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How to figure people out - Machiavelli Psychology

Any man who tries to be good all the time is bound to come to ruin among the
great number who are not good. Hence a prince who wants to keep his authority
must learn now not to be good, and use that knowledge, or refrain from using it,
as a necessity requires.
-Niccolo Machiavelli, 1469-1527
In 1862 a man, named Otto Von Bismarck, became prime minister of Prussia. He was
known for his ambition to lead his country against hatred Austria. However, apart from his
King William, most people in the government did not share the same opinion: They
considered such an idea, wrong for their country and considered Bismarck as someone
dangerous, holding now a very sensitive position. Bismarck knew that his position was being
dug from beneath and that if he didn’t act immediately, sooner or later people would make
sure that he would be removed from that post.

Only one week later from his debut as a premier, Bismarck entered a room full of ministers
and gave an amazing speech, stunning all of his audience: Not only he didn’t try to hide out
his ambitions but even more, he advocated the preparation of a new German army. He
concluded his speech by saying: ‘The great questions of the time will be decided, not by
speeches and resolutions of majorities, but by iron and blood’.
By the end of the speech, all the people in the room were numb.
In the few days that followed, the ensemble of the government seemed to turn against him
and even the queen started to scream against her husband William that Bismarck should be
removed and if not they would both probably end up like the French kings: Beheaded.
Bullied from all sides, King William asked Bismarck to come to his palace to have a
discussion. However, Otto Von Bismarck was a man that did his homework: He had
studied his King from head to toe and he knew what his thumbscrew was.

When they met, King William started saying that if Bismarck would continue to spread his
ideas, they would both end up guillotined. To his king surprise, Bismarck answered:“Then
we shall die! We must die sooner or later, and could there be a more respectable way of
dying ? I should die fighting for the cause of my king and master. Your Majesty would die
sealing with your own blood your royal rights granted by God’s grace. Whether upon the
scaffold or upon the battlefield makes no difference to the glorious staking of body and life
on behalf of rights granted by God’s grace!”.
Bismarck knew that his King had a military background, a deep sense of honour and that he
was being bullied by everyone. He had understood that despite the fact that he was being
influenced by his wife, deep inside he wanted to be a bold and mighty King.
In the days following their meeting, the King surprised all his ministers and gave his prime
minister the green light to expand Prussia’s army program. In the years that came Bismarck
led Prussia into a war with Austria, crushing the former empire and establishing one
powerful German country.

Why would you want to figure out another person ?

So me and you we are not Prime ministers and we are not Kings. Why should we try to read
someone else ??
First and foremost, by profiling people, you will have generally less conflicts. This will
happen because you will start to understand better THEIR view of the world. Second, by
being able to tell who is the person sitting at the other end of the table, you will
automatically become a very powerful communicator. Third, at some point you will start
to develop a certain empathy that stops the limiting, human instinct of avoiding anyone
that doesn’t look or behave exactly like me and you.
However, the most important reason to profile someone, is the following one: Better
prediction accuracy. If this isn’t making you dance Lambada, let me put it differently: You
will be able to manipulate people much better than before. Being more manipulative, as
Michael Hall put it, is something good that will enable you to handle your self and others
more effectively and respectfully.
How do you read someone ??

a) The first step you will have to take is to be ready to read. This is NOT as simple as it
sounds. You may be standing in front of something as big and as obvious, as the mountain
Fuji, and you may STILL miss it altogether. In order to perform a successful read, you must
stop whatever else you are doing and pay attention to what the other person is telling or
showing you, using all of your senses.
b) Know what you are searching for: People are really complicated and if you don’t
know what you are looking for, you can get easily lost. The type of lost that we are talking
about is not the one that you will get, if you miss a turn while driving in the city. The kind of
lost we are talking about is the one that Alice in wonderland felt: Complete and absurd.
c) Learn how to listen:
• Do NOT interrupt.
• Do NOT condemn or patronize.
• Make sure that your Body Language stays neutral. If not, it will have an impact on
the speaker and as a result he or she will try to say what she thinks you want to
• Learn how to listen using ALL of your senses.
d) Always have some good, open ended questions at hand:
They will help the conversation to keep going and they will make your target talk more
about herself.
e) If someone tries to take the conversation away from where you want to take it, ask
him why.
f) Now watch out for one of the following:
-Slang: Bad grammar, trendy sayings and colloquialisms. If they can be turned on and off
at will, then something is strange.
-Profanity: How often is it used ? What is its significance ?
-Bragging: This shows arrogance, some ego situation, possible insecurity served with a
touch of lying.
-Exaggeration: It is a sure sign of dishonesty and maybe a sign of low self esteem.
-Self Criticism: A bit is OK but if it is driven to extremes, it may reveal a deep insecurity.
-Gossip: A classic tool of the unhappy, insecure and manipulative.
-Humour: If it is lighthearted it is OK, but if it is sarcastic it says a lot about the jokester.
-Sarcasm: If it is used too often, it shows some insecurity and if it is quite aggressive you
may be dealing with someone insecure and quite selfish. However, if kept in logical doses, it
is a great tool of making a point.

