How Machiavellian Are You?

Updated on February 15, 2018
Statue of Niccolo Machiavelli in the arcade of Florence's Uffizi Museum
Statue of Niccolo Machiavelli in the arcade of Florence's Uffizi Museum

Do you have a Machiavellian personality?

Niccolo di Benardo dei Machiavelli (1469-1527) wrote a small but very powerful book, The Prince, during the Renaissance. Machiavelli had never been a leader himself but a "civil servant" and more importantly, a confidant close to powerful men. In his book he offered advice to princes on the best way to rule the people. His political philosophy was radically different from medieval ideas about the proper obligations and policies of effective rulers.

"Everyone knows that princes should keep their word, but we see that the princes who have accomplished the most have been accomplished at deception. A prince may fight with laws, which is the way of human beings, or with force, which is the way of animals. A prince should imitate the fox in cunning as well as the lion in strength. A wise prince should never keep his word when it would go against his interest, because he can expect others to do the same. In order to pull it off, you must be a good liar, but you will always find people willing to be deceived." The quote is Machiavelli - the bold emphasis is mine.

Where did these startling, radical deas come from? Certainly not from the ancient Greek philosophers who stressed the well-being of the entire community and the rule of law. No, Machiavelli’s sources were the powerful rulers he observed in person – Francesco Sforza, Lorenzo de Medici, and most importantly, Cesare Borgia. If you read the biographies of these powerful men you will learn they were often tricky, devious and dishonest.

"To sum it up, it is useful to seem to be virtuous, but you must be ready to act the opposite way if the situation requires it. A prince should do good if he can, but be ready to do evil if he must. Yet a prince must be careful to always act in a way that appears virtuous, for many can see you, but few know how you really are. If a ruler conquers and maintains his state, everyone will praise him, judging his actions by their outcome." Does this Machiavellian quote remind you of some politicians we all know?

You may be interested to know that some historians question whether Machiavelli was really as amoral – without standards of right and wrong – as he seems. Maybe he was just rebuking men like Borgia and exposing the extremes to which they would go to stay in power. Whatever his purpose, the word - Machiavellian - now signifies behavior that is manipulative, cunning, dishonest and self-serving.

Now that I have refreshed your memory of Niccolo Machiavelli, let’s find out –

How Machiavellian Are You?

Read each statement and decide if you agree, are undecided or disagree with it. On a piece of paper write the numbers 1. through 10. Opposite each number place the value of the number that you chose under agree, undecided or disagree. For example, if you agree with statement number 1. you will place a 5 next to 1. on your paper.

Statements . . . . . . . . . . Agree Undecided Disagree

1. Most people are honest. 5 3 1

2. Most people think first of their pocket-

books and later about right or wrong. 1 3 5

3. To get someone to like you, tell that

person what he or she wants to hear. 5 3 1

4. The best way to earn someone’s

respect is to be kind and honest. 1 3 5

5. The best way to earn someone’s

loyalty is show him or her your power. 5 3 1

6. There are no absolute rights and

wrongs. “Right” is what works. 5 3 1

7. A good president reads the polls to

find out what people want and

makes those things his policies. 5 3 1

8. Most people are extremely selfish. 5 3 1

9. A promise is a sacred trust. 1 3 5

10. Nice guys finish last. 5 3 1

Now add up the values (numbers) on your paper that you printed next to the numbers 1. through 10.

If your Machiavellian Score Is 10-23

You are not at all Machiavellian. Some would say you are an idealist and an optimist about human nature. You have strong ideas about right and wrong.

If your score is 24-36

You are more cautious about trusting human nature and less idealistic than those who scored above. You know that selfishness can sometimes get in the way of lofty ideals.

If your score is 37-50

You are a true Machiavellian. You are practical to the point of being a hard-headed cynic, not very trusting about human nature, and ready to deal with what is, rather than what ought to be.

© Copyright BJ Rakow Ph.D. 2011. All rights reserved.   

B. J. Rakow, Ph.D., Author, "Much of What You Know about Job Search Just Ain't So." Enlightening information about interviewing, networking, writing resumes and cover letters and negotiating. But fun to read.

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    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      5 years ago from south Florida

      Nice to meet you, Cole. You mentioned you scored 37 on this test which falls right in line with being more cynical than trusting. Not a bad thing in the business world today. Trust me.

      And you are most welcome.

    • profile image

      Cole 

      5 years ago

      This is really interesting. I heard about Machiavellian traits in my communications studies class this semester at my university. It struck me when my professor said that someone with Machiavellian traits will lie about anything in order to get what they want and have no problem with it. Great test! I got a 37. I don't know if that's a good thing or bad thing but kind of revealed things about myself because I am very cynical about people's true intentions. Thanks for the article drbj!

