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Always Say Less Than Necessary

When you are trying to impress people with words, the more you say, the more common you appear, and the less in control. Even if you are saying something banal, it will sem original if you make it vague, open-ended, and sphinxlike. Powerful people impress and intimidate by saying less. The more you say, the more likely you are to say something foolish.

Power is in many ways a game of appearances, and when you say less than necessary, you inevitably appear greater and more powerful than you are. Your silence will make other people uncomfortable. Humans are machines of interpretation and explanation: they need to know what you are thinking. When you carefully control what you reveal, they can not pierce your intentions or your meaning.

Down on his luck, the screenwriter Michael Arlen went to New York in 1944. To drown his sorrows in drink, he paid a visit to the famous restaurant, "21." In the lobby, he ran into Sam Goldwyn, who offered the somewhat impractical advice that he should buy racehorses. At the bar, Arlen met Louis B. Mayer, who asked him what were his plans for the future. "I was just talking to Sam Goldwyn..." began Arlen. "How much did he offer you?" interrupted Mayer. "Not enough," he replied evasively. "Would you take fifteen thousand for thirty weeks?" asked Mayer. No hesitation this time. "Yes," said Arlen.

Your short answers and silences will put them on the defensive, and they will jump in, nervously filling the silence with all kinds of comments, which will reveal valuable information about them and their weaknesses. They will leave a meeting with you feeling as if they had been robbed, and they will go home and ponder your every word. This extra attention to your brief comments will only add to your power.

As a young man, the artist Andy Warhol had the revelation that it was generally impossible to get people to do what you want them to do by talking to them. They would turn against you, subvert your wishes, disobey you out of sheer perversity. He once told a friend, "I learned that you actually have more power, when you shut up."

In his later life, Warhol employed this strategy with great success. His interviews were exercises in oracular speech. He would say something vague and ambiguous, and the interviewer would twist in circles trying to figure it out, imagining that there was something profound behind his often meaningless phrases. Warhol rarely talked about his work; he let others do the interpreting. The less he said about his work, the more people talked about it. And, the more they talked, the more valuable his work became.

Oysters open completely when the moon is full; and when the crab sees one, it throws a piece of stone or seaweed into it and the oyster can not close again, so that it serves as the crab's source of meat. Such is the fate of him, who opens his mouth too much and thereby puts himself at the mercy of the listener. - Leanardo Da Vinci, 1452-1519

By saying less than necessary, you create the appearance of meaning and power. Also, the less you say, the less you run the risk of saying something foolish, or dangerous. In 1825, a new czar, Nicholas 1, ascended the throne of Russia. A rebellion immediately broke out, led by liberals, who were demanding that the country modernize - that its industries and civil structure catch up with the rest of Europe. rutally crushing this rebellion ( the Decemberist Uprising) Nicholas 1 sentenced one of its leaders, Kondraty Ryleyev, to death. On the day of the execution, Ryleyev stood on the gallows, with the noose around his neck. The trapdoor opened - but as Ryleyev fell, the rope broke, dashing him to the ground. at the time, events like this were considered signs of providential or heavenly will, and a man saved from execution was usually pardoned. As Ryleyev got to his feet, bruised and dirtied but believing his neck had been saved, he cried out to the crowd, "You see, in Russia, they don't know how to do anything properly, not even how to make a rope!"

When visitors consulted the Oracle at Delphi, the priestess would utter a few enigmatic words that seemed full of meaning and import. No one disobeyed the words of the Oracle - they had power over life and death.

A messenger immediately went to the Winter Palace with news of the failed hanging. Vexed by this disappointing turn of events, Nicholas 1 began to sign the pardon. But then, he asked, "Did Ryleyev say anything after this miracle?" "Sire," the messenger replied, "he said that in Russia, they don't even know how to make a rope."

"In that case," said the Czar, "let us prove the contrary," and tore up the pardon. The next day Ryleyev was hanged again. This time the rope did not break.

Never start moving your lips and teeth before the subordinates do. The longer I keep quiet, the sooner others move their lips and teeth. As they move their lips and teeth, I can understand their real intentions... If the sovereign is not mysterious, the ministers will find opportunity to take and take. - Han Fei Tzu, 300B.C.
Learn the lesson: Once the words are out, you can not take them back. keep them under control. be particularly careful with sarcasm: The momentary satisfaction you gain with your biting words will be outweighed by the price you will pay.

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