g) Look out for the things someone is doing and not only for the things someone is saying.
If his acts are incongruent with his sayings then pay attention to his doings. For
example: If someone likes you even if his sayings are sarcastic, he may act in a way that he
will protect you. In that case blame the game and not the player because he doesn’t mean
bad to you.
h) Remember: Mistakes are things we do once or maybe twice. If the same pattern is
repeated many times, it is no longer a mistake and excuses are no longer enough.
Surface Patterns (Behavior):
-Fanfare: It means insecurity.
-Selfishness: In any form it may appear, it means that someone is egocentric, jealous,
insecure and really but REALLY competitive.
-Performance under fire: It is at those moments under pressure that people show their
true character.
-Avoidance: What someone is NOT doing says as much as what someone IS doing.
-Moralizing: People that preach and moralize either they have a secret agenda or they are
trying to hide the fact that they are afraid of something.
-Spending habits: Any extremes in this category shows some insecurity.
-Trust your intuition: Intuition is nothing more than your subconscious that has realised
of something but you haven’t verbalised yet.
-Search for anything unusual: The extreme habits show a lot about his character.
From the surface to the deep - Onion.
Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, used to say that most of us have a
personality that looks very much like an onion: In the center you have the Id, a
very simple component that all it wants is immediate gratification and self-
Pleasure thus following the … Pleasure Principle. Built around the Id, there is a
second entity called the Ego, which basically is a system that helps the Id to find
and acquire all those pleasures it requires by adapting its needs to the reality of
our world (Reality Principle). Around those two you have the Super Ego which
consists of all the programming society has given to us and thus following … the
Morality Principle.
I really like the world thus. It has a kind of old school glamour.

Those three entities work like a triple pendulum: They swing and interact giving
all the small (or bigger…) moods what we perceive as our personality.
Now, all these are great and they may be useful to impress some first year
psychology student at a bar but they will never let you figure out what someone’s
next move will be. Not to mention, that there are FAR better ways to impress
students at bars. Side note about psychology students, Freud and alcohol: One
interesting thing with alcohol is that if you drink hard enough, you can chase Ego
and Superego away and leave the Id all by its self to face the realities of the bar:
Not a good idea.
Let’s see the lovely above in another way:
Strategies, Goals, End Goals and a need to achieve them.
Most of us have an end goal that we want to achieve. That goal is happiness which
arises when we have satisfied some need. The road to our end goal can pass from
different intermediate goals and thus forming a path AKA strategy.
Maria wants of feel happy. To feel happy she must fulfill her need for reproduction,
which means among other things that she must have sex. Maria also wants
physical security , which in order to achieve she will need a man: This is because
her neural circuit is hundred of thousands years old and at that time men were
necessary for protecting their families. To meet both needs, she must seduce one.
For that reason she puts her high heels, she wears some revealing, sexy top and
then she hits the bars with her friends. There she jumps in the middle, dances like
crazy, while she knows that men and women are watching her. As she is doing
that, her Ego recognises that if men are watching her, it must mean that she is on
her way to achieve the sub goal of getting the man she wants. Even better, if other
women are watching her, it must mean that she is hard competition for most of
them and thus that she has a potential power - Referent Power for being able to
associate her self with someone important. All along this crazy roller coaster, her
Ego is rewarding her by giving her small bursts of happiness. The Ego doesn’t
need to achieve the End Goal to make her satisfied: Maria doesn’t need to get the
man that night, she only needs to show to her self that she has the capability of
achieving it. All the above are mostly transparent to Maria: It is the unconscious
that runs the house.
“People are not lazy. They simply have impotent goals / that is, goals that do not
inspire them.”
- Anthony Robbins quote
Abraham Maslow was an American psychologist that grew up in Brooklyn, NY and
was primarily interested in primate dominance behavior and sexuality. In an
original paper, he coined the term hierarchy of needs showing that every person
has a series of needs he has to fulfill in order to fill happy. Some are more
important than others, creating thus an hierarchy.
Different persons have adopted different strategies to meet those needs. Many of
them for example are looping back without actually achieving what they really
need but by still provoking the end result: happiness. They achieve that by fooling
their neurology.
Two examples given:
Masturbation is a common act and our body cannot tell really the difference
between a real sex act and a good hand job. We can go through the same feelings
and achieve the same gratification without really having fulfilled the need for
reproduction. Someone can argue, that having sex with a condom, does NOT lead
to reproduction either: Both acts fail to meet the End Goal. However, the act of sex
is much more closer to the End Goal as it shows that the Ego has succeeded to find
some form of social strategy that could lead us with an offspring .
David is a guy, who enjoys being heavily sarcastic to the point that makes people
feel bad. He enjoys destabilising people using stupid arguments. He does that
because by making them feel less powerful, he tricks his Ego to think that he is on
his way to achieve some form of social power and thus security. He compares
himself with his ‘victims’ and says: “Hey, I am more powerful than him”. He has
adopted that strategy through the years without knowing why: He just does it.
There is no point to mention how relevant is this to: drugs, soap operas, certain
type of mainstream films, television and alcohol….
So, What ?? I’ll tell you what !
If you manage to understand the complex of needs a person has, you are on your
way to find what motivates him. If you manage to understand the underlying
goals, you are on your way to understand a very big part of that puzzle: you have
detected his thumbscrew and you will be able to move and motivate someone with
VERY little effort from your part.
This is … Physics my friend: It is known as Resonance.

