Psychology Today saidNiccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527), political philosopher and author of The Prince, wrote, “A wise ruler ought never to keep faith when by doing so it would be against his interests,” and, "A prince never lacks good reasons to break his promise.” According to Machiavelli, honesty—and all other virtues—are expendable if deceit, treachery, and force would be more expedient. In short, he would argue, people in positions of power should choose to be, well, Machiavellian, even if that is not their natural leadership style.
In psychology, Machiavellianism refers to a personality type that does not choose to be, but simply is, a master manipulator. Machiavellians (or “High Machs"; see below) do not need to read The Prince to acquire a knack for duplicity. They are temperamentally predisposed to be calculating, conniving, and deceptive. Essentially amoral, they use other people as stepping stones to reach their goals. From a Machiavellian’s perspective, if we allow ourselves to be used, we probably deserve it. P. T. Barnum expressed this mindset: "There’s a sucker born every minute.”
We can all be duplicitous at times, depending on need or circumstances. If you’ve ever called in sick when you were well or lied to your spouse about what you were doing, you have demonstrated the human capacity to con others. Such episodes probably do not reflect your standard behavior patterns, and you may have felt a little guilty.
But this type of behavior is routine for Machiavellians.
Meet the Machiavellians | Psychology Today
Note: the P.T. Barnum quote used in the above is considered in question. From Wikiquote.org: "Commonly attributed to Barnum, there is much testimony of contemporaries that he never actually said this, and in "P. T. Barnum Never Did Say "There's a Sucker Born Every Minute" R. J. Brown asserts that it actually originated with a banker named David Hannum, in reference to one of Barnum's hoaxes: a replica of the Cardiff Giant."
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