How to control the thoughts of others

2019-11-24

Someone once asked me for advice on how to make sure people said good things about their company.

The answer seemed obvious to me. “Be whatever you want them to say,” I told him.

He seemed unsatisfied with that answer. I’m not sure what he wanted to hear. Did he want me to tell him that he could connive or cajole or intimidate a person into saying nice things?

That’s not an option. It’s never an option. It may have been clearer if I’d asked him how I could control what people say about me when I’m not around. It’s the same problem: you can’t control what people say or think, full stop. All you can do is be what you hope they’ll say.

If you want them to say you’re nice, you have to do nice things. If you want them to say they respect you, you have to be respectable. If you want them to say you’re sneaky and untrustworthy, try to trick them into saying nice things about you when you’re not around.

The hard part is, even if you do lots of nice things, people still might not say that you’re nice. People are going to say what they say, and it might not be fair or right. You still have to do the right thing. You control what you control, and everything else is out of your hands.