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      6 years ago from south Florida

      Hi, Kim - nice to see you here. Achieving a '30' on the test is a very agreeable score - not too Machiavellian, not too naïve and trusting. I personally do not believe it is as significant to be Machiavellian as it is to be aware that some people operate in that mode.

      To me, being assertive and not aggressive is the easiest way to deal with other folks and be successful. You might want to take a look at these 3 hubs: 'Abilene Paradox - Why Do We Say Yes When We Mean No,' 'Assertive Training Course,' and 'Assertive Behavior - How to Say No.' I think you may find them useful. Thanks for visiting and your gracious comments.

    • kimh039 profile image

      Kim Harris 

      6 years ago

      This is great, drbj. I did a hub search on "machiavellian" because I was told by someone recently that in order to succeed and/or advance in my company that I needed to be more machiavellian. I vaguely recalled what that meant and we discussed the idea further. Anyway. So I ended up here and took the quiz. Got a 30, so i'm well on my way to being "more machiavellian." Interestingly also, I have noticed I am stuggling more than usual lately with what is vs what should be.....so maybe I'm actually regressing on the machiavellian scale. hmm. well i have a baseline and will keep working on it and check back to re-test every once in awhile. would re-test scores be valid? would i be more machiavellian or just better at the test? thanks for the info and the very pleasurable learning experience, drbj.

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      7 years ago from south Florida

      You pose an interesting question, Nick. Did Machiavelli espouse the ideas he proposed in 'The Prince'? Or was he merely presenting them as his observations? I cannot answer that with certainty. But I do know he had an uncanny understanding of the most useful behaviors and characteristics necessary for men to succeed. For example, this quote of his: "There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things."

      Any organization or company or politician that tries to introduce new products, new standards, reorganization, etc. will say Amen to that!

    • profile image

      Nick898 

      7 years ago

      I think what a lot of you are missing about Machiavelli by saying things like "his teachings" or "his ideas" is that he didn't necessarily support them or advocate for the, In The Prince he was merely explaining is view of how politicians and leaders operated. Remember he was once imprisioned and tortured.

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      7 years ago from south Florida

      You are so right, John, Machiavelli's teachings are not everyone's cup of tea. Yet, lately when I read about or view videos about some of our most eminent, but not necessarily intelligent, politicians, I tend to think they are Machiavellian followers to the core. Thanks for stopping by.

    • John Sarkis profile image

      John Sarkis 

      7 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Nice hub. I don't think very much of Machiavelli, but he did influence many great men which came after him. The point of his writings, is that he felt princes (or whomever is in power)can rule people without the church's emminance (Catholic Church in his time), and this is why he's considered great by some?...

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      7 years ago from south Florida

      There are a lot of people out there, sheila, who live by the words of Machiavelli. It's okay to shake hands with them, but be sure to count your fingers afterward.

    • sheila b. profile image

      sheila b. 

      7 years ago

      I've always thought it funny when people I've met praise The Prince as words of wisdom to follow.

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      7 years ago from south Florida

      Do not despair, Lynda, There is no pass or fail.

      If you want to be perceived as more Machiavellian, simply take the test again and answer every question as you think Niccolo would have.

      I'll never tell.

    • lmmartin profile image

      lmmartin 

      7 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      I flunked. Oh well. Lynda

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      Thank you, clark, happy to make your acquaintance.

      And thank you for the interesting and thoughtful perspective. A very "thought-provoking" comment I would say.

      Delighted to know that literacy is not dead. In a coma perhaps, but not dead. :)

    • clark farley profile image

      clark farley 

      8 years ago

      Might I suggest that even an entire culture can shift it's character from one 'extreme' to another. Often the scales to measure personality traits, while focusing on one trait, leave the opposite end of the scale ambiguous.

      Easy to see the Machiavellian-end as being cynical, hard-headed, untrusting, ('...er') Machiavellian.

      But the other end of this scale, is it to be trusting, idealistic or to be individualistic and autonomous? (Clearly possible for both/either).

      Shift perspective.

      See the world as from a 'social context is king', then you end up with a person who measures 'values' against the collective standard of the group. A herd mentality. The individual is the operative unit, the rules are based on the average values of the group as a whole.

      ..."I do this because most people will allow it/I break a promise because on average the negative consequence will be diminished by the average positive and neutral response"....

      So it it easy to see the Machiavellian person as a 'politician' one who in letting morals, and values shift with the average opinion of the 'herd'.

      However it is the other extreme (of the scale suggest by the test above) that it becomes more difficult to account for the source, the basis for the values we are trying to characterize!

      To be non-Machiavellian, is that to be an idealist or an individualist?

      I would argue it could be applied to both.

