how to control your options and let others play with your cards

 From early in his reign, Ivan IV, later known as Ivan the Terrible, had to
confront an unpleasant reality: The country desperately needed reform,
but he lacked the power to push it through. The greatest limit to his authority came from the boyars, the Russian princely dass that dominated the
country and terrorized the peasantry.
In 1553, at the age of twenty-three, Ivan fell ill. Lying in bed, nearing
death, he asked the boyars to swear allegiance to his son as the new czar.
Some hesitated, some even refused. Then and there Ivan saw he had no
power over the boyars. He recovered from his illness, but he never forgot
the lesson: The boyars were out to destroy hirn. And indeed in the years to
corne, many of the most powerful of them defected to Russia's main enemies, 

Poland and Lithuania, where they plotted their return and the overthrow of the czar. Even one of Ivan's dosest friends, Prince Andrey
Kurbski, suddenly turned against hirn, defecting to Lithuania in 1564, and
becoming the strongest of Ivan's enemies.
When Kurbski began raising troops for an invasion, the royal dynasty
seerned suddenly more precarious than ever. With emigre nobles fomenting invasion from the west, Tartars bearing down from the east, and the boyars stirring up trouble within the country, Russia's vast size made it a
nightmare to defend. In whatever direction Ivan struck, he would leave
hirnself vulnerable on the other side. Only if he had absolute power could
he deal with this many-headed Hydra. And he had no such power.
Ivan brooded until the morning of December 3, 1564,

 when the citizens of Moscow awoke to a strange sight. Hundreds of sleds filled the
square before the Kremlin, loaded with the czar's treasures and with provisions for the entire court. They watched in disbelief as the czar and his
court boarded the sleds and left town. Without explaining why, he established hirnself in a village south of Moscow. For an entire month a kind of
terror gripped the capital, for the Muscovites feared that Ivan had abandoned them to the bloodthirsty boyars. Shops closed up and riotous mobs
gathered daily. Finally, on January 3 of 1565, a letter arrived from the czar,
explaining that he could no longer bear the boyars' betrayals and had decided to abdicate once and for all.
Read aloud in public, the letter had a startling effect: Merchants and
commoners blamed the boyars for Ivan's decision, and took to the streets,
terrifying the nobility with their fury. Soon a group of delegates representing the church, the princes, and the people made the joumey to Ivan's village, and begged the czar, in the name of the holy land of Russia, to return
to the throne. Ivan listened but would not change his mind. After days of
hearing their pleas, however, he offered his subjects a choice: Either they
grant hirn absolute powers to govern as he pleased, with no interference
frorn the boyars, or they find a new leader.
Faced with a choice between civil war and the acceptance of despotie
power, almost every sector of Russian society "opted" for a strong czar,
calling for Ivan's return to Moscow and the restoration of law and order. In
The German Chancellor Bismarck. enraged
at the constant criticisms from Rudolf
Virchow (the German
pathologist ami liberal
politician), had his
seconds call upon the
scientist to chal/enge
him to a duel. "As the
challenged party, I have
the choice of weapons, "
said Virchow, "and I
choose these. " He held
aloft two large and
apparently identical
sausages. "One of
these, " he went on, "is
infected with deadly
germs; the other is
perfectly sound. Let
His Excellency decide
which one he wishes to
eat. and I will eat the
other. " Almost immediately the message came
back that the chancellor had decided to
cancel the duel.
1 985
LAW 31 255
'('HE LlAR
Once upon a time there
was a king of Armenia,
who, being of a curious
turn of mind and in
need ofsome new
diversion, sent his
heralds throughout the
land to make
the following
"Hear this! Whatever
man among you can
prove himself the most
outrageous liar in
Armenia shall receive
an apple made of pure
gold from the hands of
His Majesty the King!"
People began to swarm
to the palace fram
every town and hamlet
in the country, people
of al! ranks and
conditions, princes,
merchant�; farmers,
priests, rich and poor,
tall and short, fat and
thin. There was no lack
of liars in the land, and
each one told his tale to
the king. A ruler,
however, has heard
practically every sort of
lie, and none of those
now told him
convinced the king that
he had listened to the
best of them.
The king was beginning to grow tired of
his new sport and was
thinking of calling the
whole contest off without declaring a winner,
when there appeared
before him a poor,
ragged man, carrying a
large earthenware
pitcher under his arm.
"What can I do for
you?" asked His
"Sire!" said the poor
man, slightly bewil256 LAW 31
February, with much celebration, Ivan returned to Moscow. The Russians
could no longer complain if he behaved dictatorially-they had given hirn
this power themselves.