Some needs are obvious: The need for money can lead a person to be always on
the hunt for opportunities to make money. However, there exist needs that are
much more hidden: The need to feel that someone is ‘coping’ with things can
produce someone that whenever he finds a technical challenge, he will fight day or
night to get it done. This kind of need is good and empowering and should be
cultivated. Such a geeky individual can be made happy simply by making him think
that he is better than someone else, in some form of art.
I know, I used to be one. ;)
These things are good to know for your self. It will help you control your self and
not venture in an adventure that, even though it may attract you, in the long run it
may cost you more than it will offer you. It will make you less prone to
Darn long list of character traits
DISCLAIMER: This list is loong … and tedious. Did I mention tedious ?? Well, if it is
tedious to read, imagine how tedious it is to write everything down. Anyway, the
reason this list exists is to be able to pick and examine a trait you find interesting.
While you are having a look… I am going to have a beer and screw my head back
where it was before I started writing that list…
As you read the list, bear in mind that you can learn about your self as much as
you can learn about others. Before you turn the analytic camera towards someone
else, do your self a favor and turn that camera towards yourself.
Chunking size: Whole picture VS Details
When you are learning something do you focus on the details or on the bigger
picture ?
Relationship sort: Sameness VS Difference
When you meet somebody new, do you focus on the things you have in common or
on the things you differ ?
People that focus on the sameness will speak about “What they have in common”
and people that focus on differences will talk about “What they have different”.
Those in the second domain can often fell in a category called Polarity responders:
Their brain is so hardwired in differences that they will always try to do the
opposite from what you propose them, making them thus highly predictive.
Sensing VS Intuition:
When you are about to learn something new, how much time do you spend on
actually observing your environment and how much time on thinking by your self.

Black n’ White VS Continuum

In the first category you have people that like to divide things in clear cut
categories and in the second one, you have people that see the full continuum
between black and white. The first you will often hear them talk about someone
being “bad” and “good” or “wrong” and “right”.
Optimist VS Pessimist
In these categories there are people that tend to see the best case scenarios or
the worst case scenarios. The same people tend to see a glass of water either “half
full” or “half empty”. You can hear them talk about challenges, dreams, solutions
or on the other hand about problems, threats and difficulties.
Focus sort: Screeners VS Non-Screeners
People in the first category will have the tendency to screen out a lot of
information from their environment while people in the second category will tend
to notice a lot of details. You can tell when you meet a Non Screener if he is easily
distracted by the environment and when he retains a lot of details about places he
Anyone who says he can see through women is missing a lot.
- Groucho Marx
Why VS How
‘Why’ people tend to ask themselves why something has happened while ‘How’
people will ask themselves how they can change it or repair it. People in the first
category are notorious for getting stuck in psychological dead ends, endlessly
trying to find out why something in life has occurred to them and what does that
mean. On the other hand people in the the how category will find solutions and
hacks to almost anything in life.
Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.
- Charles D. Warner
Process VS Static
People in the first category understand that their states (emotional, life etc) are
ever evolving processes and that they can improve their situation at any moment.
People on the second category wrongly believe that whatever happens to them is
part of a static long lasting situation. There is no point to say that the second kind
of people have also a hard time to get over things because they don’t realise that
they have the option to change them.