      Picture the individual who percieves the world as a predator. They could be seen as 'a man of their word', a 'woman who has clear standards', but (this is) simply because they are basing their decisions/judgements on themselves and not the group. They would fall in the other extreme from the above scale, but not be an idealist.

      And then there is the individual who views the world as 'the outsider/other'. Neither a member of the herd nor a predator (a predator, while not a part of the herd, most certainly has a relationship to the herd). The outsider type might appear to have totally idealistic standards (or the opposite), but not as a function of their relationship to the group.

      Thought-provoking hub, dude.

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      Delighted you discovered this, Jane, and thanks for the kind words.

      In today's world, the idealist might feel very out of place while someone who scores 24 or above would feel very much at home.

    • Jane Bovary profile image

      Jane Bovary 

      8 years ago from The Fatal Shore

      Just as I thought...too cynical to be a dreamy optimist and not cynical enough to be a hard-headed total realist.I'm hovering in the middle, which I would guess is not a bad place to be. Thanks for another enjoyable read drbj.

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      Melinda, even in your "worstest" moments, there is no way I would believe you could be even close to Machiavellian - it's simply not your style.

      And the pleasure is all mine! :)

    • msorensson profile image

      msorensson 

      8 years ago

      Oh dear...I love the hub and wanted to be one but the score would not reach there even if I change a couple of answers, lol...

      Thank you.

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      Me? Inspiration for the epigramman? Colin, you light my fire. Over and over and over again. Many thanks.

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 

      8 years ago

      ..enlightening hub and something to ponder .....and if you can get someone like the epigramman to think and to be inspired - then you have certainly done your job - and very well at that!

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      Hello, VFB - welcome to my hub world and thank you for your insightful comments. Being more Machiavellian these days signifies to me that one has become less of an idealist and more of a realist.

      True Machiavellians, in my experience, seldom reveal the extent of their thinking to others.

      Your avatar name is most intriguing.

    • profile image

      VirtuesFromBombs 

      8 years ago

      I answered it sincerely and I scored 38. Thanks for sharing this test. I found out that I am Machiavellian and I know it is not a thing to be ashamed of. Being cynical and having less trust on human nature does not serve as a stigma. People who scored high on MACH tests tends to manipulate other people for their own good, it is not as horrific as it sounds, for it is only man's nature as an animal, to rise and survive against all odds, but Machivellians does not have that enough trust on human nature as what I stated above, that is the main purpose why almost all Machiavellians does not really know that they are Machiavellians, there is even almost a chance that they don't know such a thing exists.

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      Ah - frogdropping. "Bloody marvellous" hub? That's one of the nicest things you've ever said to me. Thanks a heap.

      I couldn't agree with you more about the value of humorous and sometimes inane repartee in our lives - don't think I could live without it.

      Answered your request for a doughnut hub - see "Doughnuts are Good for You." Especially enjoyed doing the research - taste-testing, you know.

    • frogdropping profile image

      Andria 

      8 years ago

      Well all's well that ends well. I'm a realistic, irony twisted, idealistic frog. That's good. For a moment there I started to second guess my normal froglibrium. I'll admit to a certain dollop of cynicism. A healthy one mind. I listen to what folks have to say, run it by my BS metre, then make an informed decision as to a straight forward reply or one that's equally laced with BS.

      I'm nothing if not accommodating. I like to keep BS'ers at their ease. Life's easier when a little nonsensical repartee is exchanged :)

      Another rich, intriguing and fully functional and interactive hub drbj. Bloody marvellous :)

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      Hi, Maita. Always very nice to hear from you and thnks for the thumbs up.

      I think the present state of society may increase the Machiavellian score of every one of us - becoming more cynical and hard-headed every day. Especially after watching the news or reading headlines.

      Did youy take my Pig Personality Test yet?

    • prettydarkhorse profile image

      prettydarkhorse 

      8 years ago from US

      my score is 24 - 36, Machiavelli is a also a dictator hehe, great and nice hub thumbs up, Maita

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      Very insightful, Ivorwen - many of our most powerful leaders and statesmen have been more that a little Machiavellian.

    • Ivorwen profile image

      Ivorwen 

      8 years ago from Hither and Yonder

      What was creepy to me, was how closely this reflects the thinking of many lifetime politicians. Not only that, but it greatly reflects the way the Roman Emperors lived, towards the end of Rome (the last 200 years or so).

      But then, I'm not Machiavellian at all.

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      9 years ago from south Florida

      Thanks for the comment. Would be interested to know: which is more creepy? The theories of Machiavelli; the test; or your response?

    • Ivorwen profile image

      Ivorwen 

      9 years ago from Hither and Yonder

      This is really creepy.

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