become aware of your own attitude and how it slants your perceptions. Then, believe in its supreme power to alter your circumstances.

9. Confront Your Dark Side

Everyone has a shadow side. Become aware of your dark side so you can control and channel the creative energies that lurk in your unconscious. Once you bring your dark side into consciousness, it loses its destructive power.  There are four clear and practical steps for achieving this:

• See your Shadow.
• Embrace your Shadow.
• Explore your Shadow.
• Show your Shadow.

10. Beware the Fragile Ego

We are naturally compelled to compare ourselves to one another. Develop your sense of self-worth from internal standards and not incessant comparisons.

Envy motivates many people’s actions, but we often deny it because envy entails the admission to ourselves that we are inferior to a person in something we value. Envy is more common among people in your own profession. Everyone feels envy, so we must aspire to transform our comparing inclination into something positive, productive and prosocial. Here are five exercises that will help:

• Move closer to what you envy.
• Engage in downward comparisons.
• Practice Mitfreude, or “joying with.”
• Transmute envy into emulation.
• Admire human greatness.

11. Know Your Limits

We have a deep need to think highly of ourselves, but we should beware of grandiosity. Counteract the pull 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. There are five principles that will help you attain the high level of fulfilment from reality instead of grandiosity:

• Come to terms with your grandiose needs.
• Concentrate the energy.
• Maintain a dialogue with reality.
• Seek out calibrated challenges.
• Let loose your grandiose energy.

12. Reconnect to the Masculine or Feminine Within You

All of us have masculine and feminine qualities, but society often forces us to repress these qualities. Bring out the masculine or feminine undertone of your character. Do not play the expected gender role, but instead create the one that suits you. By relating more to the natural feminine or masculine parts within you, you will unleash energy that has been repressed; your mind will recover its natural fluidity; you will understand and relate better to those of the opposite sex; and you will feel secure in who you are.

13. Advance with a Sense of Purpose

If you develop a sense of purpose, you can use such knowledge to guide you in your decisions. If you find your “life’s work,” you will have greater clarity and wholeness. Every human is unique. When we connect to and cultivate this uniqueness, we can find a path to follow to guide us through life. There are five strategies to help you develop a high sense of purpose:

• Discover your calling in life.
• Use resistance and negative spurs.
• Absorb purposeful energy.
• Create a ladder of descending goals.
• Lose yourself in the work.

14. Resist the Downward Pull of the Group

In a group setting, we unconsciously imitate what others are saying and doing. To combat losing our sense of uniqueness, we must develop self-awareness and a superior understanding of the changes that occur in groups. Being in a dysfunctional group can actually make individuals unstable and neurotic. On the flip side, participating in a high-functioning reality group can make individuals healthy and whole. Create as many healthy groups as possible.

15. Make Them Want to Follow You

People want to be led but they also want to feel free. Authority is the delicate art of creating the appearance of power, legitimacy and fairness while getting people to identify with you as a leader. If you want to lead, you must master this art. Once you gain people’s trust, they will stand by you as their leader. Strive for excellence and make something that will resonate with the public. Become truly independent and you can lead others with confidence.

16. See the Hostility Behind the Friendly Façade

On the surface, people appear friendly and polite. But they are all inevitably dealing with frustrations. Learn to recognize the signs so you can avoid them. Often people turn to passive aggression, which is a weapon for them to gain control. You can defend yourself against their strategies by calmly calling attention to what they are doing or by distancing yourself.

17. Seize the Historical Moment

Each generation is deeply unique. Your generation defines who you are – it forms your tastes, values and ways of thinking. Understand this powerful influence and free your mind of the mental constraints placed on you by your generation. Create a personality profile of your generation so you can understand its spirit. Pay attention to heroes and icons, large events and crises, and technological innovations.

18. Meditate on Our Common Mortality

Most of us spend our lives avoiding the thought of death. Instead, we should continually think about the inevitability of death, as it will fill us with a sense of purpose and urgency to realize our goals. If we train ourselves to confront and accept this reality, it will be easier to manage the inevitable setbacks, separations, and crises in life.

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