Play a Sucker to Catch a Sucker

In The 48 Laws of Power, Greene tells us to be careful about the impression we give others of ourselves. Most people, because they are vain, insecure, and needy, will want to prove to others that they are very clever. But this is a mistake. When people think you are smart, they will have their guards up against you, they will see you coming from miles away. The better strategy is to act dumber than you are, but not too dumb.

You should convince them that you are reasonably intelligent, but that they are superior to you in intelligence. This gives them double assurance. On the one hand, you have convinced them that you are predictable since you are reasonably intelligent. This will put their minds at ease. On the other hand, they are assured that you are not as intelligent as they are. This gives them assurance because even if you do try to outmaneuver them, they will be confident that they will be able to foil your efforts with relative ease.

Machiavelli taught that it is important to appear virtuous, but it is also important to not appear too intelligent. Another thing to keep in mind here is that no one likes a show off. In groups, people’s ideas often converge. When you decide to stand out, you will be marking yourself as being threatening or intimidating. The mob will try to disparage you by attributing any good traits to have to random luck, because they want to diminish your reputation. Understand that this is not because they are evil, these people can even be your friends or family. The reason they are motivated to put you down is because of their vanity. It is the same reason many people enjoy discrediting celebrity billionaires or overachievers as quacks or frauds. No one wants to feel that other human beings are too far ahead of them.

If you want to take advantage of this universal vanity, swallow your pride and always remember to cater to the feelings of the mob. This will give you an advantage in the future, should you choose to plan an attack. Play a sucker to catch a sucker.

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