Practical Growth: A Self-Recovery Podcast

The Ultimate Guide to the Dark Art of Machiavellianism

November 09, 2023 Season 3 Episode 316
Practical Growth: A Self-Recovery Podcast
The Ultimate Guide to the Dark Art of Machiavellianism
Practical Growth | Self-Recovery
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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Have you ever encountered someone who seemed to always be more concerned with their own interests than anyone else's? Perhaps they were willing to use deceit, manipulation, or even cruelty to get what they wanted...

If so, you may have encountered a Machiavellian personality.

 Machiavellianism refers to a personality trait characterized by a tendency to prioritize one's own goals and desires over the wellbeing of others, and to be willing to use any means necessary to achieve those goals. It's a common trait in narcissistic people and psychopaths.

By understanding the traits associated with this personality type, we can better recognize the behavior and motivations of those around us. With that knowledge in hand we can protect ourselves, our futures, and our families.

In this episode I'll be breaking down what Machiavellianism looks like and how it manifests in family and relationships. 

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Speaker 1:

Welcome to the Practical Growth podcast with me, ebi Johnson, author, nlpmp and cognitive reappraisal coach. This is the podcast created for people like you, people looking for more, more health, more peace, more happiness. Each week, I explore new topic in pop psychology and help you build a better life and better relationships. Join me for special guests, exciting ideas and practical advice that you can use to improve your life from the inside out. Let's get into it. Hello, hello, hello, my lovelies, it is me, ebi, your favorite podcast host, your favorite mediumcom writer, your favorite tick tock coach, nlp, cognitive reappraisal specialist and beyond, and we are back, back back this week with another great episode for you. What are we talking about today? Now, this is one I've gotten a lot of questions on lately. I've had a few of you ask me about it on Instagram. I've definitely had some questions on tick tock, and I get questions about this every single time. I write about or speak about narcissistic family dynamics, specifically dark triad family dynamics and the fact that you know my mother was a dark triad, and I know that a lot of you have dealt with a dark triad personality in the past. So what are we going to be talking about today Specifically? We are going to be talking about Machiavellianism. Machiavellianism, it is that kind of third leg of the dark triad, right? It is that third really negative personality trait which leads to really a level in behavior, in in psychopaths, in narcissists and a lot of toxic personality types. So that's what we're going to be talking about today Machiavellianism. What is it? What does it look like, where does it come from and, most importantly, how do we protect ourselves from it? So, if you are ready to learn more about this toxic personality trait, buckle up. This episode is going to have everything that you've ever needed to know about the Machiavellian personality type, machiavellian behaviors and how it disrupts our relationships. So you ready? Let's jump in. All right. So let's just start right up at the top, right up at the beginning. What is Machiavellianism? What am I talking about when I say Machiavellianism? Because it's not really a clinical trait, right? This isn't something that's in the DSM-5 per se. It's not something that necessarily has specific diagnostic criteria. So what am I talking about when I say Machiavellianism or Machiavellian person? Essentially, in the simplest terms, machiavellianism is a personality trait that describes someone who is like, inherently, deeply manipulative. Ok, this is a person who will say and do anything they have to in order to get what they want. They don't care what it costs themselves, they don't care what it costs the people around them. If it hurts the people around them, ok, a Machiavellian person is someone who's extremely prone to lying, OK, to deceit, to being cynical, deceitful. They lack empathy, ok, that's like one of the biggest markers and that's why you find it so often with psychopathy and narcissism, right, they lack empathy and they lack respect for other people, especially and this is important, especially where their desires, their personal desires, whims, wishes, are concerned. Ok, so that's again. This is very often when you find this character trait, this Machiavellianism, as that third leg of the dark triad personality. It combines so well with narcissism and psychopathy, which we will see more on that in a minute when I kind of break down more about this for you. So the term Machiavellianism where does that come from? Because it's quite complex. It actually comes from Nicolo Machiavelli, who was an Italian Renaissance philosopher. For the better part of the term, he was a philosopher, ok, and his biggest work was called the Prince, and the Prince was essentially a manifesto. Ok, it was released