Ivan the Terrible faced a terrible dilemma: To give in to the boyars would
lead to certain destruction, but civil war would bring a different kind of
ruin. Even if Ivall came out of such a war on top, the country would be devastated and its divisions would be stronger than ever. His weapon of choice
in the past had been to make a bold, offensive move. Now, however, that
kind of move would turn against him-the more boldly he confronted his
enemies, the worse the reactions he would spark
The main weakness of a show of force is that it stirs up resentment and
eventually leads to a response that eats at your authority_ Ivan, immensely
creative in the use of power, saw clearly that the only path to the kind of
victory he wanted was a false withdrawal.

 He would not force the country
over to his position, he would give it "options": either his abdication, and
certain anarchy, or his accession to absolute power. To back up his move,
he made it clear that he preferred to abdicate: "Call my bluff," he said,
"and watch what happens." No one called his bluff. By withdrawing for just
a month, he showed the country a glimpse of the nightmares that would
follow his abdication-Tartar invasions, civil war, ruin. (All of these did
eventually come to pass after Ivan's death, in the infamous "Time of the
Withdrawal and disappearance are classic ways of controlling the options. You give people a sense ofhow things will fall apart without you, and
you offer them a "choice": I stay away and you suffer the consequences, or
I return under circumstances that I dictate. In this method of controlling
people's options, they choose the option that gives you power because the
alternative is just too unpleasant. You force their hand, but indirectly:

seem to have a choice. Whenever people feel they have a choice, they walk
into your trap that much more easily.
As a seventeenth-century French courtesan, Ninon de Lenclos found that
her life had certain pleasures. Her lovers came from royalty and aristocracy, and they paid her well, entertained her with their wit and intellect,
satisfied her rather demanding sensual needs, and treated her almost as an
equal. Such a life was infinitely preferable to marriage. In 1643, however,
Ninon's mother died suddenly, leaving her, at the age of twenty-three, totally alone in the world-no family, no dowry, nothing to fall back upon. A
kind of panic overtook her and she entered a convent, turning her back on
her illustrious lovers. 

A year later she left the convent and moved to Lyons.
When she finally reappeared in Paris, in 1648, lovers and suitors flocked to
her dOOf in greater numbers than ever before, for she was the wittiest and
most spirited courtesan of the time and her presence had been greatly
Ninon's foHowers quickly discovered, however, that she had changed
her old way of doing things, and had set up a new system of options. The
dukes, seigneurs, and princes who wanted to pay for her services could
continue to do so, but they were no longer in control-she would sleep
with them when she wanted, according to her whim. All their money
bought them was a possibility. If it was her pleasure to sleep with them only
onee a month, so be it.
Those who did not want to be what Ninon called a payeur could join
the large and growing group of men she caHed her martyr.f-men who visited her apartment principally for her friendship, her biting wit, her luteplaying, and the company of the most vibrant minds of the period,
including Moliere, La Rochefoucauld, and Saint-Evremond. The martyrs,
too, however, entertained a possibility: She would regularly select from
them a favori, a man who would become her lover without having to pay,
and to whom she would abandon herself completely for as long as she so
desired-a week, a few months, rarely longer. A payeur could not become a
fovori, but a martyr had no guarantee of becoming one, and indeed could
remain disappointed for an entire lifetime. The poet Charleval, for exampIe, never enjoyed Ninon's favors, but never stopped coming to visit-he
did not want to do without her company.
As word of this system reached polite French society, Ninon became
the object of intense hostility. Her reversal of the position of the courtesan
scandalized the queen mother and her court. Much to their horror, however, it did not dis courage her male suitors-indeed it only increased their
numbers and intensified their desire. It became an honor to be a payeur,
helping Ninon to maintain her lifestyle and her glittering salon, accompanying her sometimes to the theater, and sleeping with her when she chose.
Even more distinguished were the martyrs, enjoying her company without
paying for it and maintaining the hope, however remote, of some day becoming her favori. That possibility spurred on many a young nobleman, as
word spread that none among the courtesans eould surpass Ninon in the
art of love. And so the married and the single, the old and the young, entered her web and chose one of the two options presented to them, both of
which amply satisfied her.

