Niccolò Machiavelli is a famous historical figure…with a controversial legacy.
His influential writings popularized the idea that decisions should be evaluated by their consequences, rather than by the actions taken to achieve those consequences.
In a competition, the person who is willing to do anything to win has the advantage.
The ends justify the means. If you believe these ideas, you are a Machiavellian.
But what exactly does it mean to be Machiavellian?
The concept is often misunderstood. In this post, we bust the 3 biggest myths.
Myth 1: Machiavellians are smart
The classic dictionary definition describes Machiavellians with words such as cunning, sly, and clever.
There is no doubt that Machiavellians can be very intelligent—and these are the people we probably notice or pay attention to more often.
But research has found that there’s actually no correlation between Machiavellianism and intelligence.
Machiavellians aren’t necessarily any smarter.
Myth 2: Machiavellians are bad people, who do bad things
A person who would do anything to achieve their goals might cheat, deceive, or manipulate other people.
But then again, they might not.
The truth is that Machiavellianism overlaps with two other personality traits that are actually responsible for a lot of the “bad.”
Narcissism—an inflated and grandiose view of oneself.
Unlike a strict Machiavellian, Narcissists tend to “justify” their behavior.
After all, they are more important than other people, and their needs rightfully should take priority.
Psychopathy—a lack of emotion or empathy for others.
Machiavellians might be willing to do bad things in order to achieve a desired goal.
But psychopaths are willing to do bad things, in general.
Their “bad” behavior might be just for fun, have an undesirable goal, or no goal whatsoever. They don’t care.
Narcissists and psychopaths do tend to be somewhat more Machiavellian.
But simply being Machiavellian doesn’t necessarily make you a Narcissist or psychopath.
Myth 3: You’re either Machiavellian or you’re not
The truth is that the majority of people are somewhere in between.
Most people don’t agree with all of Machiavelli’s ideas.
But then again, most people don’t disagree with all of Machiavelli’s ideas either.
How about you?