in 1516. It was a manifesto for one of the Medici rulers and it essentially was about. A king has a right to do and say whatever he wants in order to get whatever he wants. Ok, these rulers, these aristocrats? They have the right to just say and do whatever they want. It doesn't matter how they affect the people around them, because their desires, their wishes, their ideas take superiority over people. So that is where we get the term Machiavellian from. Okay, because he really pushed these traits. Funny enough, this book was a great favorite of King Henry VIII, so take what you will, but essentially, this is where we get the term Machiavellian from. Now, according to Shay Macintosh, who is an expert in this right, she's an incredible psychologist who studies these Machiavellian traits. Shay says that a person with Machiavellian traits is, and I quote, deeply centered on cunningness, selfish behavior, manipulativeness and indifference to morality. Okay, and that's a big thing. That's why it pairs so well with narcissism and why you see the two go hand in hand so much, because it is that indifference to morality which springs from a lack of empathy. This Machiavellianism is kind of one of the active mechanisms behind a narcissistic person's actions. Okay, you can think of it like where the rubber of their toxic choices meets the roadway of their desires and their destructiveness. Okay, the Machiavellian personality trait has been studied for years, for years and years and years, so this is not some new buzzword that I'm throwing at you. Okay, they've been writing books on this personality trait since the 1970s, okay, and even back then. What's really crazy is psychologists writing these books, doing these studies, who marked these Machiavellian specifically Machiavellian traits. They noted that people with Machiavellian traits, with Machiavellian personality types, they were incapable of forming true bonds and real, lasting relationships. Okay, because, to them, people were disposable, people were interchangeable, they were things that were to be used for ultimate gain, for ultimate benefit, and, again, it comes from this lack of empathy. It comes from this lack of empathy because a Machiavellian person has no sense of conventional morality. Okay, they don't. They don't. People are just like tools to them. What you need to remember, though, is Machiavellianism. This is a non-clinical term, okay, and it's the same thing with narcissism. This is kind of a descriptive term of a series of traits. Machiavellianism is non-clinical. It is actually, it's actually the primary part, the only part of this dark triad that is non-clinical, because, clinically, right, you can establish narcissistic personality disorder. Clinically, you can establish psychopathy. Machiavellianism is a little different, okay, it's a little bit different, and so some clinicians actually question if it exists at all. They theorize there are some theories out there that Machiavellianism is not a mechanism by itself, that it's actually just a form of lower functioning psychopathy or narcissism. Okay, sounds easy, right it sounds. You know a Machiavellian person and someone who's saying do anything to get what they want. That is actually a lot more broad than you might think Because, as we've said before with narcissists, every narcissist manifests differently. Same thing with Machiavellian traits. Machiavellian traits can manifest in different ways and it can be borderline, impossible for a non-professional to even like identify the traits. They can be so subtle, so manipulative. Even some professionals still don't agree on how to diagnose the traits. Some don't believe in the assessments, some believe in assessments, yada, yada, yada. But essentially, when we're looking at a Machiavellian person, machiavellian behavior, we're looking for pervasive traits, and there's generally six of them, six pervasive traits that we can identify and these form a long-standing pattern of behavior. I'm talking years. Okay, you could go back for years and identify this pattern and behavior in someone. And these are the six of them. Number one manipulation. Biggest sign a Machiavellian person will lie, cheat, flatter, they'll twist and bend the truth at every opportunity to get what they want and to change the minds and the behaviors of the people around them. That's another big thing. It's not all about like getting money and attention. Sometimes they want to manipulate how people, how the people around them, see the world and how they behave. They are calculated strategists and they know how to use people's fears and weaknesses against them and they do it, and they do it consciously. They bend rules, they fake sympathy. So this is again why you see this kind of going along with this covert narcissism, and they will even engage in smear campaigns. Okay, and that's all via that chain, macintosh. Okay, they can be charming at first, super, super, super charming, but cross them and the switch gets flipped and those behaviors immediately change to bullying and aggression if they're not given what they want. Because again, there's no morals here. A Machiavellian person has no morals. Their morals