The life of the courtesan entailed the possibility of a power that was denied
a married woman, but it also had obvious perils. The man who paid for the
courtesan's services in essence owned her, determining when he could possess her and when, later on, he would abandon her. As she grew older, her
options narrowed, as fewer men chose her. To avoid a life of poverty she
had to amass her fortune while she was young. The courtesan's legendary
greed, then, reflected a practical necessity, yet also lessened her aHure,
sinee the illusion of being desired is important to men,

 who are often aliendered. "Surely you
remember? You owe
me a pot ofgold, and 1
have come to
collect it. "
" You are a perfeet har,
sir!" exclaimed the
king. "1 owe you no
"A perfect liar, am I? "
said the poor man.
"Then give me the
golden apple!"
The king, realizing that
the man was trying to
trick him, started to
"No, not You are not a
"Then give me the pot
of gold you owe me,
sire, " said the man.
The king saw the
dilemma. He handed
over the golden apple.
1 993
LAW 31 257
1. P Morgan Sr. once
told a jeweler oJ his
acquaintance that he
was interested in
huying a pearl scar!­
pin. fust a Jew weeks
later, the jeweler
happened upon a
magnificent pearl. He
had it mounted in an
appropriate setting and
sent if to Morgan,
together with a hili j(Jr
$5,000. The Jollowing
day fhe package was
returned. Morgan s
accompanying note
rea(i: "f like the pin,
hut f don't like the
priee. IJyoli will accept
the enc!osed check Jor
$4,O(}(), please send
hack the box with the
seal unbroken.

 " The
enraged jeweler refused
the check and dismissal the messenger
in disgust. He opened
up the box to reclaim
the unwanted pin, only
to find that it had been
renwved. fn its place
was a check Jor $5, ()(}().
1 985
258 LAW 31
ated if their partner is too interested in their money. As the courtesan aged,
then, she faced a most difficult fate.
Ninon de Lenclos had a horror of any kind of dependence. She early
on tasted a kind of equality with her lovers, and she would not settle into a
system that left her such distasteful options. Strangely enough, the system
she devised in its place seemed to satisfy her suitors as much as it did her.
The payeurs may have had to pay, but the fact that Ninon would only sleep
with them when she wanted to gave them a thrill unavailable with every
other courtesan: She was yielding out of her own desire. The martyrs
avoidance of the taint of having to pay gave them a sense of superiority; as
members of Ninon's fraternity of admirers, they also might some day experience the ultimate pleasure of being her favori. Finally, Ninon did not
force her suitors into either category. They could "choose" which side they
preferred-a freedom that left them a vestige of masculine pride.
Such is the power of giving people a choice, or rather the illusion of
one, for they are playing with cards you have dealt them. Where the alternatives set up by Ivan the Terrible involved a certain risk-one option
would have led to his losing his power-Ninon created a situation in which
every option redounded to her favor. From the payeurs she received the
money she needed to run her salon. And from the martyrs she gained the
ultimate in power: She could surround herself with a bevy of admirers, a
harem from which to choose her lovers.
The system, though, depended on one critical factor: the possibility,
however remote, that a martyr could become a favori. The illusion that
riches, glory, or sensual satisfaction may someday fall into your victim's lap
is an irresistible carrot to include in your list of choices. That hope, however slim, will make men accept the most ridiculous situations, because it
leaves them the all-important option of a dream. The illusion of choice,
married to the possibility of future good fortune, will lure the most stubborn sucker into your glittering web.
Words like "freedom," "options," and "choice" evoke a power of possibility
far beyond the reality of the benefits they entail. When examined closely,
the choices we have-in the marketplace, in elections, in our jobs-tend to
have noticeable limitations: They are often a matter of a choice simply between A and B, with the rest of the alphabet out of the pieture. Yet as long
as the faintest mirage of choice flickers on, we rarely focus on the missing
options. We "choose" to believe that the game is fair, and that we have our
freedom. We prefer not to think too much about the depth of our liberty to
This unwillingness to probe the smallness of our choices sterns from
the fact that too much freedom creates a kind of anxiety. The phrase "unlimited options" sounds infinitely promising, but unlimited options would
actually paralyze us and cloud our ability to choose. Our limited range of
choices comforts uso
This supplies the clever and cunning with enormous opportunities for
deception. For people who are choosing between alternatives find it hard
to believe they are being manipulated or deceived; they cannot see that
you are allowing them a small amount of free will in exchange for a much
more powerful imposition of your own will. Setting up a narrow range of
choices, then, should always be a part of your deceptions. There is a saying: If you can get the bird to walk into the cage on its own, it will sing that
much more prettily.
The following are among the most common forms of "controlling the
Color the Choices. This was a favored technique of Henry Kissinger. 

