What’s inside this article: An introduction to The Dark Triad, focusing on the lesser-known personality profile – Machiavellianism. This article covers common personality traits, signs you’re in a relationship with a Machiavellian, testing, and treatment options.
Have you ever been in a toxic relationship where it seemed like your partner was playing mind games with you? Maybe you questioned whether or not you may be crazy, or they controlled you?
If your answer is yes – you’ve likely crossed paths with a member of The Dark Triad.
The Dark Triad
The dark triad consists of three antisocial personality traits.
You’ve probably heard of the first two – narcissism and psychopathy. But, have you heard of Machiavellianism?
These are the three most prominent offensive personalities mentioned in psychological literature. They’re called “dark” because of their malicious traits.
Narcissists have an inflated sense of self-worth. They think they are better and more important than others, so they seek excessive attention and admiration from others.
Psychopaths have no empathy, poor behavior control, and lack remorse for their actions – this often results in criminal behavior.
And then there’s Machiavellianism – We’ll talk more about that in just a second.
Even if that term is new to you, you may have encountered this dark personality.
What Is Machiavellianism?
Machiavellianism is a personality trait centered around manipulation, deceit, and exploitation to achieve goals.
The term derives from Niccolò Machiavelli, who was a philosopher and political strategist in the renaissance era. He wrote a notorious essay called “The Prince.” It says that a ruler should be ready to use any manipulative approaches to achieve the political agenda.
The glory of victory is justified by any means, even immoral.
The Machiavellian personality trait derives from this principle.
Side note: Imagine having a whole personality disorder named after you – yikes.
Machiavellianism is more common in men than women. But, it can occur in anyone, including children. Different studies estimate the prevalence to be just under 1% of the population, but a lot of these studies focus on specific career fields, so it may not be an accurate measure.
How to Spot a Machiavellian
Are you wondering if you’re dealing with a Machiavelli? Or even wondering if you are one?
Machiavellians share some unique personality traits.
- They care very little about other people’s feelings. All they care about is achieving what they want and their well-being. They’ll go into great depths of manipulation and deception, even with their loved ones.
- Machiavellians are preoccupied with having power & control. They’re skilled at gaining opportunities and power by influencing others, often with dishonesty. It might be useful to have the ambition to gain power, like getting a job promotion. But the thirst for power in Machiavellians is not healthy.
- Morals and ethics aren’t important to Machiavellians. After achieving what they want, they crave to brag about it. You may confuse it with honesty, but this is Machiavellianism at its peak. You should take such behaviors very seriously.
- They’re charming and “say all the right things”. But their charm is usually part of their plan to getting what they want. They may flatter you often, sometimes with lies. They are deceiving, finding it easy to mislead people because of their high social interaction skills. But you may notice that these interactions lack warmth and care.
- They try their best to avoid emotional attachments and commitment. Money, power, and social status are what matters most to them.
Emotions & Attitudes
Machiavellians sometimes struggle to find their own emotions. But, they’re aware of others’ feelings and use this to exploit others to solve their own problems.
Researchers believe that this may be due to the flexible problem-solving ability that is hardwired in their brains. This seemingly natural ability might give them an advantage. But at what cost to themselves and others?
If someone is a Machiavellian, you may notice they have an overwhelmingly pessimistic attitude towards the world. They don’t trust most of the people they interact with and often have unstable relationships.
Although, to them, this may work in their favor as they usually prefer short-term relationships.
How Does Machiavellianism Impact Relationships?
Machiavellian men and women prefer emotionally detached relationships. They would rather have a short-term sexual adventure than commit to a long-term relationship.
The features of Machiavellian personality can be antagonistic towards the well-being of a relationship. In other words, their personality traits and behaviors create toxic, unhealthy relationships.
According to a 2017 study, women with high Machiavellian traits often find their relationships unsatisfying. They also feel their partners are less dependable and less faithful.
This study also found that Machiavellians were more likely to be controlling and emotionally abusive. They don’t trust their partners’ intentions even if they’ve been in an intimate relationship for a long time.
This distrust is probably because their own intentions are manipulative.
If you’re in a relationship with a Machiavellian, you may feel like you don’t honestly know your partner. This is because people with high Machiavellianism rarely reveal their true intentions.
Although they usually use their manipulative skills to gain short term mating opportunities, they do get involved in long-term relationships.
When in long-term relationships, they may:
- Use sexual coercion on their partners.
- Have a negative representation of their partners – talk negatively about them to others, or belittle them. But, this doesn’t stop them from being close to them. They use this symbolic closeness to exploit their partners.
- Use gaslighting to get their way. Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse that undermines the victims’ sanity. They may continually say things like “are you crazy?” so that their partner starts to question if they are the crazy one.
What About Friendships?
Romantic partners aren’t the only ones impacted by Machiavelli’s; friendships are affected, too. A 2018 study found that Machiavellian women often felt pleasure in response to their same-sex friends’ misfortunes.
Another study revealed that women with higher levels of Machiavellianism were capable of emotionally manipulating their friends. They can also perceive when others are using emotional manipulation, too.
Testing for Machiavellianism
Psychologists use the Machiavellianism scale to test if people have this personality trait.
Scores above 60 are considered ‘high Machs’ and those below 60, ‘low Machs’.
Machiavellianism is treatable. However, most Machiavellians are unlikely to seek treatment. Usually, they only seek treatment after the persuasion of family members or by a court order.
If this happens, they can be treated by psychotherapy. Cognitive Behavior Therapy is the recommended mode of treatment.
You may come across people with Machiavellian traits in their personality.
It’s essential to be aware of their dark personality traits. You should accept that it is a part of what they are.
It’s difficult to avoid having their behavior influence your own mental health and well being.
Always seek help if you need it.