Surviving the Con Artist

by Elouise

No doubt about it. We’re surrounded by con artists who seek to enhance themselves at the expense of others.

I’m not talking about the painfully transparent scenarios of TV ads. This is about individuals who amass great fortunes by way of the con. You might say they’re masters of The Deal. The one where They Always Win or think they do, and you always lose even though you may believe you’re winning.

I don’t like being caught looking the wrong way. So here’s what’s helping me right now in our new USA political scene of chaotic administration, alternative facts, confusion, smiles, surface calm and deep rage—all of which can catch us off guard.

I’m drawing on a helpful book—one of two I’ve read recently about psychopaths. The book is titled Without Conscience, by Robert D. Hare. Dr. Hare’s points are in italics. The summary is my version of his material.

  1. Know what you are dealing with. Don’t think reading a book here and there will inoculate you. No one is safe. Still, it helps to know what you’re dealing with. Don’t memorize a list of rules. Instead, understand what makes psychopaths tick, and why you are vulnerable.
  2. Try not to be influenced by “props.” This is nearly impossible, given our love affair with social media. Nonetheless, don’t watch their faces, body language, or stage sets. Look away or close your eyes. Pay attention to their words. Avoid eye contact. Don’t be mesmerized by hand motions or backdrops. Your job is to sort out fact from fiction, and discern this person’s intentions with regard to YOU. What does he or she want? Your vote? Your money? Your influence? Your cheers? You? Listen carefully. What, exactly, is he or she saying or promising?
  3. Don’t wear blinkers. Psychopaths will say and do anything to gain your trust. Beware of flattery, promises, shows of kindness or concern about you, stories about how great and smart they are and how they can make you great again! Cracks will appear in their carefully staged performance, but you have to be alert for them. They’re on a fishing expedition, figuring out what will reel you in! Are they vague? Inconsistent? Misinformed? Not answering the question someone just asked? If anything sounds wrong or too good to be true, check it out later. Even more difficult, forget about friendly social manners we USA citizens think we’re required to use. Sometimes it doesn’t pay to be friendly or compliant, no matter how you’re being treated. Don’t give yourself away.
  4. Keep your guard up in high-risk situations. That includes the context (away from home, in a bar or airport, on a cruise) and your personal vulnerability. Lonely? Single? Homesick? Married? Fed up? Weary? Depressed? Do you have money? Want or need more money? Out of work? Tired of being told what to do by people who don’t know your situation? Always looking for the next big deal? The next stray cat? Beware! You’re just what psychopaths love to find.
  5. Know yourself. Especially your weak spots. That’s what psychopaths are looking for. Their radars focus on weak spots. Know when that’s happening and don’t be a sucker to flattery or promises of a big deal. They read us like an open book. If you need help knowing yourself, ask people who know you best to help you. Consider it personal insurance against being taken for a damaging ride you will regret.

I know from bitter experience what it’s like to be conned. In today’s political world, perhaps the best we can do is to know ourselves. Thinking we’re safe in any political scenario won’t inoculate us from damage. No doubt about it!

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 2 March 2017
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Doubt