The Laws of Human Nature

The Laws of Human Nature

Robert Greene is a master guide for millions of readers, distilling ancient wisdom and philosophy into essential texts for seekers of power, understanding and mastery. Now he turns to the most important subject of all - understanding people's drives and motivations, even when they are unconscious of them themselves.We are social animals. Our very lives depend on our relati...

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Title:The Laws of Human Nature
Author:Robert Greene
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The Laws of Human Nature Reviews

  • Akhil Jain

    My fav quotes (not a review):

    -Page 29 |

    "In his conception, the human mind has to worship something, has to have its attention directed to something it values above all else. For most people, it is their ego; for some it is their family, their clan, their god, or their nation. For Pericles it would be nous, the ancient Greek word for “mind” or “intelligence.” Nous is a force that permeates the universe, creating meaning and order. The human mind is naturally attracted to this order; this is the s

    My fav quotes (not a review):

    -Page 29 |

    "In his conception, the human mind has to worship something, has to have its attention directed to something it values above all else. For most people, it is their ego; for some it is their family, their clan, their god, or their nation. For Pericles it would be nous, the ancient Greek word for “mind” or “intelligence.” Nous is a force that permeates the universe, creating meaning and order. The human mind is naturally attracted to this order; this is the source of our intelligence."

    -Page 40 |

    "And the most common emotion of them all is the desire for pleasure and the avoidance of pain. Our thoughts almost inevitably revolve around this desire; we simply recoil from entertaining ideas that are unpleasant or painful to us. We imagine we are looking for the truth, or being realistic, when in fact we are holding on to ideas that bring a release from tension and soothe our egos, make us feel superior."

    -Page 49 |

    "Be aware of demagogues who exploit the group effect and stimulate outbreaks of irrationality. They inevitably resort to certain devices. In a group setting, they begin by warming up the crowd, talking about ideas and values that everyone shares, creating a pleasant feeling of agreement. They rely on vague but loaded words full of emotive quality such as justice or truth or patriotism. They talk of abstract, noble goals rather than the solving of specific problems with concrete action. Demagogues in politics or the media try to stir a continual sense of panic, urgency, and outrage. They must keep the emotional levels high."

    -Page 53 |

    "In his stories and plays, he found it immensely therapeutic to get inside his characters and make sense of even the worst types. In this way, he could forgive anybody, even his father. His approach in these cases was to imagine that each person, no matter how twisted, has a reason for what they’ve become, a logic that makes sense to them. In their own way, they are striving for fulfillment, but irrationally. By stepping back and imagining their story from the inside, Chekhov demythologized the brutes and aggressors; he cut them down to human size. They no longer elicited hatred but rather pity. You must think more like a writer in approaching the people you deal with, even the worst sorts."

    -Page 69 |

    "As Abraham Lincoln said, “I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.”"

    -Page 93 |

    "I do not ask the wounded person how he feels. . . . I myself become the wounded person. —Walt Whitman"

    -Page 97 |

    "Erickson instead focused mostly on people’s physical presence as an entrée into their mental life and unconscious. Words are often used as a cover-up, a way to conceal what is really going on. Making his patients completely comfortable, he would detect signs of hidden tension and unmet desires that came through in their face, voice, and posture. As he did this, he explored in greater depth the world of nonverbal communication. His motto was “observe, observe, observe.” For this purpose he kept a notebook, writing down all of his observations. One element that particularly fascinated him was the walking styles of people, perhaps a reflection of his own difficulties in relearning how to use his legs. He would watch people walking in every part of the city. He paid attention to the heaviness of the step—there was the emphatic walk of those who were persistent and full of resolve; the light step"

    -Page 101

    "He had to see the tension in their necks and register it physically as tension within himself to understand why they were suddenly uncomfortable in his presence. What he discovered is that nonverbal communication cannot be experienced simply through thinking and translating thoughts into words but must be felt physically as one engages with the facial expressions or locked positions of other people. It is a different form of knowledge, one that connects with the animal part of our nature and involves our mirror neurons."

    -Page 104

    "Developed over so much time, before the invention of language, that is how the human face became so expressive, and gestures so elaborate. This is bred deep within us. We have a continual desire to communicate our feelings and yet at the same time the need to conceal them for proper social functioning. With these counterforces battling inside us, we cannot completely control what we communicate."

    -Page 109

    "Related to this is what is known as Othello’s error. In the play Othello by Shakespeare, the main character, Othello, assumes that his wife, Desdemona, is guilty of adultery based on her nervous response when questioned about some evidence. In truth Desdemona is innocent, but the aggressive, paranoid nature of Othello and his intimidating questions make her nervous, which he interprets as a sign of guilt. What happens in such cases is that we pick up certain emotional cues from the other person—nervousness, for instance—and we assume they come from a certain source. We rush to the first explanation that fits what we want to see. But the nervousness could have several explanations, could be a temporary reaction to our questioning or the overall circumstances. The error is not in the observing but in the decoding."

