The Third Law

Chapter 3 busts the myth that common sense and reason are the best methods for selling an idea. A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that good ideas will people over, but this is not always true. If you have a good, rational idea, someone else might oppose it for any number of reasons. Maybe they fear change or don’t want you to succeed. Our book describes all kinds of ways that self-interest wins over logic and what to do about it.

Let’s bust some myths associated with prioritizing rational and logical thinking!
   False: Good ideas win, regardless of bad attitudes
Certain personality types are prone to opposing rational thinking when they believe that it is not in their interests: the pessimists (“it will fail anyhow”), contrarians (“I am right, not you”), passive-aggressive (“I will pretend to agree with you, but resent it and make you pay”), and so forth. When these kinds of personalities hold enough influence they create a social climate of opposition that can sabotage good ideas and actions.
   False: The best arguments and explanations are ultimately convincing
Even if you “prove” a point or make a compelling case for something, do not expect others to necessarily agree with you. Some individuals have concealed agendas that they consider much more important that sound reasoning and logical ideas.
   False: People willingly accept hardship for the common good
What is good for all is opposed by the few. Sure, sometimes people are willing to make small sacrifices for the common good, but larger sacrifices are usually met with resistance. Do not expect them to be impressed by “big picture” goals when individual self-interests are at stake.
   False: Rational ideas speak for themselves
It is sometimes a mistake to think things like, “People will appreciate my good ideas, regardless of whether they like me.” Many people judge the message by the messenger.
   False: Good reasons carry more weight than emotions
The process of making decisions almost always involves two things: emotion and cognition. If we only appeal to one of these things we are less likely to convince others of good ideas.
   Ignoring political implications
Just because an idea is rational does not mean it is politically expedient. If you push a good idea that is politically problematic, you will be perceived as an irritant by self-interested others who will find ways to oppose your efforts and perhaps you personally.
~ Phil Eager, L.M.H.C.

The Second Law

Let’s take a social inventory. What kind of challenging people have you encountered? The narcissistic, passive-aggressive, hyper-critical, pretentious, or dramatic, among others? A big slice of these personalities are “unwinnable” because they are unempathetic, manipulative, and virtually incapable of change. Some are skilled at targeting our vulnerabilities in order to pursue their own pleasures and desires, regardless of harm. Make a decision to stop trying to win over the unwinnable! Now is the time for individuals of integrity to start winning!

What makes us vulnerable?

We assume that most people are well-intentioned until proven otherwise.
This assumption is often wrong. Many people disguise their selfish intentions but outwardly appear to play by the rules of society. People rarely disclose socially unacceptable motivations such as greed, arrogance, fear or prejudice.
We assume that disagreements can be worked out
Most people try to be rational and willing to compromise. Unfortunately, hidden agendas motivate some people to prefer winning at all costs over compromise.
We put effort into keeping our word and expect the same
When honest and dishonest persons interact, the honest person can be at a disadvantage. Deception is sometimes difficult to detect and not realized until after damage has been done.
We reciprocate based on fairness
Returning favors, cooperation, and other social obligations are based on expectations for reciprocity. A deceptive person might act reciprocally at first, only to later act selfishly.
We are capable of empathy
The ability to sense what someone else is feeling and imagine what that is like is required for compassion and concern.
We tend to be prosocial
Moral individuals tend to consider the good of all, respect authority, and follow rules. They want to be liked and respected. Selfish individuals outwardly adhere to prosocial values when convenient, but opportunistically act selfishly at the expense of others.
We tend to be idealistic
An idealistic person is prone to seeing gaps between how the world is and how it should be. An exploitative person will prey upon the hopes and dreams of an idealistic person.

Checking these vulnerabilities is not enough. We need proactive tactics and skills to help us engage conflict and optimize success – with integrity. This can be very difficult because others do not always play fair. Our book, Modern Machiavelli, teaches you how to do it.

What is the First Law about and what does it mean?


From childhood, we are taught that life is like a two-way street where we can expect that our displays of niceness, fairness, favors, hard work, and respect will usually help us get along with others and contribute to social success. As adults, we become a little more skeptical and cautious. We know that not everyone plays by the rules. But if we are so cautious, why do we still get burned, disappointed or blind-sided when someone acts selfishly at our expense?

It happens at work, in social groups and within intimate relationships every day – people pursue selfish interests at the expense of others. Suddenly we discover that we have been interacting with a someone person who does not reciprocate our honesty, loyalty, empathy or generosity.

But what makes us vulnerable? Let’s get rid of some self-sabotaging hang-ups…

FALSE: It is selfish to prioritize your own self-interests.
TRUE: Self-interest is NOT selfishness. Getting our needs and wants met is not selfish unless we harm others in the process.  

FALSE: If you’re a “good person” you must give and help others without thinking about your own self-interests.
TRUE: You are a “person” too. In fact, ensuring your own financial, emotional and relational needs are met can ultimately benefit the ones you love. 

MYTH: Success results from reciprocity. If I am honest, loyal, generous and hard-working, I will be appreciated and acknowledged in some way.
TRUE: Sometimes this is correct, but but selfish individuals will prioritize their own needs and hidden agendas over your goodwill and hard word.

Correcting these hang-ups is not enough. We need proactive tactics and skills to help us engage conflict and optimize success – with integrity. This can be very difficult because others do not always play fair. Our book, Modern Machiavelli, teaches you how to do it. 

~ Dr. Bruner