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If you are new to this series, please read the introduction.


Play a Sucker to Catch a Sucker – Seem Dumber than your Mark

No one likes feeling more stupid than the next persons. The trick, is to make your victims feel smart – and not just smart, but smarter than you are. Once convinced of this, they will never suspect that you may have ulterior motives.
Now, there is nothing a man is prouder than of intellectual ability, for it is this that gives him his commanding place in the animal world. It is an exceedingly rash thing to let anyone see that you are decidedly superior to him in this respect, and to let other people see it too. Hence, while rank and riches may always reckon upon deferential treatment in society, that is something which intellectual ability can never expect; to be ignored is the greatest favor shown to it; and if people notice it at all, it is because they regard it as a piece of impertinence, or else as something to which its possessor has no legitimate right, and upon which he dares to pride himself; and in retaliation and revenge for his conduct, people secretly try to humiliate him in some way; and; if they wait to do this, it is only for a fitting opportunity. A man may be as humble as possible in his demeanor and never get people to overlook his crime in standing intellectually above them. In the Garden of Roses, Sadi makes this remark,"You should know that foolish people are a hundredfold more avers to meeting the wise than the wise are indisposed for the company of the foolish." On the other hand, it is a real recommendation to be stupid. For just as warmth is agreeable to the body, so it does the mind good to feel this superiority; and a man will seek company likely to give him this feeling, as instinctively as he will approach the fireplace, or walk in the sun, if he wants to get warm. But, this means that he will be disliked on account of his superiority; and if a man is to be liked, he must really be inferior in a point of intellect. - Arthur Schopenhauer, 1788-1860

The feeling that someone is more intelligent than we are is almost intolerable. We usually try to justify it in differing ways: "He only has book knowledge, whereas I have experience." "Her parents paid for her to get a good education. If my parents had as much money, ..." "He is not as smart as he thinks."

Given how important the idea of intelligence is to most people's vanity, it is necessary never to impugn or insult a person's brain power. This is unforgivable. But, if you can make this rule work for you, it opens all sorts of opportunities. Subliminally, reassure people that they are more intelligent than you. The feeling of intellectual superiority will disarm them.

In 1865, Otto von Bismarck wanted Austria to sign a certain treaty. The treaty was totally in the interest of Prussia and against the interests of Austria. The Austrian negotiator, Count Blome, was an avid card player. His favorite game was quinze, and he often said he could judge a man's character by the way he played quinze. Bismarck knew this.

The night before the negotiations were to begin, Bismarck innocently engaged Blome in a game of quinze. The Prussian would later write, " I played so recklessly that everyone was astonished. I lost several thousand talers, bit I succeeded in fooling Blome, for he believed me to be more venturesome than I am and I gave way." In addition to appearing reckless, Bismarck also played the witless fool, saying ridiculous things and bumbling about with a surplus of nervous energy.

Blome felt that he had learned valuable information. He knew that Bismarck was aggressive - the Prussian had that reputation and the way he played confirmed it. Blome knew that aggressive men can be foolish and rash. A heedless fool like Bismarck, he thought is incapable of cold-blooded calculation and deception, so he only glanced at the treaty before signing it. As soon as the ink was dry, a joyous Bismarck told him, "I could never have believed that I could find an Austrian diplomat willing to sign that document!"

The Chinese have a phrase, "Masquerading as a swine to kill a tiger." This refers to an ancient hunting technique, in which the hunter clothes himself in the hide and snout of a pig, and mimics its grunting. The mighty tiger thinks a pig is coming his way and allows it to get close. The tiger expects an easy meal but the hunter prevails.

Masquerading as a swine works wonders on those who are arrogant and overconfident. The easier they think it is to dominate you, the easier you can turn the tables.

Intelligence is the obvious quality to downplay, but why stop there? Taste and sophistication rank close to intelligence on the vanity scale. Ensure that people feel that they are more sophisticated than you and their guard will come down. They will keep you around because you make them feel better than themselves, and the longer you are around, the more opportunities you will have.

No where is this tactic more obvious in practice than in American electoral politics, in which each candidate tries to appear less intelligent than the others.

Any questions??