Associated VS Disassociated
When you process some form of challenge do you do it using your feelings or do
you manage to keep your feelings out ?? The best solution seems to be, something
between the two extremes, which by the way, they are called “Super sensitive
mode” and “Computer mode”.
Emotional Directional Sort.
When a feeling comes in your life does it spread in every domain and aspect of
your life or do you keep it contained in the domain it started ??
Emotional Intensity:
Surgent people want excitement and plenty of surprises in their life to live it
happily while on the other hand insurgent people need calmness and a quite,
ordered life in order to be happy.
Direction Sort
Do you run away from negative goals or do you move towards positive goals ??

Do you prefer a clear cut procedure or do you prefer your options open ??
Primary Interest
People tend to fall in six categories from what interests them the most
• People
• Places
• Things
• Activities
• Information
• Time
Judging VS Perceiving
The people of the first category want to control everything about their
environment while the people of the second prefer to ‘float’ around and adapt to
whatever comes their way.
What about cats that fell in the first category ??
How do you strive to achieve a goal ??
Do you focus on the end criteria ? Do you focus on the process of getting there ?
Are you a scepticist that sabotages your way to success ??
Emotional style
When some threat arises do you react passively by doing nothing, do you move to
fight that threat aggressively or do you fight for your ground by being assertive ?
Over responsible people take all the blame for themselves while under responsible
people tend to forget their responsibilities.
Battery Rejuvenation
Introvert people prefer to load their batteries by staying away from many people
while Extrovert people find energy by interacting with other people. My cousin is a
salesman that enjoys interacting with people. He is the happiest extrovert, I’ve
ever seen. These people want to make friends and they are made to be social.
They are excellent in meeting people and working in public-relations-type of jobs.
While they seem to glow in big rooms full of people, take one of them and put him
in a room by him self for one hour and you will see what ‘I’m so bored that I think
I will melt’ means.
At the other end of this spectrum, you have those introvert engineers that they
have coded more words in some software program, than they have spoken during
their whole life. I wanted to say something funny to combine those two characters
but I didn’t find any.
Comparison sort
Qualitative people prefer to listen to instructions in general directions while
quantitative people want exact figures and statistics before they get going.

Knowledge sort
When you are learning something new, like an art, a science or even a sport, do
you prefer first to model the art and then start doing it (theory) or do you prefer
to get started right away, in order to get first a personal experience (practice) ??
Completion: Closers \ Non Closers
Do you usually enjoy completing your projects, till the last drop or do you leave
them in the middle to under take something new and more interesting ?? I know a
guy that sits really well on that second category, having an immense kick start but
always leaving jobs and girlfriends wanting for more, while he is on his way to
something new. He has an interesting CV by the way…
Temper to Instruction
There are people who can tolerate any type of instruction from authority figures
and other thats will get angry in a simple demand. Those second, rebellion types
are hardly ever good material for military service.
Self Esteem: High VS Low
… At my left we have Mr.SuperCoolHighEsteem weighing one ton and measuring 3
meters and at my left… Well, that thing that lies on the floor…
The way you feel time
Are you living in the NOW, are you living in the Past or are you minding of the
Future ??
Morality: Weak VS Strong Super Ego
People with weak Super Ego will do whatever passes from their hand to get them
selves satisfied. They don’t care what society dictates and as a result they will do
things that are considered immoral by people with Strong Super Egos. If this is
taken to an extreme they will kill, steal, lie and get in bed with anything that
moves, just to get their pleasure: They have no moral inhibitions and this
infuriates the Strong Super Ego characters who sit at the other end of the scale,
looking like nuns. When the two of them meet, things usually don’t go so well.

Source : Happy Brain Storm