The Double Con
I was watching a show called, “The Imposters”, on Netflix the other day. It is a scripted series which follows three people who were conned by the same woman out of money after marrying her. They go on a search to find out her true identity and attempt to get their money back. It’s a very entertaining show.
One of the characters named Ezra said, explaining what he read in a book about con artist, “You can’t cheat an honest man. It’s like there are people who set themselves up to be taken because they’re greedy, selfish or mean.”
It’s hard to think about it this way, but in order to be duped, you have to have a blind spot. And, often that blind spot is because you think you are getting something from the other person that you need. We place honest intentions in our mind of what we think we can get from someone else, but we are being just as greedy in our expectation of their fulfilling our needs. What con men do is exploit that greediness with no real intention of giving in return, but taking advantage of your expectation to get what you want in exchange for what you are willing to give.
Yes, we are nice and giving people. And, nice and giving people are targeted because they are nice and giving people. They are also slow to expect the same in return and most likely to avoid confrontation. But, insecurity is what creates a willing victim. Someone shows up promising you the very thing you feel like you are missing and tells you it will only cost you something you have in abundance, you are glad to pay the price until you realize they never really had anything to give you. Or, you discover that the thing they promised you was something you were never really missing.
“Sometimes we want to believe something so badly that we allow ourselves to be taken advantage of.”
― Aaron B. Powell
My Years as a Salesperson
A good salesperson never convinces you to buy anything. He takes away all the excuses you have why you can’t buy what he knows you already want. He knows you aren’t really afraid to part with the money for the thing you really want. You’re just talking yourself out of it. And, so he sweet talks you into what you already decided to do.
I worked in retail and various sales jobs over the years. But, my boot camp in sales was as a teenager in women’s shoes. I learned from two very charming men how to identify what a woman wanted and how to figure out the ways she was talking herself out of it. It takes developing a listening skill because people will tell you what they don’t want instead of what they do want. Within their concerns are the clues to how to relieve them of their excuses.
I never sold a woman a shoe. I sold her the experience she thought the shoe would bring once she bought it and took it home. I sold her confidence. I sold her love. I sold her attention from men. I sold her a new job. I sold her the envy of her girlfriends or other women. I sold her a night of sex with the husband who has barely paid her any attention. I sold the security. Whatever it was that she thought those shoes on her feet would mean when she walked out the store was what I told her those shoes would do for her. And, I said it in the language she needed to hear it so she could believe it.
Meanwhile, she thought she was giving me the relief of making a sale or convincing her to finally buy the thing. I was finally winning her over in the mental tug-of-war. But, the truth is salespeople can size up people as soon as they walk in the door. They know who are determined to buy or who are determined not to buy. They don’t really waste too much mental capacity on either. You can’t sell someone something they don’t already want.
What Can We Learn from Those Who Took More Than They Gave…
It is easy to feel victimized by someone who promised you the world but ended up walking away with way more than they ever gave. You should feel angry because it is unfair, but there is a seed of opportunity within this situation. It’s like if your house was robbed, but you left the windows and doors open. Perhaps, you would learn that it is better to lock your doors and shut your windows before you leave the house.
What was it within you that you thought you needed from that person that you were so desperately willing to buy their lies without inspection or question? Or, even when you knew the truth of who they were, what within you kept making excuses for their behavior or wanted to believe you could change them. This is where we get stuck in dead-end jobs, dysfunctional relationships or toxic friendships.
I stayed in a relationship for six years with someone who proved over and over that he would never give me what I needed. But, I had several reasons that I told myself were reasons why I was getting something out of him being in my life. They were all selfish reasons rooted in insecurity. I was single and not really worried about a relationship before he came along. It was mostly in the back of mind.
Then, I had a health scare. I developed asthma. And, the way I found out was by realizing that I wasn’t breathing when I was asleep. I would spend the whole night coughing which would wake me up throughout the night. But, I still didn’t know I had an issue until one night I woke up gasping for air. It scared me because I thought I would have died in my sleep. A few years before that, my father fell into a coma from his asthma so my diagnosis brought with it some real fears. And, living alone, I worried that I would lapse into a coma and no one would ever find me.
Enter, my knight in shining fake armor. We were old friends so it was very easy to allow it to blossom into a relationship. Everything moved very quickly, but he was also attentive to me as I went through the process of dealing with my new health complications. So, it was easy, in my mind, to trade his needs for someone to ease my mind during a tough transition into being someone living with asthma. As I got more comfortable with my condition and able to take care of my health, the blinders fell away too but by then he was exploiting many other insecurities.
It would take six years before I became strong enough to see the benefits didn’t outweigh the damage being done. I spent many years placing the blame on him for everything that happened which only left me in the victim position and afraid of letting someone else in. But, eventually, I had to look at the many ways I thought I was getting a deal and exploiting him as well. I was selling myself for way below my value when I could have had someone who genuinely took care of me in every way, financially, mentally, emotionally and cared about my health. It was a double con. I conned myself out of what I really needed and deserved.
It’s not easy to admit we played a part in our own hurt, but it is important because it is the only way to take your power back. It is the key to healing the part of yourself that thinks someone else can give you what you need. When you come together as a whole, there is nothing you have to get from the other person. They are there to give you more of what you already have. No cons involved.
“If you spend your time hoping someone will suffer the consequences for what they did to your heart, then you’re allowing them to hurt you a second time in your mind.”
― Shannon L. Alder