Law 20: Do Not Commit to Anyone

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It is the fool who always rushes to take sides. Do not commit to any side or cause but yourself. By maintaining your independence, you become the master of others— playing people against one another, making them pursue you.

Do Not Commit To Anyone but Be Courted By All

If you allow people to feel they possess you to any degree, you lose all power over them. By not committing your affections, they will only try harder to win you over. Stay aloof and you gain the power that comes from their attention and frustrated desire. Play the Virgin Queen: Give them hope but never satisfaction.

The Aura of Power That Grows With Time

You must learn the tricks that will enhance your image. Emanate mystery and desirability, never discouraging anyone’s hopes but never yielding. When you hold yourself back, you incur not anger but a kind of respect. You instantly seem powerful because you make yourself un-graspable, rather than succumbing to the group, or to the relationship, as most people do. As your reputation for independence grows, more and more people will come to desire you, wanting to be the one who gets you to commit. The moment you commit, the magic is gone. You become like everyone else. People will try all kinds of underhanded methods to get you to commit.

· They will give you gifts; shower you with favors, all to put you under obligation.
· Accept the gifts and favors if you so desire, but be careful to maintain your inner aloofness.

You cannot inadvertently allow yourself to feel obligated to anyone. Encourage the attention, stimulate their interest, but do not commit at any cost. The goal is not to put people off, or to make it seem that you are incapable of commitment. You have to bend to their attention occasionally, then—but never too far. Desire is like a virus: If we see that someone is desired by other people, we tend to find this person desirable too. Like the Virgin Queen, you need to stir the pot, excite interest, and lure people with the possibility of having you.

Do Not Commit To Anyone-Stay Above the Fray

Do not let people drag you into their petty fights and squabbles. Seem interested and supportive, but find a way to remain neutral; let others do the fighting while you stand back, watch and wait. When the fighting parties are good and tired they will be ripe for the picking. You can make it a practice, in fact, to stir up quarrels between other people, and then offer to mediate, gaining power as the go-between.

Master Your Emotions: It’s Key

Do not allow whatever compassion and pity you possess to suck you in. You must seem interested in other people’s problems; even sometimes appear to take their side. You must maintain your inner energy and sanity by keeping your emotions disengaged. Never let your interest in their affairs and petty squabbles go beyond the surface. Give them gifts, listen with a sympathetic look, even occasionally play the charmer—but inwardly keep them all at arm’s length. By refusing to commit and thus maintaining your autonomy you retain the initiative. Your moves stay a matter of your own choosing, not defensive reactions to the push-and-pull of those around you.

CAUTION

Both parts of this law will turn against you if you take it too far. The game proposed here is delicate and difficult. If you play too many parties against one another, they will see through the maneuver and will gang up on you. If you keep your growing number of suitors waiting too long, you will inspire not desire but distrust. People will start to lose interest. Eventually you may find it worthwhile to commit to one side—if only for appearances’ sake, to prove you are capable of attachment.

Even men, however, the key will be to maintain your inner independence—to keep yourself from getting emotionally involved. Preserve the unspoken option of being able to leave at any moment and reclaim your freedom if the side you are allied with starts to collapse. The friends you made while you were being courted will give you plenty of places to go once you jump ship.

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