Law 16: Use Absence To Increase Respect & Honor: The 48 Laws Of Power
“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.”
Though this law is lengthy I would highly recommend making time to read the entire piece. It is one of the most valuable laws that is filled with a plethora of practical philosophies.
Transgression & Observance
Note: The following story depicts many characters that can get confusing to follow. I added the the bellow name list to help with that. This story is directly taken from the book because I did not want to confuse any reader by paraphrasing it all as I did in the original video.
Sir Guillaume de Balaun = Protagonist.
Sir Pierre de Barjac = Balaun’s friend (falls in love with Viernetta).
Madame Guillelma de Javiac = the lady who Balaun falls in love with.
Viernetta = Second lady who Pierre falls in love with.
Javiac = Castle.
“Sir Guillaume de Balaun was a troubadour (a French medieval lyric poet) who roamed the South of France in the Middle Ages, going from castle to castle, reciting poetry, and playing the perfect knight. At the castle of Javiac he met and fell in love with the beautiful lady Madame Guillelma de Javiac. He sang her his songs, recited his poetry, played chess with her, and little by little she in turn fell in love with him. Guillaume had a friend, Sir Pierre de Barjac, who traveled with him and who was also received at the castle. And Pierre too fell in love with a lady in Javiac, the gracious but temperamental Viernetta.
One day Pierre and Viernetta had a violent quarrel. The lady dismissed him, and Pierre sought out his friend Guillaume to help heal the breach and get him back in her good graces. Guillaume was about to leave the castle for a while, but on his return, several weeks later, he worked his magic, and Pierre and the lady were reconciled. Pierre felt that his love had increased tenfold — that there was no stronger love, in fact, than the love that follows reconciliation. The stronger and longer the disagreement, he told Guillaume, the sweeter the feeling that comes with peace and rapprochement.
As a troubadour, Sir Guillaume prided himself on experiencing all the joys and sorrows of love. On hearing his friend’s talk, he too wanted know the bliss of reconciliation after a quarrel. He therefore feigned great anger with Lady Guillelma, stopped sending her love letters, and abruptly left the castle and stayed away, even during the festivals and hunts. This drove the young lady wild.
Guillelma (the lady) sent messengers to Guillaume to find out what had happened, but he turned the messengers away. He thought all this would make her angry, forcing him to plead for reconciliation as Pierre had. Instead, however, his absence had the opposite effect: It made Guillelma love him all the more. Now the lady pursued her knight, sending messengers and love notes of her own. This was almost unheard of — a lady never pursued her troubadour. And Guillaume did not like it. Guillelma’s forwardness made him feel she had lost some of her dignity. Not only was he no longer sure of his plan, he was no longer sure of his lady.
Finally, after several months of not hearing from Guillaume, Guillelma gave up. She sent him no more messengers, and he began to wonder — perhaps she was angry? Perhaps the plan had worked after all? So much the better if she was. He would wait no more — it was time to reconcile. So he put on his best robe, decked the horse in its fanciest caparison, chose a magnificent helmet, and rode off to castle Javiac.
On hearing that her beloved had returned, Guillelma rushed to see him, knelt before him, dropped her veil to kiss him, and begged forgiveness for whatever slight had caused his anger. Imagine his confusion and despair — his plan had failed abysmally. She was not angry, she had never been angry, she was only deeper in love, and he would never experience the joy of reconciliation after a quarrel. Seeing her now, and still desperate to taste that joy, he decided to try one more time: He drove her away with harsh words and threatening gestures. She left, this time vowing never to see him again.
The next morning the troubadour regretted what he had done. He rode back to Javiac, but the lady would not receive him, and ordered her servants to chase him away, across the drawbridge and over the hill. Guillaume fled. Back in his chamber he collapsed and started to cry: He had made a terrible mistake. Over the next year, unable to see his lady, he experienced the absence, the terrible absence, that can only inflame love. He wrote one of his most beautiful poems, “My song ascends for mercy praying.” And he sent many letters to Guillelma, explaining what he had done, and begging forgiveness.
After a great deal of this, Lady Guillelma, remembering his beautiful songs, his handsome figure, and his skills in dancing and falconry, found herself yearning to have him back. As penance for his cruelty, she ordered him to remove the nail from the little finger of his right hand, and to send it to her along with a poem describing his miseries.
He did as she asked. Finally Guillaume de Balaun was able to taste the ultimate sensation — a reconciliation even surpassing that of his friend Pierre.”
Everyone’s heard the phrase absence makes the heart grow fonder.
“At the start of an affair, you need to heighten your presence in the eyes of the other. If you absent yourself too early, you may be forgotten. But once your lover’s emotions are engaged, and the feeling of love has crystallized, absence inflames and excites.
Giving no reason for your absence excites even more: The other person assumes he or she is at fault. While you are away, the lover’s imagination takes flight, and a stimulated imagination cannot help but make love grow stronger.
Conversely, the more Guillelma pursued Guillaume, the less he loved her — she had become too present, too accessible, leaving no room for his imagination and fancy, so that his feelings were suffocating. When she finally stopped sending messengers, he was able to breathe again, and to return to his plan.”