is I want what I want in this moment. That is the only morality they know. So they are willing to cause harm if it means satisfying themselves. Number two, the second trait to look for self-interest. Machiavellians always choose themselves first, and what's really interesting about this is they'll justify it right. They justify it by saying well, everyone else is only looking out for themselves, so I'm looking out for myself, so I'm allowed to hurt them before they hurt me. That is how the mindset of a Machiavellian person works and it's because, again, they lack empathy. They lack empathy, they don't think of others, and because they don't think of others and they don't rate others highly, they don't think anyone else thinks of others and they don't believe in anyone else like rates other people highly. Power and prestige mean more to them than people, so they are always going to be out to feed their desires and they will harm and discard anyone that they have to in order to keep feeding those desires and keeping those desires on track where they want them. The third trait to look out for deceit, deceit to the Machiavellian personality type. Deceit is fundamental. It's fundamental, and their deceit is always rooted in knowledge, because to them, knowledge is power. Taking knowledge away from you and using it against you, that is a form of power. Leaving their knowledge of specific events out in order to manipulate your reality that's also a form of deceit that they like to use to control, shame other people. You name it. There's all kinds of ways that a Machiavellian person will go about using deceit. Using deceit and using information to harm other people okay, but they will do it. Information that you share with them will be used to harm you in future if it becomes necessary, and they will not ever give you any deeper information about themselves, because it would mean exposure and it would give you ammunition to use against them in the future. The fourth sign, number four no emotions. There is a significant, significant lack of real emotion in a truly Machiavellian person. Okay, and that's because there's a significant lack of empathy and compassion. Because they don't have this empathy, this compassion, they can't even really identify their own emotions and they certainly are not willing or able to identify emotions in others or to hold space for the emotions of other people. Okay, that's why it's so easy for them to cause harm and push people around. They don't feel things and they assume that everyone else doesn't feel things, so they can hurt you, right? Because you're not going to feel it. So that makes it easy for them to dispose people and it makes it hard for your average empathetic person to see this and to understand that someone could move through the world without the same kind of feeling that they have. Number five the fifth big sign here that you want to look for the long-term pervasive sign of Machiavellianism ambition, ambition, ambition. There is a reason again that we have used the name of Nicola Machiavelli to title these behaviors right, because he wrote about princes obsessed with status who, because of their status, were morally superior to everyone around them and therefore had the right to subjugate everyone around them if they so desired. Ambition is a big piece of that wanting to be over other people, wanting to take power, wanting to have prestige that you can use as a tool. Okay, machiavellian people want that. They want an audience of people behind them, because that's an army. If you have an audience, you have an army that you can weaponize against people, right? We've seen that over and over again on social media. It's way more than a power trip For a Machiavellian person. It's not just about having a sea of people who go you're the best. That's great for them, but they like having walls of people that they can put between them and those who would expose them. So ambition is a big part of it for the Machiavellian person. Building a platform is a big part of it for the Machiavellian person who wants to be able to push people around and have power over others. Last but not least, number six competition, competition, competition, competition. Just like the narcissist, a Machiavellian person and again, this is why you find the comorbidities so commonly Machiavellian people personalize everything. They see everything in their environment as a direct reflection of them, their lives, their worth, yada, yada, yada, yada yada. So they are constantly in competition with everyone and everything around them. They think that they have a right to push everyone down to the bottom of the pyramid and so everything's a competition, because they're looking to subjugate everyone around them. Okay, then all that's tied into their power, their self-worth, yada, yada yada. So they switch between cooperative and competitive tactics at ease, whatever works best for them to again put people at the bottom of that pyramid. Now, where does this mock-a-velianism come from? And this is going to be a very brief little kind of segue before we get into how to protect yourself, but I feel that this is worth saying because so much has