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Burning Bridges

It's no wonder people fall for con artists. When they're reeling you in, they can be charming and affable. They can make you feel as if you matter, even though what matters to them is that they gain your confidence, at least enough that when they ask for something, you are flattered that they chose you to ask. That's the name of the game. Confidence.

A good con artist must have no sense of shame. He has to feel he can put the same moves on the same person more than once and get away with it. He can victimize several members of the same circle, even the same family. He doesn't care that his marks talk to each other and compare notes, because he's good enough at his con that he gets away with it.

It's a fine line, but if you know exactly how much to embellish a lie so that it comes off as true, you could be a con artist. Maybe you have to believe the lie yourself, at least while you're telling it. Maybe you have to believe you're going to keep the promises you make, too, while you're making them. Sooner or later, though, everyone else gets wise, and they will know how much your promises are work. Charm goes a long way, but its effectiveness has a limit.

The best con is the long con, because the payoff is better. Cultivate the relationship. Recognize empathy. Play to sympathies. See the weakness and learn when to strike for the biggest reward. Tell yourself whatever you need to believe in order to assuage your conscience. And never admit anything. Blame someone else. Blame the victim. Make yourself the victim.

If you do get caught or called out, contrition is surprisingly easy to fake. If you've done it right, people want to believe that you're sorry, that you know what you've done is bad but you've reformed. Just don't start snickering until you've left them, possibly even with another wad of cash in hand. Hey, it happens that way. Trust me.

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