How Machiavellians Ruin Your Happiness & Mental Peace

— Researched and written by Dr. Sandip Roy.

Machiavellianism, by definition, means being manipulative, exploitative, and emotionally detached. It’s said that they will try to manipulate others even in their dreams.

But these people do not have happy lives. Machiavellianism not only keeps those around them unhappy, but also keeps them unsatisfied.

Let’s find out how this person ruins their own mental well-being and that of others in various social situations.

Effects of Machiavellianism On Psychological Wellbeing

Machiavellianism, often considered a competitive advantage in organizational settings, can silently hurt a person’s mental well-being.

Their emotional detachment and manipulative tactics to get things done by people might bring short-term gains, but they frequently have overall discontent in life.

Machiavellianism and Happiness Psychological Wellbeing

A Machiavellian’s Impact On Their Own Wellbeing

Machiavellians often experience chronic loneliness, a struggle to form deep connections, and a pervasive sense of long-term dissatisfaction.

People with strong Machiavellian tendencies frequently achieve great success, but also tend to have unhappy personal lives.

They constantly suspect others will exploit them in some way or other. So they either keep away from them or use them to gain something for themselves.

In relationships, they see people with distrust and feelings of negativity. They also lack emotional empathy and cannot feel people’s or their own emotions.

These can lead to feelings of isolation and a sense of being disconnected from colleagues or loved ones.

Furthermore, their manipulative nature makes it hard for them to build and keep relationships.

Their constant need to control or outmaneuver others in social, personal, and professional scenarios can prevent the development of deep, meaningful relationships.

Ultimately, they do not get to have the necessary human sense of belonging and community.

For instance, a Machiavellian may climb the corporate ladder quickly due to their strategic manipulation, yet find themselves isolated when they need others’ help.

A Machiavellian’s Impact On Other’s Mental Wellbeing

Machiavellianism impacts everyone around them, especially at work and in personal relationships.

How They Cause Unhappiness At The Workplace

Machiavellians can obstruct workers and organizations from growing and succeeding.

They can upset any workplace dynamic, more so in settings that require teamwork and collaboration.

They put their interests first, have a generalized distrust of others, and make decisions that benefit themselves more than the team. These can erode team spirit and negatively affect the overall work atmosphere.

Machiavellians constantly try their manipulation tactics on their peers, superiors, and subordinates. This creates an atmosphere of distrust and unease, making each day at work a difficult and unpleasant experience.

Their tendency to undermine and manipulate can lead to wider issues in the workplace.

They can take credit for work they didn’t do, spread false information to get ahead, or turn colleagues against each other. Such actions can significantly lower job satisfaction among all those who interact with them. Over time, this can cause increased turnover, as skilled and valuable workers decide to quit the toxic environment.

Machiavellian behaviors can also stifle innovation and creativity in the workplace. Their focus on personal gain and power plays can discourage open communication and the sharing of ideas. This can hinder a vibrant and forward-thinking workplace, as it loses out on the diverse viewpoints and contributions of its team members.

How They Cause Unhappiness In Personal Relationships

Dealing with a Machiavellian in personal relationships is even more challenging. Their friends and partners feel used and stressed out.

They can leave you emotionally drained. This is made worse by their tendency to “play” the relationship and keep the upper hand, downgrading your needs, desires, and feelings.

Worse, having a heart-to-heart talk with a Machiavellian is nearly impossible as they have alexithymia. It means they live in an emotionally vacant world and are disconnected from their own emotions. This results in two issues:

  • They cannot understand social-emotional signals in a relationship, and so, cannot provide you with social support.
  • Their inner experiences are poor, so they are unable to empathize with your difficult emotions.

They distrust you, and over time, you also start to distrust them as you find out they are constantly trying to manipulate and deceive you to get what they want.