    -Page 116

    "In the course of a conversation there is an equal level of banter, with the pace quickening, indicating increasing rapport."

    -Page 123

    "Looking at this from the other side, as a character in Dostoyevsky’s novel The Idiot advised, “When you are lying, if you skillfully put in something not quite ordinary, something eccentric, something, you know, that never has happened, or very rarely, it makes the lie sound much more probable.”"

    -Page 127

    "A relaxed smile, however, and looking people in the eye in these first encounters can do wonders for lowering their natural resistance."

    -Page 128

    "If dirty work must be done, get others to do it. Your hands are clean. Never overtly play the Machiavellian leader—that only works well on television."

    -Page 127

    "Use dramatic effects. This mostly involves mastering the art of presence/absence. If you are too present, if people see you too often or can predict exactly what you will do next, they will quickly grow bored with you. You must know how to selectively absent yourself, to regulate how often and when you appear before others, making them want to see more of you, not less. Cloak yourself in some mystery, displaying some subtly contradictory qualities. People don’t need to know everything about you. Learn to withhold information. In general, make your appearances and your behavior less predictable."

    -Page 187

    "It is advisable to let everyone of your acquaintance—whether man or woman—feel now and then that you could very well dispense with their company. This will consolidate friendship. Nay, with most people there will be no harm in occasionally mixing a grain of disdain with your treatment of them; that will make them value your friendship all the more. . . . But if we really think very highly of a person, we should conceal it from him like a crime. This is not a very gratifying thing to do, but it is right. Why, a dog will not bear being treated too kindly, let alone a man! —Arthur Schopenhauer"

    -Page 203

    "In nineteenth-century India, under British colonial rule, authorities decided there were too many venomous cobras in the streets of Delhi, making life uncomfortable for the British residents and their families. To solve this they offered a reward for every dead cobra residents would bring in. Soon enterprising locals began to breed cobras in order to make a living from the bounty. The government caught on to this and canceled the program. The breeders, resentful of the rulers and angered by their actions, decided to release their cobras back on the streets, thereby tripling the population from before the government program."

  • Jonathan Metze

    must read if you have to interact with... anyone

  • TofurkyVectrex64

    I got mine on the 18th from Chapters Indigo! I was worried they would deliver it late but I got mine before release!

    I do miss the layout style of his other classic books however I can see this as a move to make them even more timeless. I do sense the typical Hollywood Anti Trump anger at times, which betrays the wisdom of the book, not because I stand on either side but the principles of power, war, and seduction are fact, not opinion. Why editorialize? Overall, it's great, he's still the master

    I got mine on the 18th from Chapters Indigo! I was worried they would deliver it late but I got mine before release!

    I do miss the layout style of his other classic books however I can see this as a move to make them even more timeless. I do sense the typical Hollywood Anti Trump anger at times, which betrays the wisdom of the book, not because I stand on either side but the principles of power, war, and seduction are fact, not opinion. Why editorialize? Overall, it's great, he's still the master, must buy. 5/5

  • Sambasivan

    The latest book of Robert Greene is bound to become a classic. The author of 48 laws of power, Seduction, Mastery and Power has brought out a near comprehensive study of the human dimensions. These are complex at the same time contradictory and changing as well. The author delves deep into the life story of select individuals who had reached the pinnacle of their careers. Distils the essence of their human nature. And also summarises the actions one needs to take as an apprentice while being com

    The latest book of Robert Greene is bound to become a classic. The author of 48 laws of power, Seduction, Mastery and Power has brought out a near comprehensive study of the human dimensions. These are complex at the same time contradictory and changing as well. The author delves deep into the life story of select individuals who had reached the pinnacle of their careers. Distils the essence of their human nature. And also summarises the actions one needs to take as an apprentice while being completely observant.

    Must read.

  • Muddassir Ilyas

    Not as good as his other books. May be I have read a lot on this topic, I didn’t find much that I didn’t know already. 😊

  • Gary Moreau

    So much of discovery is a search for patterns. What links to what? Which variables are related? But patterns aren’t always signs of connection or influence. They can be causal or merely coincidental. And they are seldom universal.

    Which is exactly why such a high percentage of scientific discovery turns out to be incorrect, or at least not complete. There is a pattern, but it’s not THE pattern – or at least not the only pattern. And, of course, patterns tend to change over time for a nearly infin

    So much of discovery is a search for patterns. What links to what? Which variables are related? But patterns aren’t always signs of connection or influence. They can be causal or merely coincidental. And they are seldom universal.