gotten twisted right. A lot of people have gone with narcissism and they've run off online and gone. You can only become a narcissist if you've been traumatized, and that is not true. That is absolutely, categorically untrue. Do a lot of narcissistic people have trauma in their backgrounds? Absolutely, absolutely. Does every single narcissist person with NPD, an abuser with NPD, have a traumatic background? Absolutely not. It is not a prerequisite. It is not trauma-genic. Npd is not trauma-genic, which means coming from trauma alone. Now the same thing applies to mock-a-velianism. The same thing applies. The primary mechanism for someone to become mock-a-velian is genetics right. There has to be a genetic predisposition to it. There's probably a parent or a grandparent or somewhere in the ancestral line where this gene was being carried and they got it right. That is absolutely without a doubt. Now, according to Dale Hartley, who is a PhD, mba, retired professor of psychology and the author of Mock-a-velian's Golling the Roobs, which was an extremely popular blog post on psychology today, which was posted in 2017. I highly recommend you go and look it up he says that in a lot of mock-a-velians it's a combination. It is a combination of genetic predisposition, which is important. You got to have that kind of trigger in there, combined with some kind of negative early start in childhood. Now that may be outright trauma, it may be neglect or it could be something like a traumatic brain injury. There are different ways that it is thought because, again, there's no confirmation on this. Mock-a-velianism is still very misunderstood and not widely researched. This is how it is thought to kind of manifest itself in those who show up with the behavior. Let's get into now what really matters. Right, we get that, we get where it comes from now we understand how the behaviors kind of show up in people and we understand what it is. But here's what's really important and this is what most of the questions that I've got from people online over the last couple of weeks have really centered around, and it is how do I deal with this? How do I deal with a mock-a-velian person? Because the thing is, a lot of you have parents who you suspect have this trait. You've, the last couple of years you've been doing your work, digging deep, you've recognized narcissistic traits in your parent. Maybe some of you recognize some dark triad traits, and now you've kind of hit that mock-a-velian groundstone and you're going, uh-oh, what do I do? Because maybe you're going no contact, maybe you're not in that playshed, maybe you're dealing with this personality trait in a boss, in a co-worker, in someone you have to co-parent with and that you can't fully escape. So what do you do? How do you deal with a person who will say and do anything to anyone in order to get what they want. Well, I'm going to give you five tips, but before we get into these five tips, you need to remember right off the bat If any of you have come in here, think that I'm going to tell you any kind of advice that will allow you to change the behavior of this mock-a-velian person. You're delusional, I'm sorry, I'll just say it. You're delusional. You cannot, you cannot, change Machiavellian behavior in someone else. It's never gonna happen. You're not gonna love them enough, you're not gonna encourage them enough, you're not gonna push them into therapy. None of that, okay, and I will also tell you this I spent about six hours researching for this podcast episode total over the last week or two and pulling things together and these little excerpts and these studies from these professionals who have mentioned so far in the episode. Every single one of them said the primary way and the only guaranteed way to protect yourself from a Machiavellian person Is to avoid them at all costs. And If you have that option in any way, shape or form, that is the option, the solution that you should select every single time. You should avoid interacting with someone who displays Machiavellian personality traits at all costs. Okay, whether they are confirmed or suspected, you should stay away from them. If you've seen proof of those behaviors. Now, for some of you, that's not possible. It might be a parent You're not ready to go no contact with, or sibling, some kind of family member You're not ready to go no contact with. Or, like I said at the top of this segment, you might be dealing with a co-worker, you might be dealing with a boss. So what can you do? I'm gonna warn you now, it's limited. Okay, it's limited because there is nothing you can do to counter their behavior. They are going to do what they are going to do, and what you do doesn't really matter. So the goal here should be self-protection, building up yourself and Finding ways to create divisions and walls between yourself and this Machiavellian person. So here we go, get your pen and paper out. This is how you're gonna deal with the Machiavellians in your life. Number one Set clear boundaries. And this is gonna be really hard and really uncomfortable, and you can't get here if you haven't worked on your self-esteem. But set clear boundaries. You need to