Machiavellianism is not a term that people encounter often in their daily lives. However, it is present in almost every setting. But, what does this word even mean? Machiavellianism is one of the most negative traits that a person can have. It is one of the three personality traits of the dark triad. This personality trait makes a person more vulnerable to exhibiting criminal behaviour. It can be problematic and highly damaging in a community set-up. Thus, people with this trait should be met with caution. This article aims to make its readers aware of Machiavellianism, better equipping them to cope with it and escape its negative effects.

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What is Machiavellianism?

The word ‘Machiavellianism’ has been named after the 16th-century writer, Niccolò Machiavelli based on his philosophies. This is particularly true in his work “The Prince”, in which he takes a supportive stand for shrewd political leadership. This term refers to those individuals who share the views and strategic approaches of Machiavelli in achieving their goals. Machiavellianism is the personality trait that is characterized by the ability to manipulate or deceive someone to perceive their future goals.

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People with this trait are cunning, think strategically, lack concerns about morality, and have a desire to gain control and power in their environment. These people show domineering behaviour. Their body language is usually expansive. They lack empathy and have little to no emotional attachment to those around them. While they have a greater chance of committing crimes, Machiavellian individuals are not always destined for it. This trait occurs in people to various degrees. However, these people will likely cause some kind of disturbance to society.

Machiavellianism and the Dark Triad:

The Dark Triad is a set of three of the most negative personality traits that a person can possess. Machiavellianism is one of these three traits, along with narcissism and psychopathy. All these three concepts slightly overlap, but the characteristics of each of them differ. The Dark Triad is not a part of the DSM-5. It is more likely to be referred to as a theory. Narcissism is characterized by grandiose behaviour, exhibitionism, arrogance and a sense of entitlement. Psychopathy refers to the absence of guilt or remorse, lack of conscience and low empathy. Machiavellianism shares many characteristics with these two traits. This includes disagreeableness, manipulation, dishonesty, selfishness, etc. These traits of the dark triad give way to a personality that makes a person focus on personal gain, usually at the expense of others.

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Impact of the Traits of Machiavellianism:

Machiavellianism largely impacts the individual and the community that they are a part of. Those people with high Machiavellianism have unhealthy interpersonal relationships, as they always try to gain control. These relationships are often formed strategically with people who are unsuspecting or vulnerable.

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Due to their intelligence and their ability to make tough decisions, they might excel in workplaces. However, since they are power-hungry, these people use manipulative strategies to move forward. This only proves to be advantageous to themselves. However, the loss is incurred by the company and a toxic work environment is created. Colleagues are used as a means to move forward in their careers.

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In the presence of a Machiavellian individual, societies suffer, as people in it might develop trust issues. As a result, people fail to cooperate, creating a havoc in the society. When these individuals fail to follow actions aimed towards the community’s common goals, social cohesion breaks down, and progress is delayed.

Recognizing Machiavellianism:

People who are high in Machiavellianism are experts at concealing their motives for personal gain. However, if aware, a person can track some signs exhibited by these individuals. Christie and Geis wrote the book ‘Studies in Machiavellianism’ in 1970. This book explains the personality traits of Machiavellianism. It describes the tests that led to the development of the MACH-IV, which is the standard test assessment tool used for Machiavellianism today.

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This test has helped to determine various statistical information about demographics. This trait reduces with growing age. Men score higher than females on average in MACH-IV. The test has helped determine that there are very small differences in Machiavellianism concerning race, and there is no clear difference in trends caused by a person’s sexual orientation.

  • Highly Persuasive Behavior: These people are very persuasive, as well as charming. They use these traits to have their way and excel to fulfil their goals.
  • Strategic Thinking: These individuals are smart enough to come up with strategies that benefit them. They are very confident in their ability to get away with their plans without much consequences.
  • Manipulative Behavior: They constantly deceive people to misguide them and meet their objectives.
  • Lack of Empathy: They only care about personal growth or about achieving their own selfish goals. They might go to any extent to achieve what they want, even if it means harming someone else. They do not even feel remorse for doing so.
Interacting with Machiavellian Individuals:

While interacting with people who are high in Machiavellianism, one should be aware of their characteristics and proceed with caution. Here are a few things to keep in mind while interacting with them.

  • Establishing clear boundaries while engaging with these people will help in preventing being manipulated.
  • Look out for any signs of deception and verify all information received directly from them.
  • Do not get emotionally invested while talking to them. This gives them the power to play with your feelings.
  • Engage in group decision-making so the individual is unable to strongly influence you.

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Summing Up

Machiavellianism is a concept in psychology that is a part of the dark triad. Although not diagnosable, this trait is severe and can have damaging effects on the community. Machiavellian individuals are smarter than the average person, and they are aware of it. They believe that they are capable of getting away with anything. This belief enables them to exhibit manipulative behaviour, using various strategies to achieve their goal.

These individuals are highly likely to commit some kind of crime. However, they are capable of not engaging in it. This does not stop them from causing societal harm to achieve personal goals. This trait exists at different levels in different individuals. These people can cause notable harm to others. Thus, it is important to be aware of their behavioural patterns and take necessary precautions to avoid facing the consequences of their actions.

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