Do Psychopaths Win By Mimicking Kindness?

One of the biggest problems I had while filming Good Virus was the insistence people had that nice guys finish last. They are wrong of course, so much evidence proves the contrary, but I can’t help but wonder why it some times feels that way even to myself and why some of the nicest and successful people I know feel like losers.

A lot of the people I interviewed would say, “Look at Bernie Madoff, WorldCom CEO Bernard Ebbers and Enron CEO Kennith Lay, look how many lives they ruined and how wealthy they got doing it.”

On the surface, that’s a pretty convincing argument that bad guys get ahead. But let’s not forget that these guys are psychopaths. And the one thing psychopaths are great at is making you think they care.

“They can be amusing and entertaining conversationalists, ready with a clever comeback, and are able to tell unlikely but convincing stories that cast themselves in a good light. They can be very effective in presenting themselves well and are often very likable and charming.”

Robert Hare

These guys mimic kindness to gain peoples trust and elicit cooperation get ahead. Because lets face it, if people knew what a bad guy Bernie Madoff was, they would never give him all that money. So lets be perfectly clear, the getting ahead part isn’t because these people are not nice, they get ahead by using the kindness toolset. By pretending to care about people’s wellbeing, by pretending to help people make money.

The good news is that nice guys also possesses this tool kit, are masters at using it and have a better chance of getting ahead, and more importantly STAYING ahead. Ever notice that all of the afore mentioned people are in jail or died in jail?

So if you are ever tempted to do something you feel is wrong to get ahead, remind yourself that it was not the unethical behavior that got these people there, it was because they pretended to be nice, kind and giving. The unethical behavior was their downfall.

Remember that in a society that is dependent on trust and cooperation unethical behavior is not sustainable.

Plenty of nice people get ahead, just look at the names on museums, hospitals and schools. Not many are named after Hitler, Nixon or Madoff.

Sure nice guys may take a hit from time to time, we all do, such is life, but they most definitely DO NOT finish last!

Photo By Daniel Gies