IT WAS 1969 when the authorities finally apprehended him. Living on the sun-drenched Mediterranean shore of Montpellier, Frank Abagnale Jr probably thought he had escaped. A serial con-man, Abagnale owed roughly 2.5 million US dollars in fraudulent cheques, and among his many impersonations, spent time masquerading as a pilot, physician, and attorney. A gifted judge of character and nimble snake through organisational hierarchy, Abagnale had fashioned a life for himself that was completely based on untruths.
Lying isn’t a uniquely human phenomenon. Our closest thumb and fore fingered relative, the Chimpanzee, has a talent for deception which it seems to enjoy. Stretching further, the behaviour has also been noted in the disparate lives of stomapod crustaceans, whose poker like bluffs often ensure their continued survival and reproductive success. It would appear then, that deceit comes as naturally to life as it did to Abagnale’s.
And this is certainly the case, in your own life it’s likely that you’ve been employing lies for self interested reasons from the age of two. To give that age context, that’s when you were just learning to jump or more impressively, achieve a tower of ten blocks as opposed to a meagre eight. Lying, a foundational human skill has seemingly been with us for a while – and in that, has inbred with our social and social sexual strategies in ways that often are less beneficial than they appear. When we doubt our own worth, it’s easy for us to conjure a false identity to impress others – only to end up reinforcing and compounding the deeper issue that motivated us in the first place. But lying isn’t something we can wish away, and in the vein of Jung’s shadow, the finest way to interact with our flaws is to embrace and learn from them; and what better teachers than Abignale and his con-men ilk – who wore near perement veils of untruths. Let’s see if we can put the world’s finest falsifiers to good use.
Although famed for their silver tongues, a con-man’s chief weapon is actually his ears. Dextrous listeners, fraudsters approach a conversation like forensic scientists to a murder. Often citing those who ask questions as their hardest marks – con artists take care to sniff out the kind of individual who responds well to questioning. Their preferred prey, individuals open to questioning leave the con artist room to dance through a rigour of investigation – aimed at discovering, and pinning down the emotional pulse that thumps at the heart of this person’s decision making. After all, the end point of any con is to have the mark make the decision you want. In your dating life, this means paying attention to what is being said beyond just raw information, and discovering the emotional needs that motivate this person, as it is the emotional core that you can connect with.
Called ‘confidence men’, charlatans like Abagnale manufacture illusions of superiority and superficial charm. Working on the knowledge that people respect those who they think can do what they can’t –con artists create an impression of capability and excellence, that seeks to influence their mark by making themselves appear more dominant in that person’s mind. Feeding off the understanding that humans respond to emotions first, and logic second – the illusion of confidence exists to intertwine with the emotional core of the person, creating the belief that the con-man, and the con-man alone, can solve their problem. This technique is the foundation of selling, however, in your dating life connecting what another person needs, to what you can offer can often be a hallmark of approval seeking, neediness driven relationships. So whilst this behaviour is best sidestepped, what we can do is learn to spot when we are selling ourselves, when we are trying to impress, so that we can adjust to a more psychological healthy and natural form of expression – otherwise known as our genuine identity. In this instance, confidence exists within the shoes of a buyer, not a seller.
But no illusion is conjured without effort, and despite their continued attempts to shirk the demands of a socially responsible life, men like Abagnale are often tireless workers. Prior to his charade as a Pan American Airline pilot, Abagnale would pose as a plucky high school journalist and interview various pilots and airline professionals, employing rich questioning that allowed him to amass knowledge that would gift him the gab he needed to swindle his way into free flights. Abagnale shows us, that despite appearances, the precious ore for the silver tongue is mined after all, and that the charm you seek in your dating life is born from the preparation you do beforehand. Diverse and rich reading grants you a wealth of conversational depths to plumb, vast and uncommon life experience gives you wisdom and assured calm, and an attention to human behaviour and desires opens the door to fun, wit and satire. Emjois and cat memes can also be helpful.
That first one gets me everytime.
Now, this article isn’t a rallying cry for the sociopathic pursuit of deceit, but instead a mirror to the own ways you may improve your efforts in your own life. In the hurricane of our own wants and desires, it’s easy to misplace the knowledge that the sturdiest ground to be on is that of the listener and that the unfortunate habit of ‘waiting for our time to speak’ leaves us knowing nothing we don’t already know.
Prone to insecurity and self-doubt, we can often forget that it’s not always necessary to feel confident, but we can always do with appearing confident. And, as research shows, the former is often born of the latter. Or, to borrow a cliché; the walk is followed swiftly by the quack. Not to be confused with falsifying an identity; appearing confident is a defiance in the face of anxiety, leveraging a knowledge of human body language to put our best step forward. The caveat being here, that it is ours, and not our inventions’.
Inside the cautionary tale of the con-man beats an all too human heart. Where their ability to influence others leads them to a life behind bars – a look at their techniques from a moral perspective is a lesson in applied empathy. In the routine of dating it can help to have an anchor to the traits that are going to propel us towards the outcomes we desire, and in this instance, a look within the penitentiary may offer a sturdy fluke. A researched silver-tongue, a rich emotional understanding married to a confident self awareness – that results, I would hope in this case, of a mutually beneficial result for all.
As opposed to just another fraud for us to tell stories about.