verbalize to them what is and isn't okay. You will not speak to me this way. I will not work during these times, after these hours, on these dates. I will say no to these things, all of those really tense, scary things that are a part of setting boundaries. You have to do them Consciously, intentionally, even though they are hard, even though they are uncomfortable. Okay, every time that person violates your boundaries, every time they push you around, bully, you make a remark. Whatever it is, you need to write it down. It needs to get written down in a physical diary date, time, what boundary was violated, how it was violated and how it made you feel. I'm not kidding. If you need to get in a spreadsheet, make a freaking spreadsheet. You need to keep a record of every single time this happens. Now that protects you for sure legally in a work position. If you are in a family relationship, it's not so much about being able to legally protect you from them. It's about free. When the time comes for you to do the hard work of no contact, you have a reference to go back and see all the times that you were abused and then decide if you're going to remain complicit in that abuse or not. Number two Focus on yourself. You, you, you, you, you. Their behaviors are going to be so emotionally harmful and upsetting. And guess what If you can't go? No contact with them. There's nothing you can do about that. Again they will be hurtful. They will lie to you. They will deceive you. They will lie to other people about you. They will deceive other people about you. They will find ways to disrupt your life emotionally in any way that suits them To getting what they want. You can't change that right. So the only thing you can do is change your ability to respond to that environment. You need to focus on your goals Making your emotions as strong and regulated as possible, as healthy as possible. Get your body healthy, get your mind healthy. Surround yourself with good people. Get your life Outside of this person looking exactly the way you want to look now. If you're trapped in a work environment, a part of this focusing on you is also making sure that you get the skills, abilities, finances, platforms, whatever it is, to get yourself the hell out of there. Okay, that has to be a part of focusing on you building yourself up so that you are strong enough to get away from the environment where this person is. Because if you continue to exist in an environment with a Machiavellian person, you will continue to be miserable because, again, they ain't changing, but they will keep harming you. Number three Self-esteem, self-esteem, self-esteem. If you are spending every day in an environment with a Machiavellian person, then you need to be spending at least 15 minutes every single day doing self-esteem building exercises for yourself. Now, this might look different To different people. I always tell my clients the fastest way to boost your self-esteem is to hang around good people and To do things that you're good at. Okay, those are the two fastest way, but essentially you need to increase your self-esteem and you need to focus on building a strong sense of identity that is so strong and so undeniably yours that the Machiavellian person cannot destroy you or it when they go to someone and tell a story, your image, your Self-identity needs to be so strong that a you don't care and be. The people who hear the story Don't even believe it, because you know who you are and they see that and they know that that conflicts with the lies that the Machiavellian person is telling. A number four here Keep your circle small. If you are dealing with Machiavellian people, okay, keep your inner circle strong. Stop telling all of your business to people who are close to that Machiavellian person, people who have proven time and time again that they are willing to be Manipulated by that person, who are susceptible to being manipulated or played by that person. Keep your circle of close, trusted people small. Don't look for support in people who are close to the Machiavellian, because it's not going to happen. They will disappoint you every time, they will always be swayed, they will always be manipulated. So make sure that you are building support systems, groups, friends outside of the environment where that Machiavellian person is Number five. Last but not least, ask for professional help. Get yourself some professional help. If you've got like I had someone who was asking me the other day about their mother who they highly suspected was Machiavellian, and they were like asking for stuff, for questions on TikTok in the comments and that's great. I understand that they were looking for information and I was happy to help. There's only so much help you can get from a TikTok comment section. Yeah, you need to get professional help from someone who can help you protect yourself and put systems in place so that you can escape that environment where that Machiavellian person is causing all that damage. So ask for professional help. Put yourself out there, get in a group, get coaching, get a therapist. Do what you've got to do to get the knowledge and the willpower and the strength and the