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Moral Critique of Law #16: The 48 Laws of Power

Updated on July 30, 2013

Author Robert Greene discusses "The 48 Laws of Power"

I read the book The 48 Laws of Power out of a curiosity and a hunger for something greater for myself. What I found was a book that could be seen as ruthless and manipulative in it's principles. I have decided to write a series of critiques of each of the laws. I will discuss the good and the bad of the law as well as a key that I've found to upholding the law without losing your morality.

I will now dissect Law #16.

Law #16. Use absence to increase respect and honor.

"Too much circulation makes the price go down: The more you are seen and heard from, the more common you appear. If you are already established in a group, temporary withdrawal from it will make you more talked about, even more admired. You must learn when to leave. Create value through scarcity."

-Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power

The Good

They say "absence makes the heart grow fonder"...and they're right! As Robert Greene points out in his book, there is a such thing as too much of a good thing. Often times we can get so used to a person that we start to take them for granted. We lose respect for the familiar. Think about it this way, most people love cake and ice cream. Not necessarily because it's yummy (even though it is), but also because you only get it on special occasions.

Think of what it would do for your prestige if you were only available on special occasions! What if you had a friend who you hardly ever encountered, but every time you saw her she gave you a great big hug and bought you a cup of coffee? You would think she was awesome, wouldn't you?

What if you were that person? What if you weren't always the one "in the mix", but whenever you showed up, you brought a long something of value to the people around you?

Robert Greene gives the example of relationships. He tells the true story of a man who was trying to woo a woman. When she began to tire of him, he picked a fight with her and disappeared for an extended period. She went mad with desire for him and begged him to take her back.

Here's an example many of us can relate to. Who do you think the people at work will respect more?

a. The brown-nosing employee who is always kissing up to the boss and everyone around her with cookies and gossip, or

b. The reserved employee who works hard, only socializes when necessary (eg. during office parties and happy hour, and only minimally), is thoughtful and gets the job done?

I think we can all agree that Mr. "B" would be well-respected and admired.

The Bad

It may seem like there is no down side to this law, but there definitely is. Remember how I said that too much of a good thing can become a bad thing? Well, there is a fine line between being tactfully absent and being chronically negligent.

Often time kids can idolize the child-support dad in the early days, because he shows up on birthdays and holidays with presents, trips and special treats. But after a while this adoration can turn into resentment. Especially after a pattern is noticed. The child may begin to wonder why he isn't there more often and then conclude that he doesn't care enough.

You run the same risk if you're not careful when following this law. This law can be very tricky when you're in an intimate relationship. Not just tactfully, but also morally. A spouse may choose to observe this law by not coming directly home after work to avoid their significant other in hopes that this will increase respect. Or perhaps even taking long business trips or separate vacations.

While this may increase the power you have over your spouse in the sense that they will long for you, it may also lead to resentment down the line if this law is over-used.

The Key

The key to observing this law and not selling your soul, is to make the moments that you're present count. Be someone who adds value to those around you. When you're absent (or even just silent), let it be because there is nothing positive that needs to be said or done; not because you are trying to be passive aggressive. Being overly aggressive with flattery and gossip in order to make friends can be annoying, but so is being taciturn and inconsiderate. FIND THE BALANCE! If you feel you have been quiet or absent too long, make sure your next appearance is made baring gifts (a smile, a hug, a cup of coffee, etc.)

Don't always be there, but be a pleasure when you are!

Did you read The 48 Laws of Power? What did you think about Law #16?

You can probably get this book on for less than $15 or bid on it on eBay, but read it with a compassionate heart and watch the Laws of Power work magic in your business, relationship and life! Then, join the conversation in the comment box below!


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    • NiaLee profile image


      7 years ago from BIG APPLE

      This principle is interesting and comes back to a Muslim Hadith that says; "Make yourself rare enough that your friend may miss you".

      I apply it to presence as much as to words.


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