Very few of us always tell the truth. We lie about our age, about our weight, about how we liked Aunt Bertha’s pastry… but there are some of us who just plain lie. They twist as a sculptor might manipulate clay. These are the Players. They do not just lie some of the time; they lie all the time. For them, lying is as second nature as breathing is to us. There is no statement, no action, no matter how minute and innocuous seeming, which are not somehow tainted by lies.
You can ask them their favourite color and they will answer according to what they perceive will increase their worth in your eyes. You like red, they will say red. If they perceive you to the contrary and respect those whose opinions differ from their own, they will say green. In fact, if they have no favourite color at all, inner and outer worlds are infinitely malleable. This provides us with a certain clue as to their character: they have no inner world. The only exist as a reflection of the esteem of others. That is why they’re willing to do anything and everything to win it.
In fiction, this kind of person plays the villain and is inevitably foiled in the end. In life, the opposite is true. They not only get away with the crime, they thrive.
So confident are they in their invulnerability, they come to see themselves as the very paragons of virtue. They contribute to charities. They make great speeches about giving the underdog an even break. Any bystander watching this performance with no previous knowledge of the Player’s character would almost certainly come to only one conclusion: “What a nice guy!”
To any of us privileged enough to have a backstage view of their machinations, it is not only galling that they get away with their crimes, their smug complacency is enough to drive you to madness. In their own minds, their actions are sanitized to the point that they appear completely normal — no sane person could be expected to behave otherwise. Sometimes they take an extra step and turn the treachery into virtue and self-sacrifice.
It seems with every passing generation the number of these people multiplies. This should not come as any great surprise since there are so perfectly adapted to the world we live in. In today’s high paced, virtual, wireless world, first impressions are all we have time for. We simply don’t have the time to disbelieve what anyone says. Appearances and likeability become the only criteria upon which we trust the other. This is indeed ironic as the best manipulators always look good and are extremely affable.
What are we to do when confronted with a world populated by such people? Normal rules of relationships, which are based on reciprocity, quid pro quo, acknowledgement and appreciation, simply do not apply. The Christian philosophy of taking the high road and turning the other cheek becomes an invitation for disaster when dealing was such people. (In saying this I’m not at all sure that these methods worked any better with the Romans than they do today.)
All is not lost, however. There are concrete steps that can be taken, and simple strategies that may be applied to greatly increase your odds of success. They revolve around the principle of turning the game back upon itself and defeating the players by employing their own devices against them.