President Richard Nixon's secretary of state, Kissinger considered hirnself
better informed than his boss, and believed that in most situations he could
make the best decision on his own. But if he tried to determine policy, he
would offend or perhaps enrage a notoriously insecure man. So Kissinger
would propose three or four choices of action for each situation, and would
present them in such a way that the one he preferred always seemed the
best solution compared to the others. Time after time, Nixon fell for the
bait, never suspecting that he was moving where Kissinger pushed hirn.
This is an excellent device to use on the insecure master.
Force the Resister. One of the main problems faced by Dr. Milton H. Erickson, a pioneer of hypnosis therapy in the 1950s, was the relapse. His patients might seem to be recovering rapidly, but their apparent susceptibility
to the therapy masked a deep resistance: They would soon relapse into old
habits, blame the doctor, and stop coming to see hirn. To avoid this, Erickson began ordering some patients to have a relapse, 

to make themselves feel
as bad as when they first came in-to go back to square one. Faced with
this option, the patients would usually "choose" to avoid the relapsewhich, of course, was what Erickson really wanted.
This is a good technique to use on children and other willful people
who enjoy doing the opposite of what you ask them to: Push them to
"choose" what you want them to do by appearing to advocate the opposite.
Alter the Playing Field. In the 1860s, John D. Rockefeller set out to create an oil monopoly. If he tried to buy up the smaller oil companies they
would figure out what he was doing and fight back. Instead, he began secretly buying up the railway companies that transported the oil. When he
then attempted to take over a particular company, and met with resistance,
he reminded them of their dependence on the rails. Refusing them shipping, or simply raising their fees, could ruin their business. Rockefeller altered the playing field so that the only options the small oil producers had
were the ones he gave them.
In this tactic your opponents know their hand is being forced, but it
doesn't matter. The technique is effective against those who resist at all
LAW 31 259
260 LAW 31
The Shrinking Options. The late-nineteenth-century art dealer Ambroise Vollard perfected this technique.
Customers would come to Vollard's shop to see some Cezannes. He
would show three paintings, neglect to mention a price, and pretend to
doze off. The visitors would have to leave without deciding. They would
usually come back the next day to see the paintings again, but this time
Vollard would pull out less interesting works, pretending he thought they
were the same ones. The baffled customers would look at the new offerings, leave to think them over, and return yet again. Once again the same
thing would happen: Vollard would show paintings of lesser quality still. Finally the buyers would realize they had better grab what he was showing
them, because tomorrow they would have to settle far something worse,
perhaps at even higher prices.
A variation on this technique is to raise the price every time the buyer
hesitates and another day goes by. This is an excellent negotiating ploy to
use on the chronically indecisive, who will fall for the idea that they are getting a better deal today than if they wait till tomorrow.
The Weak Man on the Precipice. The weak are the easiest to maneuver
by controlling their options. Cardinal de Retz, the great seventeenth-century provocateur, served as an unofficial assistant to the Duke of Orleans,
who was notoriously indecisive. It was a constant struggle to convince the
duke to take action-he would hem and haw, weigh the options, and wait
till the last moment, giving everyone around hirn an ulcer. But Retz discovered a way to handle hirn: He would describe all sorts of dangers, exaggerating them as much as possible, until the duke saw a yawning abyss in
every direction except one: the one Retz was pushing hirn to take.
This tactic is similar to "Color the Choices," but with the weak you
have to be more aggressive. Work on their emotions-use fear and terror
to propel them into action. Try reason and they will always find a way to
Brothers in Crime. This is a classic con-artist technique: You attract YOUf
victims to same criminal scheme, creating a bond of blood and guilt between you. They participate in your deception, commit a crime (or think
they do-see the story of Sam Geezil in Law 3), and are easily manipulated. Serge Stavisky, the great French con artist of the 1920s, so entangled
the government in his scams and swindles that the state did not dare to
prosecute hirn, and "chose" to leave hirn alone. It is often wise to implicate
in your deceptions the very person who can do you the most harm if you
fail. Their involvement can be subtle--even a hint of their involvement
will narrow their options and buy their silence.
The Horns of a Dilemma. This idea was demonstrated by General
William Sherman's infamous march through Georgia during the American
Civil War. Although the Confederates knew what direction Sherman was
heading in, they never knew if he would attack from the left or the right, for
he divided his army into two wings---and if the rebels retreated from one
wing they found themselves facing the other. This is a classic trial lawyer's
technique: The lawyer leads the witnesses to decide between two possible
explanations of an event, both of which poke a hole in their story. They
have to answer the lawyer's questions, but whatever they say they hurt
themselves. The key to this move is to strike quickly: Deny the victim the
time to think of an escape. As they wriggle between the horns of the
dilemma, they dig their own grave.
Understand: In your struggles with your rivals, it will often be necessary
for you to hurt them. And if you are clearly the agent of their punishment,
expect a counterattack-expect revenge. If, however, they seem to themselves to be the agents of their own misfortune, they will submit quietly.
When Ivan left Moscow for his rural village, the citizens asking hirn to return agreed to his demand for absolute power. Over the years to come,
they resented hirn less for the terror he unleashed on the country, because,
after all, they had granted hirn his power themselves. This is why it is always good to allow your victims their choice of poison, and to cloak your
involvement in providing it to them as far as possible.

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