Law 21: Play a Sucker to Catch a Sucker, Seem Dumber than your Mark


No one likes feeling stupider than the next person. The trick, then, is to make your victims feel smart—and not just smart, but smarter than you are. Once convinced of this, they will never suspect that you may have ulterior motives.

6 Ways to Appear More Stupid Than the Mark

1. Never inadvertently insult or impugn a person's brain power.
2. Subliminally reassure people that they are more intelligent than you are,
3. Convince them that you are a bit of a moron, and you can run rings around them.
4. The feeling of intellectual superiority you give them will disarm their suspicion-muscles.
5. Given how important the idea of intelligence is to most people's vanity
6. Make people feel they are more sophisticated than you are and their guard will come down.

The Swine and the Tiger

The Chinese have a phrase, "Masquerading as a swine to kill the tiger." This refers to an ancient hunting technique in which the hunter clothes himself in the hide and snout of a pig, and mimics its grunting.

Masquerading as a swine works wonders on those who, like tigers, are arrogant and overconfident: The easier they think it is to prey on you, the more easily you can turn the tables.

This trick is also useful if you are ambitious yet find yourself low in the hierarchy: Appearing less intelligent than you are, even a bit of a fool, is the perfect disguise. Look like a harmless pig and no one will believe you harbor dangerous ambitions. They may even promote you since you seem so likable, and subservient.

In general, men, always make people believe they are smarter and more sophisticated than you are. They will keep you around because you make them feel better about themselves, and the longer you are around, the more opportunities you will have to deceive them.

The mighty tiger thinks a pig is coming his way, and lets it get close, savoring the prospect of an easy meal. But it is the hunter who has the last laugh.

Intelligence Can Pay-off

To reveal the true nature of your intelligence rarely pays; you should get in the habit of downplaying it at all times. If people inadvertently learn the truth—that you are actually much smarter than you look—they will admire you more for being discreet than for making your brilliance show. At the start of your climb to the top, of course, you cannot play too stupid: You may want to let your bosses know, in a subtle way, that you are smarter than the competition around you. As you climb the ladder, however, you should to some degree try to dampen your brilliance.

There is, however, one situation where it pays to do the opposite— when you can cover up a deception with a show of intelligence. In matters of smarts as in most things, appearances are what count. If you seem to have authority and knowledge, people will believe what you say. This can be very useful in getting you out of a scrape.