There are plenty of personality types out there and there are plenty of therapists that have applied certain traits to these individuals. Keeping that in mind there are some traits and personalities that have come down through the ages and that have more meaning and are more rooted in history than you might imagine. That being said, Machiavellian is one of them.
What is Machiavellian?
To be Machiavellian may sound quite villainesque and with good reason. Someone that fits this profile is often cunning, scheming, unscrupulous, and hungry for advancement. This is often applied to politicians that will do anything to get ahead including step on the little guy. This type of personality may also be artful, crafty, wily, sly, tricky, two faced, and difficult to work with. In most cases this type of personality is very strong, very overbearing, and somewhat power hungry making them very hard to be around for very long. Though possessing some of these traits may not seem all that bad, having them all in accordance with one another can be quite hard.
Where did the Term Come From?
Some might be asking, why do we define Machiavellian so? The answer is far simpler than you might imagine. In the 16th century Niccolo Machiavelli wrote the Prince. This Italian treatise was written to describe the perfect prince. In his work Machiavelli outlined all the character traits that would be necessary for a prince to be both good to his people, and make them fear him. He also talked about how a prince should deal with rivals, how they should advance their careers, and how they should act in general. This was written as a sort of satire for some but for others they took his work to heart.
Machiavelli was under the patronage of Pope Clement VII and was conscripted to write the work to help make the Medici family look better in the eyes of the people. This work was pivotal for a few reasons, namely that it was written in the vernacular of the time so anyone could read it. Though this work is quite short, it had a great deal of impact on its time and on centuries of readers down the line. Machiavelli outlines several things that a Prince should do that line up perfectly with this personality type.
In his work Machiavelli outlined several principles that are to be held by any prince. It is important that in order to better understand this type of personality you know a bit about the principles that he laid out.
It is Better to be Feared than Loved:
This is one of the most quoted and best known principles that Machiavelli outlined in his work. This is one principle that fits the bill when it comes to this personality type. Those that are Machiavellian in personality are likely to do whatever it takes to get to the top, even if it means scaring the tar out of the competition. This means in most cases that those that have a Machiavellian personality are likely to be feared by those around them. Though this principle has been argued for centuries, it is sure to be one that continues to cause issue.
Avoid Being Hated Except During War
This is another principle that may apply to the Machiavellianism in us all. Those that are part of this personality type are likely to be somewhat bearable and not at all offensive when times are peaceful. A good example is when there is no promotion in an office. They are likely to be friends with everyone, fun to talk to, someone you would want to eat lunch with. In times when there is a promotion or something to be gained however they will see it as an intense competition that requires they crush everyone else. This is a principle that often makes those that have this type of personality somewhat unbearable. They will often be over competitive, hard to deal with when there is something to fight for, and may even be downright mean.
A Capable Leader Must Be Cunning
This is another principle that makes the Machiavellian personality so hard to deal with. They will feel that they need to lead, they are destined to do so, they have to be in charge. In order to get the position of authority they feel they deserve, they will do whatever it takes to get there. They will do underhanded things, they will be sneaky, and they may even stab a few people in the back on their way to the top. Some see this as a personality flaw while others see it as being driven and determined to win and prevail. This is a personality trait that makes the Machiavellian person a far more competitive and sneaky than your average person.
People Will Inevitably Lie to You, So it is Okay to Lie to Them
This is another very controversial principle. Machiavelli claimed that it is innate to human nature to lie. Whether you know it or not, you will lie and you are preprogrammed to do so. It is this essential flaw in the human makeup that makes it okay to lie to one another. We are going to do it after all anyhow. A true Machiavellian personality will lie when they need to without hesitation. This does not mean that they are all pathological liars but rather that they will lie if they need to without feeling super guilty about it. This is not a flaw in many cases as they will lie about smaller things rather than larger things.
The Ends Justify the Means
This is perhaps the most controversial and well known of all of Machiavelli’s principles. He claimed that the ends, no matter how you have to get there, justify what you have to do to attain them. This is a very easy one to understand but it comes loaded with several issues. First off, how do you determine if the ends that you seek are worthy or the means you need to get there? Does this mean that I can do anything I want if I have a goal in mind? Who determines what means and ends are worth pursuing? Etc. These are all great questions and they are all attached to this principle.
You may think that this is a justification to do whatever you want just so long as you have a good goal in mind, if you are a Machiavellian personality type. In most cases, people will shy away from doing things they know are wrong, even if it helps them get closer to their ultimate goals. For instance, say you need to get gas for your car to get to your job. You do not have any money but your brother has twenty bucks in his wallet. Those that are not of the Machiavellian persuasion will likely ask their brother for the money or ask someone else. Those that are of the Machiavellian persuasion will assume it is okay to take the money because it gets them closer to their goal and gets them to work.
This can cause some serious issues for various reasons. While some are going to do good things with their justification, others are going to use the justification of ends and means to do bad things that are negative and that should not be done. This may not be a big issue in the short term for smaller goals but can cause some major issues for larger goals that require more means.
There are some tests out there that can help you determine if you have this personality type of not. Odds are if you do you have already found out and others have pointed out the flaws that they find with you. If you are still curious however, most Machiavelli tests will pose a series of scenarios and gauge your answers to see how closely you fit the bill. If you are a cut throat, do anything to win, persevere no matter what type of person, you may have this type of personality.
That is not all that bad however. Many of today’s politicians, both good and bad, have this type of personality and have done wonders for their career with it. If you are comfortable being in the limelight with not that many people sharing it with you, this may be the course you should take. Embrace your pushy side and put it to good use. If you are a bit more timid and not so sure of it, you may want to hang back and see what you can do in the background. This is overall not a bad personality type to have, it is just a bit stronger than others and may seem like a bad thing for those that get in your way or make it hard for you to shine and come out on top. If you are a true Machiavellian spirit however, nothing will be able to hold you back or keep you down.