    Which is exactly why such a high percentage of scientific discovery turns out to be incorrect, or at least not complete. There is a pattern, but it’s not THE pattern – or at least not the only pattern. And, of course, patterns tend to change over time for a nearly infinite number of reasons.

    And that’s the way I felt about the “laws” articulated in this book. I just never got the impression that they were a complete or universal explanation. I could see the pattern. It wasn’t just pulled out of thin air. But it struck me as presumptuous to assume that the “law” was in any way complete or permanent. It might be complete some of the time in some instances. But is it really the final answer that being called a “law of human nature” clearly suggests.

    The problem is that laws require generalizations in order to be articulated and applied. And that might work reasonably well in defining traffic laws. Human nature, however, is far more complex and variable. Saying, therefore, that “Introverts are more sensitive and easily exhausted by too much outward activity,” or that, “To the extrovert, the introvert has no fun, is stubborn, even antisocial,” strikes me as applying two-dimensional generalizations to issues and traits that are far more complex than they can accommodate. Isn’t that, after all, part of the explanation for the rancor we currently see in our politics?

    I really wanted to like this book. Who doesn’t want to know the laws of nature? Particularly now. To the point that throughout the book I went back to the marketing materials to see what I was missing. And in the “About the Author” section it describes the author as a “renowned expert on power strategies.” And that makes sense to me. And if power strategies is what you’re looking for, and you can buy into the advice - “Take notice of people who praise or flatter you without their eyes lighting up,” as opposed to recognizing they may have just stepped off the red eye, then you will probably like this book very much.

    My interests, on the other hand, tend more to philosophy than psychology and I do tend to believe that the Daoists make a very good point – reality (and human nature) is just too nuanced and complicated for our human brains to understand at the level we would need to lay out the laws of human nature.

    But if the subject sounds interesting to you, it sounds feasible that one book and one author can lay out the laws of nature, or you just like this author, please don’t let me discourage you. (I will admit that I have not read any of the author’s other works.)

    He’s obviously accomplished. And if you enjoy the history of psychology you’ll find a lot of gems here. For me, however, the author’s theories are just a little too assertive and built on dangerous generalizations to live by 24/7. But I’m not much on “power strategies,” either, so take that advice for what it is.

  • Cindy

    I liked the topic of Human Behavior in this book comparatively better than to the book on power. Both books are insightful. This book had more relatable stories and analogies.

  • Fabian Il.

    Very solid book on the topic. I would call them tendencies instead of strict laws especially because some are not really universal. Also there could have been more evolutionary psychology for there is nothing more fundamental to our nature plus the cognitive biases could have been added (some are mentioned like the most fundamental pain avoidance/ pleasure seeking). But all in all really enjoyable book.

  • Ryan Boissonneault

    Pros: a great primer on the psychological tendencies that pull us all in certain directions, mostly to the detriment of our rational goals. Robert Greene identifies 18 such “laws,” providing historical and biographical sketches that demonstrate each law in practice. He then provides strategies for turning each law—with its inherent self-destructive tendencies—into an advantage. The author draws on a vast storehouse of examples, and his emphasis on rationality and examples from ancient Greece are

    Pros: a great primer on the psychological tendencies that pull us all in certain directions, mostly to the detriment of our rational goals. Robert Greene identifies 18 such “laws,” providing historical and biographical sketches that demonstrate each law in practice. He then provides strategies for turning each law—with its inherent self-destructive tendencies—into an advantage. The author draws on a vast storehouse of examples, and his emphasis on rationality and examples from ancient Greece are well received.

    Cons: Some of the chapters can drag as the author repeats the same point, and you get the feeling that the book could have been made shorter without loss of content. It’s also difficult to tell which ideas are supported by solid science/research and which are not, as this is not spelled out within the text. Some ideas are backed by solid historical and scientific evidence, such as his chapter on narcissism, but in other sections the ideas are more dubious, as, for example, when the author seems to believe that Milton Erickson recovered quicker from polio through his mental stimulation of his nerves. The author makes more of the mind-body connection, particularly in regard to the recovery from illness, than the literature supports.

    In the introduction, the author notes that he will rely on the psychological research of leading academics like Daniel Kahneman, but then within the main body of the text uses the ideas of Milton Erickson and Carl Jung, both controversial psychologists of dubious authenticity. I get the feeling that Greene is using the examples that he either relates to better or fits his ideas better, rather than using more contemporary research, so you have to wonder if Greene himself is falling victim to the confirmation bias as he has to reach back to 1919 (in the case of Erickson) to find a psychologist that fits his narrative.

    Overall, the book provides valuable insights and advice, but it can be difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff when every idea is presented forcefully as the truth in equally confident terms. You will gain some valuable insights from reading this book, to be sure, but it’s best to do so with a skeptical mind.

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