I’ve been watching a TV series called White Collar. It’s quite good. It does what it is meant to do, entertain. But it is flawed, as most things are and sometimes the flaws make something seemingly perfect better, more appealing. Or more revealing.

Just before I watched a couple of the episodes, there was an item in the news about a couple of grifters who had finally been caught by the authorities. The mugshots of those grifters were very different from the catwalk model looks of the men and women who are cast as grifters, con men and women, in White Collar. Not a surprise really. TV and film is fantasy, fantasy likes everything to be aesthetically pleasing to the eye, even it if it is a bit too saccharin sweet. Like overly white teeth. That’s a pet peeve of mine. I get distracted from, thus disbelieving, what I’m watching if the teeth are too dazzling.

A beautiful smile is intended to distract. Sometimes this is a disadvantage.

If you are very attractive people tend to remember you, so being beautiful is actually not a blessing in the world of con. Sure it may get people to give you things more easily, but… you don’t have to be as clever because your looks can be clever for you. An issue often used as a plot device. An issue beautiful people often complain about, and those who think they are not beautiful also complain about this… and pay big money to redress.

If you are nondescript, you can get away with a lot more than a memorable person, very beautiful or very not beautiful, because you get to choose what people see when they look at you. Most people are very engrossed in themselves. They see what they want, and what they want is someone who makes them feel good about themselves. How you make people feel defines how they perceive you.

In a world and society which tends to make people feel crap about themselves a lot, making people feel good is a way in to grift. Ever give money to a charitable cause because you felt guilty about having when someone else doesn’t have? Ever help a friend out because they played the poor me/lucky you card? Ever make a promise to someone because they made you feel special, as though you were the only one out of many millions who understood them?

We’re all fools who are easily parted from what we value, and we all know how to grift… except we don’t call it that, that hits  a sore spot and makes us feels bad. But we do all use emotional blackmail to get what we want sometimes and we reward our victims with a feel good moment.

What? You’ve never done that… then you are a saint. But it has been done to you, and when you figured it out, you were a bit annoyed? No… Hmmm. You are amazing! Perhaps you should share your wisdom and knowledge with others. Perhaps you should charge them for it.

I have a friend who thinks they can read people’s minds. He’s funny, because he doesn’t grasp the fact that reading people’s minds is easy. We all tend to think similar things. We want to be loved, respected, and we would like to be considered special in some way. We also all believe in magic, even when we proclaim cynically and skeptically that we don’t. The most down to earth cynic still has a weakness. They think they are too clever to ever be fooled by things which fool others. That is magic!

Grifters like using easy tactics such as making people feel good. When people feel good they relax their guard. Making people feel bad can also be a way in to someone’s inner sanctum of self. Reverse psychology is just as easy to use to grift. The old you can’t afford this challenge… so you prove someone wrong and get screwed by doing so. Still you proved them wrong, so you feel good, right?

The internet and elsewhere is chock-a-block full of 5 easy steps to this and that, the power of such and such, the secret of success and everything else bought at a price – sorry but secrets once shared even at a high price are not secrets, and if I had a secret which was powerful I wouldn’t share it, would you? The best way to make an easy buck is to sell the secret of making an easy buck to others.

Most con artists, grifters… and salespeople (a professional version of the same thing), rely on people conning themselves. Ever talk yourself into needing something? No? Without our participation, illusions burst very quickly and sales don’t go through. Salespeople rely on you selling something to yourself, even if some of them think they’re the ones doing the selling… they’re not.

Some of the best cons are perpetrated over decades… think society is something separate from you? Think you have to buy into what everyone else is buying into or… what? You get labeled an outcast? You are society. Every time you buy into something you don’t truly believe, you are conning yourself for the greater good. What exactly is this greater good? Ever read the small print on the contract?

We all have weaknesses which can be exploited by others… it’s when we exploit our own weaknesses that things get very weird. Blaming others, playing the victim…  sometimes that is a con too. It depends… but how often would you say you helped someone victimise you? Did you ignore a gut instinct? Explain some odd behaviour away? Make something illogical seem logical? Make an excuse for the inexcusable? Ever fake smile and say you’re fine when you’re not? Why? Listen to your answer, see what it really says.

Our weaknesses can also serve as strengths, but who are they benefiting?