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A Guide to the Criminal's Tactics to Seize Control

Tactical maneuvers that need to be recognized.

Key points

  • Controlling others is a key to the criminal's psychology.
  • The criminal seeks conquests and values control for the sake of control.
  • Criminals have well-practiced tactics that they deploy to gain control.
  • Recognizing the criminal's control tactics may help people avoid becoming victims.

Most of us want to have control over not only what happens to us but also exercise control as we make day to day decisions. We do not want to be at the mercy of others. The criminal is no exception. However, he also wants to control other people for the sake of control. His self-esteem rises as he employs deception, intimidation, or force in order to get others to submit while he hides his motives and escapes accountability.

Criminals deploy tactics that are developed over time and become automatic. A criminal is unlikely to reveal any more than he must, and even what he does disclose is often untruthful. Whatever the transaction, he strives to emerge in a superior position. Anyone who does not share his view becomes an adversary and must be overcome.

If people recognize the criminal’s tactics, they can reduce the likelihood of being victimized. The following constitutes a guide to tactics that become second nature to offenders who regard the world much as though it were their personal chessboard on which they can manipulate people like pawns and fortify their already inflated self-images. The criminal’s tactics subvert attempts of family, friends, and others who want to help offenders become responsible human beings.

Having a knowledge of these tactics can help a person avoid becoming a victim.

· Feeding others what he thinks they want to know

The criminal aims to outsmart others. He becomes astute at casing out his adversary, then formulating a response. He leads others to believe that he agrees with them when he does not. When he is restricted, he tries to impress others by following the rules. If the criminal convinces others that he is changing, he may be granted early release or special favors. People do not recognize that the criminal’s beliefs are at odds with what he is presenting to others.

· Vagueness

The criminal refuses to be pinned down. By saying, “Well, I guess so” or articulating phrases such as “maybe,” “perhaps,” “you could say that,” he keeps his listener uncertain as to what he believes. Whereas everyone uses these words on occasion, the criminal does so to conceal what he is thinking. He is a master at circumvention. He shifts the burden to his listener who then endeavors to figure out what the criminal really means.

· Diversion

By shifting the subject either in a direct manner or gradually, the criminal moves away from the topic under discussion and introduces irrelevant subjects. Criminals slip in distractions such as talking about a sports competition, current events, or local gossip. Eagerly, they criticize and reprimand others to distract attention away from themselves.

· Paying attention only to what suits him

Rarely is a criminal interested in someone’s point of view, especially when it differs from his. He may focus on a minor aspect of what another person is saying and turn that into the major theme of their conversation.

· Accusing others of a misunderstanding

Even when the criminal knows exactly what was said or agreed upon, he tries to put the other person on the defensive by accusing him of a misunderstanding. A quarrel may ensue not about the merits of the issue at hand but about who failed to listen, who did not understand, and who is acting in bad faith.

· Silence

Silence can be the ultimate form of control. If the criminal fails to respond, there is no discussion. He has in a sense “won.” Nonetheless, his silence reveals a great deal. The tactic shows the criminal’s unwillingness to listen to someone else, his refusal to consider another viewpoint, and his readiness to simply terminate a conversation he no longer wants to have.

· Putting others on the defensive

Making the conduct displayed by his evaluator or interrogator the issue is a tactic by which the criminal shifts the focus. Building himself up by tearing the other person down often leads to the triumph that he seeks. Then the other person’s defensiveness can become the subject. Nothing gets resolved. But the criminal again sees himself as coming out on top.

· Attempting to confuse others

A subject can be quite simple, but the room seems to fill with smoke as the criminal engages in one form of obfuscation or another. He shifts emphasis, shades meanings, and qualifies what he says. He may claim that his adversary is intolerant, does not grasp the issue, or is simply not listening to what he is saying. He can compel the other person to think that he is losing his mind because what he thought he understood seems to no longer make sense.

· Generalizing a point to an absurdity

A criminal may argue that a shopper who accidentally is given too much change and doesn’t notice it is no different from his grand larceny at the same store. He insists that both people are “thieves,” and that is the end of it. Any wrongdoing on his part he will justify and cite examples of others who have done the same, except that he makes no allowance for context or for the magnitude of the offense.

Whenever a criminal is being interviewed, there are two evaluations in process. The offender is figuring out whom he is dealing with and tailors his responses accordingly. To be effective, the evaluator (e.g., probation officer, psychologist, police officer) must recognize these tactics and the purpose they serve.

To understand the criminal mind, it is essential not just for professionals who work in the field but for ordinary people to become aware of and understand the significance of the tactics described above.

More from Stanton E. Samenow Ph.D.
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