plan in place to get away from and protect yourself from this Machiavellian person, right? So that's the gist of it. That is the gist of it. That's the gist of Machiavellianism and how it looks and how to protect yourself. But there's some things, there's a few more things I need to kind of give to you before I leave you, okay, and there's a few things I want you to remember. One is this Some Machiavellian people can be benign. I don't want you guys to take this episode and run away and think I'm blanketing all Machiavellian people as these like sadistic, serial killer type people, because that's not true. Okay, to some extent you could say that everyone, especially when we've grown up in toxic environments we've only had a negative, toxic example of how to behave from our parents, our families, our caretakers Then you could have some of these traits, right, you could pick up some of these behaviors, have some of these traits that maybe you're not fully aware of or you're just starting to build an awareness of Machiavellians the way we talk about them here, the bad ones, the dangerous ones. You'll see them refer to quite often as high mocks, like people with high Machiavellian traits. The reason that they are considered high mocks is because they choose to use their behaviors, their traits, that lack of empathy, that desire to put themselves above others. They use it for bad. They choose to capitalize on those instincts and use it to harm others. Okay, and that is the really, really, really big thing here we're talking about people who choose to use their words and deeds to consciously inflict harm on others. Okay, and someone like that cannot be fixed by the love of another person. That's not a thing. The only way someone with Machiavellian traits can improve themselves and I'm not saying cure, because there's not really enough knowledge here. We don't know if it can be cured, but what we do know is that someone with these traits can always choose to go to a trained psychotherapist, ask for help and reprogram their brains and their behaviors. Now, that is a thing that absolutely can be done, but it can only be done when that person intrinsically, is motivated to do that, and you can't push someone to do that. They either have that in them or they don't. Okay, and that's the big thing, and some Machiavellian people? They may not get help, but they also may not really use their traits for bad right, they may just kind of harm themselves and be a bit selfish, but they don't go out of their way to harm people. So it's important to see the sliding scale and to keep in mind that you're looking for longstanding I mean years worth of harmful and dangerous behavior. What do you think? Do you have any Machiavellian people in your life? Have you dealt with Machiavellian personality types before? How did that hold you back? How did that harm you? Did it disrupt that kind of connection with self? Did it disrupt the way you were able to grow, interact, believe in yourself in the world? I know a lot of us have encountered this and a lot of us are still working to recover from the damage done. But the good news is we can right, we can always choose to be better people, and that is the real difference between us and the people that harmed us the choice we're making, the choice right now to be better than they were, and that is such a powerful choice to make. Thank you so so much for listening today. I hope you learned something, I hope you gained something. I hope that this has given you a little bit more confidence to go out into the world and to build yourself and to protect yourself and to create that life that you love, because you do deserve that. You do deserve that. If you'd like to work with me, I do have applications open now for my 2024 programs, but I will let you know. Applications are already coming in. This is not a joke. So if you would like to work with me in 2024, one-on-one coaching make sure you head over to therealevejohnsoncom and click on Working With Me. There you'll find out more about me, my coaching programs and what it takes to apply with me. I will say my programs are not for everyone. Okay, my programs are not for everyone. It's for people who have done the work, who are continuing to do the work, people who have plateaued in therapy and who are ready to get active results, who are ready to take action in their lives, create better lasting relationships with themselves and with the people around them right now, and to recalibrate and reprogram their nervous systems for greater life satisfaction, for greater emotional regulation, for greater peace and rest. Okay, so if that sounds like you, make sure you head over to therealevejohnsoncom and click on Working With Me to apply for everyone else. Thank you again for listening. Keep following me on Medium. You guys have really caused a buzz over there and it's helped me out immensely. I appreciate that greatly. Keep following me on TikTok and Instagram and YouTube and I'll be back back, back back next week with some juicy goodness. Until then, keep your heads up, keep your eyes on the stars and keep moving forward. Bye-bye.

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