A Machiavellian’s low levels of relationship commitment and trust impact their close friends and partners in several ways:

  1. Feeling of Insecurity: Partners and close friends may feel insecure in the relationship, unsure of the Machiavellian’s commitment and long-term intentions.
  2. Lack of Emotional Depth: Their relationships may lack emotional depth and understanding, as they are reluctant to invest emotionally, leaving their close ones feeling emotionally unfulfilled.
  3. Trust Issues: Their double standards and manipulative nature can lead to trust and loyalty issues, and their friends or partners keep guessing the Machiavellian’s real motives.
  4. Emotional Strain: Dealing with a lack of commitment and honesty can be emotionally taxing, leading to stress and anxiety for those who desire a more stable and secure relationship.
  5. Unfulfilled Expectations: People close to them may have disappointments or resentments due to the unfulfilled expectations of a mutually committed relationship.
  6. Vulnerability to Manipulation: The Machiavellian’s close people are often more vulnerable to their manipulative tactics, especially if they are emotionally invested in the relationship.
  7. Breakdown of Relationships: In the long run, a Machiavellian’s lack of commitment can lead to the breakdown of relationships, as their partners and friends distance themselves to safeguard their own wellbeing.

Over time, these strained relationships can lead to breakups or lost friendships, as the emotional toll becomes too much to handle.

The reason that Machiavellians cannot form deep, meaningful relationships where they can share their vulnerabilities may lie in their childhoods. Researchers suggest they often had childhood experiences similar to those with dismissing-avoidant personalities (Jonason, Lyons, & Bethell, 2014).

Their parents were typically emotionally distant, harsh, or very strict. They discouraged showing emotions and made it seem like attachments are a weakness, pushing for independence over closeness.

As a result, these future Machiavellians learn to view emotions as a weakness and associate closeness with pain, leading them to stay emotionally detached and avoid investing in deep relationships.

Some research also shows that chaotic family life can be common in those with Machiavellian tendencies (Láng & Birkás, 2014).

Happiness Tips For Individuals With Machiavellian Traits

  1. Seek Therapy: Therapy, particularly cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), can help address underlying issues such as empathy deficiency and controlling manipulative tendencies.
  2. Practice Self-Awareness: Regular self-awareness exercises can help in recognizing and understanding the impact of one’s behavior on others and oneself.
  3. Foster Genuine Relationships: Learning to build authentic relationships based on mutual respect, dependability, trustworthiness, and empathy can improve social connections and emotional health.
  4. Develop Emotional Intelligence: Working on emotional intelligence can aid in better understanding and managing one’s emotions and those of others.
  5. Reflect on Past Behaviors: Reflecting on past actions and their outcomes can provide insights into how behavior affects relationships and personal wellbeing.
  6. Engage in Mindfulness Practices: Mindfulness can help in staying present and reducing the propensity to manipulate situations, leading to more genuine interactions.
  7. Seek Constructive Feedback: Getting feedback from trusted individuals about one’s behavior can offer a different perspective and aid in personal growth.

Happiness Tips For Those Affected by Machiavellians

  1. Set Clear Boundaries: Establishing and maintaining firm boundaries is crucial to protect oneself from manipulative behaviors.
  2. Low Expectations: Machiavellians are distrustful of others and have emotionally distant relationships. So it is self-defeating to expect them to trust you, help you unasked, or feel bad when you leave them.
  3. Develop Assertiveness: Use positive aggression to deflect, resist, and deny their exploitative and manipulative behaviors. Say “No” to them more often. Stop trying to please them to keep the relationship.
  4. Avoid Reciprocating Manipulation: Don’t do the same things they do to “make them understand.” Don’t engage in similar manipulative behaviors as them. Don’t let them make you into a version of themselves.
  5. Understand Machiavellian Traits: Educating oneself about Machiavellianism helps recognize and prepare for their manipulative tactics.
  6. Practice Self-Care: Prioritizing one’s mental and emotional wellbeing through self-care routines can help cope with the stress of dealing with a Machiavellian individual. For more tips on how to boost your well-being with self-love, read our easy-to-follow article: How To Love Yourself First Without Feeling Guilty.
  7. Seek Support: Turning to friends, family, trusted mentors, or professionals for support can provide the necessary perspective and emotional relief.
  8. Consider Professional Counseling: Professional counseling can provide strategies to handle challenging dynamics and preserve one’s wellbeing.

Discover The Science of Happiness and 10 Happiness-Boosting Activities to find joy in everyday life.

Final Words

The Machiavellian attitude is a negative, cynical view of human nature (McHoskey & Worzel, & Szyarto, 1998). They have low faith in humanity and believe that most people are selfish and untrustworthy.

Understandably, Machiavellian personalities are a part of the dark triad.

The dark triad includes three distinct personality types that are particularly offensive:

  1. Narcissism: excessive self-love.
  2. Psychopathy: lack of fear and empathy.
  3. Machiavellianism: manipulative and exploitative behavior.

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