I finally got round to watching Scorsese’s ‘The Wolf on Wall Street’ the other week. I loved the film and thought Dicaprio was amazing as the conniving stockbroker Jordan Belford but I couldn’t stop myself from feeling more than slightly unsettled by the story. It wasn’t so much the glorification of debauchery, drink and drug taking it’s been criticised for that bothered me it was more the devastating demonstration of how unethical influence can negatively impact on people’s lives.
There are certainly lots of people using their power, status and skills to do amazing things and contribute positively to people’s lives but there are also plenty of wolf’s out there looking to get as much as they can from you with little sense of morals or empathy.
I think the film acts as a very entertaining warning to those frantically chasing wealth and ‘the good life’ and as a lesson to those easily persuaded by charlatans and shysters. I do think you have to allow yourself to be influenced in life but I also think holding a healthy amount of scepticism is always a good thing.
So just how do you recognise a Wolf? How can you tell that someone is out to manipulate you without much care for your well being?
Well, it can certainly be tricky. Chances are they’ve been a wolf for a long time so they’ve became highly skilled at covering their tracks.
There are a few telling signs though. Here are some I’ve noticed over the years:
Excessive use of status…
I don’t think we realise or like to admit how much a person’s ‘status’ can silently but powerfully influence us. The higher your status the greater the level of default influence you will naturally possess before you even say a word.
It doesn’t mean you’ll have influence over everyone, some people are naturally suspicious of those with high status but, in general, your words will mean more than someone who is perceived to be of lower value and status. Every social, work and business group has its own ‘ladder of hierarchy’ and those at the top possess the most default power and with that power comes responsibility.
I think it’s perfectly okay to use the power of your position if your intention is to genuinely add value to people’s lives and you do have some substance behind the spin but if you find that someone frequently ‘milks’ their status then it could be time to take a reality check.
Ask yourself – If this was Joe Bloggs off the street and they were saying the same thing would it be good advice? When you strip away their status what’s left? Is there any substance or is what they’re saying mostly spin and smokescreens?
It’s amazing what status can make us believe and do so it’s well worth taking a glimpse of the situation as if it wasn’t there.
Blatant dishonest attempts to elevate their status…
If a wolf is using status to create the illusion of power and influence they may also employ the tactic of making blatant dishonest attempts to elevate their status in the eyes of their peers. Again, I don’t think there is anything wrong with elevating your status but to do it with less than honourable intentions and blatant dishonesty is inexcusable and a likely sign you’re in the presence of a wolf.
If, for example, someone updated their Facebook status saying they had ‘Just landed in New York and about to meet Richard Branson for Coffee’ when in actual fact they’re doing a work out in a gym in Glasgow this would be a blatant dishonest attempt to elevate their status to gain more power over their peers.
I’m exaggerating a bit with the post but it’s not far from the truth! There are many more subtle examples of attempting to elevate status dishonestly and I think it’s only good sense to be even more wary than you normally would of those in ‘apparently’ high profile positions.
Are they really that successful or is it mostly smoke and mirrors and they actually live in a council flat? (I don’t think there’s anything wrong with living in a council flat btw but it’s a bit suspicious if you do while giving off the image of being rich, famous and successful)
If status is the means a wolf uses to increase their illusionary power over people so as to achieve their intentions then there’s a good chance they’ll employ dishonest tricks to try and elevate it. Be wary and always question their claims with healthy scepticism.
Continually painting False Blue skies…
We all occasionally make promises we don’t deliver. In an idea world it’s good to always over deliver but sometimes people make bad calls or external factors get in the road. That’s part of life but if someone is frequently painting exciting blue skies that don’t materialize then it’s time to sit up and take notice.
One particular wolfish tactic is to offer a huge carrot (something the person would love to have happen), get something in reciprocation only for the big carrot to then not materialize due to apparently ‘unavoidable circumstances’.
This is also called a ‘bait and switch’. Perhaps you’ll get something out of it but it’ll be nowhere near as useful and big as what they got from you. You might even convince yourself afterwards that you hadn’t been swindled but the truth is you’ve just been bitten by the wolf.
Believing people to be a means to an end…
In truth this can often be the case. We all use each other to a certain extent and most relationships are ones of a reciprocal nature to a certain degree. The wolf takes this further to the point where people are really just a means to an end with ‘the end’ usually being their gain.
If you find that someone has a distinct lack of empathy and pleasure for human contact that doesn’t involve personal gain then it’s worth taking note. Do they like you for who you are? Or just what they can get from you? If it’s the later then you could be in the presence of a wolf.
This Wolfy intention can often be hidden in the early stages. There’s a good chance they’ll be charming and interested when there is the potential for something to be gained from you but once they have it, they’ll usually lose interest very quickly.
Positioning themselves as the opposite of what they could be criticized for…
Out with fuelling their own selfish needs, one of the prime concerns for a wolf is being detected. If their less than honourable intentions become noticed then the game is up…or at least the game is up until they find someone else to play.
One of the classic ways a wolf avoids detection is to position themselves as the opposite of what they could be criticised for. If, for example, they are worried people may suspect that their integrity is in question they might go on about how important ‘honesty’ is to them. By assumption the unsuspecting sheep is a lot more likely to accept that the wolf is also honest because they value honesty in others.
By the way, in case you’re wondering...Jordan Belford, one of the most widely publicised dishonest stockbrokers and unethical influencers is now a motivational speaker selling……..wait for it……an ETHICAL PERSUASION PROGRAMME!
I don’t know about you but that simply blows my mind.
To protect yourself don’t always assume that what someone values in other people is necessarily what they themselves value. They could be just doing it to trick you. Also don’t assume that because you value something (eg like honesty) that everyone else also values it. You’ll be playing right into the wolf’s hands.
So above all, I would say allow yourself to be influenced but do question things with a healthy scepticism. Being a cynic is of very little use but there is a lot of value in screening people to make sure their intentions are honest and positive. There are lots of great things out there but every now and again you will encounter a wolf…Hopefully you’ll now be ready for them
All the best