The more Guillelma pursued Guillaume the more accessible she had become to him. It was to easy for him. There was no room for his imagination to roam free. Only when the lady finally refused to see him again was he able to truly able to appreciate her and eventually satisfy his plan on wooing her back. While this is an extreme example of someone manipulating another for their own selfish satisfaction and emotional greed, there are some key principles that can be learnt and applied within our day to day relationships.
It’s clear absence can be used as a great tool to use to your advantage to create a heightened sense of perceived value. Though the precursor to this effectively working is that you have to provide value in the first place. Meaning, you have to possess something few others have; otherwise why would people miss you? If you’re not providing some type of unique value what makes you think another would miss you? It’s the basic principle of ‘supply and demand’. If what you offer is already in high supply, than what makes you think someone would come to you to get it?
Think about all the people who you care for. Now think about the percentage of those people who you actually miss. You’re not sitting at home missing everybody. More often than not you’re usually missing those special 1–2 people who make you feel alive…or special…or whatever positive trait it may be. Why? Because they offer you something different and better than the collective of others you aren’t missing.
What about in a business setting?
What can you offer to your organization and the leaders within it that make you near indispensable? If we possess the audacity to want to be valued and remembered, than we must display who we are and what we do that is of greater value than the majority.
An intelligent way to test this may be to take paid annual leave and note the responses you do or do not receive whilst you’re away. Again take note of the environment and behaviors once you step back in that office for the first time in a month.
Greene eloquently puts it:
“What withdraws, what becomes scarce, suddenly seems to deserve our respect and honor. What stays too long, inundating us with its presence, makes us disdain it.”
“Absence diminishes minor passions and inflames great ones, as the wind douses a candle and fans a fire.”
~ La Rochefoucauld (1613–1680)
A man said to a Dervish: “Why do I not see you more often?”
The Dervish replied, “Because the words ‘Why have you not been to see me?’ are sweeter to my ear than the words ‘Why have you come again?”’
~ Mulla jami, quoted in ldries Shah’s Caravan of Dreams, 1968
‘Why have you not been to see’ me implies you missed the person in some capacity, and ‘why have you come again’ means your presence is not celebrated, instead it is questioned. Is your presence questioned or celebrated?
Keys To Power
“Everything in the world depends on absence and presence. A strong presence will draw power and attention to you — you shine more brightly than those around you. But a point is inevitably reached where too much presence creates the opposite effect:
The more you are seen and heard from, the more your value degrades. You become a habit. No matter how hard you try to be different, subtly, without your knowing why, people respect you less and less. At the right moment you must learn to withdraw yourself before they unconsciously push you away. It is a game of hide-and-seek.”
Some may remember Elliott Hulse doing this to his audience of over 1 million.
“The truth of this law can most easily be appreciated in matters of love and seduction. In the beginning stages of an affair, the lover’s absence stimulates your imagination, forming a sort of aura around him or her. But this aura fades when you know too much — when your imagination no longer has room to roam. The loved one becomes a person like anyone else, a person whose presence is taken for granted.”
“Love never dies of starvation but often of indigestion.” ~ Ninon de Lenclos
“To prevent this you need to starve the other person of your presence. Force their respect by threatening them with the possibility that they will lose you for good; create a pattern of presence and absence.”
On the other hand you may just piss somebody off. I’ve had situations where my vagueness has simply annoyed and confused others. Though this was before my knowledge of these laws, I would like to think I am much better prepared to handle those situations with more tact.
Something that‘s contained in the title of this law that I haven’t touched on yet is the trait of respect. If you really believe you offer value to someone whose taking you for granted, than absence will make that evident to either create that respect through action, or reveal whether you are delusional and lying to yourself.
It’s simple. If you create absence with an individual or group of people — you come back, and they have not missed you and/or even questioned your presence then you realise your true place — that maybe they didn’t need you in the first place.
How many artists, leaders, celebrities, influences are celebrated and revered more when they pass compared to when they live. Some of us truly won’t understand how to appreciate and individual until they’ve died. I think that’s a very natural human tendency. Once one’s absence is forever the only reminiscence left of them is the legacy they’ve left and associated memories.
It makes me think…when I die…when you die…will people miss us?
Will they care for us like they did for Michael Jackson or Robin Williams. To clarify, I don’t mean ‘how many people will care’, I’m talking about the depth of one’s appreciation and love. Will the people you had an effect on remember you like you remember your biggest influence on your life? Or will your absence be forgotten as a distant memory?
Everybody will have a different opinion on how much they care about the answer to this question but if we think 300 years from now, will anybody be talking about us? Maybe you’re someone who doesn’t care about that type of legacy as you rebut with the argument, ‘all I care about is the present and the people I have an effect on now’. To that I ask, wouldn’t you want to maximize the ripples of influence that you can have on the world? The effect we aim to have now influences the potential effect we will have once we’re gone.
Remember: Nothing in life is promised except death.
With that, I aim to have a monumental impact while I aim to leave a legacy my family has never touched before. As I immortalize myself through every piece of content I create and person I touch I get closer to the light of that never ending tunnel. It brings me solitude that if I were to die tonight that I would have earned a degree of respect and honor as a byproduct of everything I have done and created. It brings me peace that those who ever cared for me would be able to still hear my voice and read the things that made me who I am.
If we died tomorrow…will they remember us?
Will our life be celebrated…or be soon forgotten.