Preserve Your Autonomy: Never Rush To Take Sides

It is only the fool who always rushes to take sides. Do not commit to any side or cause but yourself

“If you allow people to feel they possess you to any degree, you lose all power on them. 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.”

Since success and power depends greatly on appearances, you have to learn to enhance your image and consistently maintain and enhance it. Refusing to commit to a person or group is one way to do it. When you hold yourself back, you incur some kind of respect. You instantly seem powerful because you make yourself ungraspable. This aura of power only grows with time. 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. Desire is like a virus: If we see that someone is desired by people, we tend to find this person desirable. The moment you commit, the magic is gone; you become like everyone else. Encourage the attention, stimulate people’s interest, but never commit. Never allow yourself to inadvertently allow yourself to feel obligated to anyone.

The goal is not to put people off, or to make it seem that you are incapable of commitment. The goal is to lure people with the possibility of having you. Stir the pot, excite interest, but never go to far. If you aspire to success, power and influence, put yourself in the middle between competing powers. Lure one side with the promise of your help and, the other side, always wanting to outdo its opponents, adversaries and enemies, will pursue you as well. As each side vies for your attention, you will immediately seem a person of great influence and desirability. To perfect this strategy, you need yourself inwardly free from emotional entanglements, and to view all those around you as your pawns in your rise to the top. Never allow yourself to become the lackey for any cause. People who rush to the support of others tend to gain little respect in the process, for their help is so easily obtained. Those who stand back find themselves besieged with supplicants. Their aloofness is powerful, and everyone wants them on their side.

“Do not commit yourself to anybody or anything, for that is to be a slave to every man.”

Once you step into a fight, that is not one of your choosing, you lose all initiative. The combatants’ interests become your interests and you become their tools. Control yourself, restrain your natural tendency to take sides and join the fight. Be friendly and charming to each of the combatants, then, step back as they collide. With every battle, they will only grow weaker while you will be growing stronger with every battle you avoid and will have avoided.

To succeed in the game of life, in the infinite game of life, in the infinite game of success, power and influence, you have to master your emotions. But even with such self-control, you can never control the temperamental dispositions of those around you. Most people operate in a whirlpool of emotions, constantly reacting, churning up squabbles and conflicts. Your self-control and autonomy only bother and infuriate them. They try to draw you into their whirlpool of emotions, begging you to take sides in their endless battles, or to make peace for them. If you succumb to their emotional entreaties, little by little, you will find your mind and time occupied by their problems. Never allow whatever compassion and pity you may have to suck you in in such situations. You would never win at this game; the conflicts can only multiply.

On the other hand, you cannot completely stand aside, for what would cause needless offense. To play the game of life, the infinite game of life, the infinite game of success power and influence properly, you must seem interested in other’s people problems and conflicts, even sometimes, depending and according to circumstances, appear to take their side. In such situations, while making outward gestures of support, you must make sure to maintain your inner energy and sanity by keeping your emotions disengaged. No matter how hard people try to pull you in, never let your interest in their affairs and petty squabbles go beyond the surface. By refusing to commit and thus maintaining your autonomy, you retain the initiative of the game. Your moves stay matters of your own choosing, not defensive reactions to the push-and-pull of those around you. Slowness to pick up your weapons can be a weapon itself, especially if you let other people exhaust themselves fighting and then, take advantage of their exhaustion.

Holding back from the fray allows you time to position yourself to take advantage of the situation once one side stars to lose. You can also take the game a step further, by promising your support to both sides in a conflict while maneuvering so that the one to cone out ahead in the struggle is you. Preserving your autonomy gives you option when people comes to blow; you can play the mediator, broker the peace, while really securing your own interests. You can pledge support to one side and the other may have to court you with a higher bid. Or, you can appear to take both sides, then play the antagonists against each other.

Oftentimes, when a conflict breaks out, you are tempted to side with the stronger party, or the one who offers you apparent advantages in an alliance. This is risky business. First, it is often difficult to foresee which side will prevail in the long run. Even if you guess it right and ally yourself with the stronger party, you may find yourself swallowed up and lost, or conveniently forgotten, when they become victors. Side with the weaker, on the other hand, and you are doomed. Play a waiting game and you cannot lose. You will never lose.

Only fools rush into a situation. By committing too quickly, you lose your manoeuverability and also lose respect. Since you gave yourself so fast and so easily, thinking that tomorrow you may commit to another side or different cause, people distrust you and respect you less. Early commitment to one side or a cause deprives you of the advantage of time and the luxury of waiting. Let others fall for one group or that; for your part, do not rush in, do not lose your head, control yourself.

Also, there are occasions and circumstances when it is wisest to drop all pretence of appearing supportive and instead to trumpet your independence and self-reliance. This is particularly important when you need to gain respect. You have only so much energy and so much time. Every moment wasted on the affairs of others subtracts from your strength. You may be afraid that people will condemn you as heartless, but in the end, maintaining your independence and self-reliance will gain you more respect and place you in a position of power from which you can choose to help others on your own initiative.

The game, the non-commitment strategy proposed here shall never be pushed too far. It may turn against you if you take it too far. If you play too many parties against one another, they will see through your maneuver and gang up on you. If you keep your growing number of suitors waiting too long, you will end up inspiring distrust rather than desire. People will start to lose interest. Eventually, only for the sake of safeguarding appearances, you may find it worthwhile to commit to one side.

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

Michel Ouellette JMD

J. Michael Dennis, ll.l., ll.m.  


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