Some sleazeballs know they're exploiting you, but think it's for a good cause. Others just pretend it's for a good cause but know better. Either way, they'll defend their behavior 'til the cows come home, acting sincere whether they mean it or not.
How then can you tell whether you're dealing with a sleazeball? You can't just ask, "Are You A Sleazeball?" in so many words and then take their word for it.
Here's a page from a sleazeball's playbook listing 14 easy-to-use, universally applicable formulas for deflecting critism back onto the critic. If you're talking to someone who seems to be working the formulas, no matter how sincere they sound, chances are you're dealing with a real sleazeball.
- "But My Intentions Are Good. Donʼt They Count For Everything?" When criticized for our actions, we can change the subject to our intentions, which are un- measurable and unassailable.
- Nicessism (Niceness as a cover for narcissism): Imply a moral imperative that one should never say anything disappointing and thereby treat all criticism, constructive or otherwise as a no-no.
- "Your Challenge Hurt, Therefore You Must Have Delivered It Wrong." Claim receptivity, but only to criticism that is delivered perfectly.
- "I never said I was perfect!" Provide the thinnest possible lip service to a challenge. Say only that you never ruled out the possibility of being challenged, and claim that this bare-minimum acknowledgement demonstrates sufficient receptivity.
- "Oh, so you think I'm a horrible person!" Deliberately misunderstand and exaggerate the feedback thereby distracting the critic with defensive back-peddaling "I wasn't saying that" reclarification.
- Smugging: On content, refuse to budge, and then when oneʼs challenger becomes frustrated, change the subject to his hotheaded reaction. This will cause him to become more hotheaded, making it easy to call even more attention to his reaction.
- Youjustifications: Deny all but one ignominious motive behind a challengerʼs criticism. For example "Youʼre just trying to put me down."
- Exempt By Contempt: Claim that since we find a trait disgusting, we must not have it. For example: "Me selfish?! Impossible! I hate selfish people!"
- "How Dare You Compare Me To..." If challenged for behaving as badly as some well-known manipulators, rather than considering the parallel on its merits, take umbrage.
- Selective Literalism: Attack others for their tone, but deny tone has any relevance when we talk: "Look, I merely said..."
- Freedom and Equality as Subterfuge: Accuse a challenger of denying freedom: "Jeez, Iʼm sorry I spoke my mind," or change the subject to a pretend law that everyone shares equal blame for all problems: "Well, what about you? Youʼre not perfect! We both contributed to the problem."
- "Thatʼs Totally Different!" Equivocations: For example, "Iʼm not being stubborn. Iʼm sticking to my principles."
- Mind-Reading Rights: Cite a pretend rule that we always know our own feelings and thoughts better than anyone else does. Accuse the challenger of trespassing: "Donʼt tell me what I feel."
- First-Strike Advantage: Be the first to critique. That way, when challenged back, the challenge can be dismissed as retaliation.