How to become a black belt at getting your own way: SAS hero Andy McNab and Dr Kevin Dutton reveal how YOU can harness your killer instinct in part three of The Good Psychopath’s Guide to Success

Many of us have psychopathic traits — and as a book written by SAS hero Andy McNab and serialised in the Mail in 2014 revealed — they’re vital to winning life’s battles.

With the help of Dr Kevin Dutton, he reveals how to become a master at getting what you want. 

Dr Dutton writes: Nobody could ever accuse the boxing legend Muhammad Ali of being modest. He was once asked to do up his seat-belt as the plane in which he was travelling taxied for take-off.

Kicking off: how you can become a master at getting what you want

Kicking off: how you can become a master at getting what you want

‘I’m Superman,’ he told the air stewardess. ‘Superman don’t need no belt.’

The stewardess didn’t miss a beat. ‘Superman don’t need no aeroplane,’ she said and a disarmed Ali duly buckled up.

Wouldn’t it be great if persuasion always worked like that? Immediately. Incisively. Instinctively. But in everyday life, it’s often a matter of trial and error. We get it right as many times as we get it wrong. Unless, that is, we are psychopaths.

As I described in the Mail series in 2014, that word is often misused. While it’s true that many of our most infamous murderers and serial killers are psychopaths, the term actually refers to a much wider group of people.

They happen to share key characteristics which, employed in the right combination, and with discretion and restraint, help them achieve much in life.

Extraordinary powers of persuasion, effective nailing of objectives and an ability to remain one’s own person are all psychopathic qualities which can be of benefit in our daily lives.

Become a persuasion black-belt

Psychopaths study people. Brilliant at getting what they want, they are genius-level psychological code-breakers because, like any predator, getting inside the mind of their prey gives them a distinct advantage.

Nobody could ever accuse the boxing legend Muhammad Ali of being modest. He was once asked to do up his seat-belt as the plane in which he was travelling taxied for take-off

Nobody could ever accuse the boxing legend Muhammad Ali of being modest. He was once asked to do up his seat-belt as the plane in which he was travelling taxied for take-off

I crisscrossed the globe, interviewing a ruthless elite of top con-artists about how they bent others to their will and they agreed that the best way to persuade someone to do something — or, sometimes just as important, not do something — is to convince them that it is in their own interests, as opposed to your own.

Imagine, for example, that your manager asks you to handle an extra project, but you’re already snowed under.

Try saying something like this: ‘I’d love to help, but I really want to make sure that next week’s presentation is streets ahead of our competitors’ and I need to devote all my resources to making that happen.’

By outlining how it will be to their benefit if you don’t take on the extra work, you not only avoid doing it but go up in your boss’s estimation.

Incidentally, one of my favourite illustrations of ‘perceived self-interest’, as it’s known, dates back to the reign of the French King Louis XI, a staunch believer in astrology.

Hearing that a fortune-teller had correctly predicted when one of his courtiers would die, Louis became convinced that such a powerful clairvoyant might pose a threat to his own authority and sent for him, having secretly arranged that he should subsequently plunge to his death from a high window ledge.

‘You claim to be able to interpret the heavens,’ said the King, ‘so tell me, how long do you have to live?’

The astrologer, who had somehow divined the King’s evil plan, thought carefully for a moment. Then he smiled. ‘I shall meet my end,’ he replied, ‘just three days before Your Majesty meets his.’

Use your armoury

Now, to enhance your powers of persuasion, you need the ability to put a stranger at ease and build an instant rapport. Here’s some ‘good psychopath’ tips.

Smile: It is infectious. Researchers in Sweden presented volunteers with subliminal pictures of smiley and angry faces and monitored activity in their own facial muscles.

Even though the volunteers had no idea what they were looking at, the smiley faces stimulated them to smile involuntarily.

Make eye contact: This can account for as much as 55 per cent of information transmission in a given ‘conversation’ — the rest being divided between ‘non verbal auditory’ (eg our intonation) at 38 per cent, and ‘formal’ verbal content at just seven per cent.

Use first names: This personalises an encounter and makes those we speak to feel valued. Studies have shown that if you ask a person a favour, they are more likely to oblige if you begin by using their first name.

Lighten up: A Big Issue seller once told me: ‘I made myself homeless to sell you this.’ I bought a copy on the spot. The reason? Humour instantly disarms our natural caution.

Offer them a cup of tea: It’s not just a time-wasting tradition.

Researchers in the U.S. tricked volunteers into holding either a hot or a cold drink before rating how ‘warm’ or ‘cold’ they rated the stranger who had handed it too them.

Those who held the hot drink rates the person as more caring and generous than those who held the cold drink.

Touch: This stimulates the production of the ‘love hormone’ oxytcin — important not just for romance, but for forging friendship bonds.

Studies have shown that waitresses who touch diners a couple of times during the meal earn considerably more in tips than those who don’t.

Be a mirror: Researchers in the Netherlands asked a group of students a series of questions, while one of their team subtly mimicked one of the students, copying their posture and gestures.

Minutes later, the ‘copying’ researcher dropped six pens on the floor, making it look like an accident. The students whose actions had been mimicked were six times more likely to help pick up the pens.

Timing is everything

Psychopaths know how to win, sharing with top sports  people an ability to ‘switch on’ when it really matters.

Experiments indicate that this is because they are far less likely to be pushed around by the amygdala — the part of the brain which deals with emotions such as fear.

This is underdeveloped in psychopaths so their behaviour is not constrained by concerns about failure, rather motivated by the prospect of winning.


Good psychopaths get ahead by ignoring what others think, but how thick-skinned are you? Study each of the statements below.

If you strongly disagree, give yourself three points, if you disagree give yourself two points, if you agree one point, and strongly agree 0 points.

1. I bear grudges.

2. I have a tendency to take things the wrong way.

3. It matters a lot to me how others see me.

4. If someone says something bad about me, I find it hard to get it out of my head.

5. I have trouble seeing things from another person’s point of view.

6. I worry that other people are talking about me behind my back.

7. I ‘read into things’ a lot.

8. I get irritable if I don’t get what I want.

9. My friendships and relationships are often rocky or stormy.

10. I often interpret accidental mishaps as deliberate.

11. If my boss doesn’t like a pitch or presentation I have prepared he’s making a judgment about me personally.

How did you score?

0-11 You’re so thin-skinned that we hardly like to point it out. We’re guessing that you’ll already have stormed off in offence …

12-17 You’re definitely a bit on the touchy side. Sometimes you don’t just get the wrong end of the stick. You get the wrong stick.

18-22 You generally give people the benefit of the doubt, but occasionally have your ‘moments’. After all, enough is enough, right?

23-28 It takes a lot to push your buttons. You are pretty happy in your own skin and if other people have a problem with you, so what? It’s their problem.

29-33 We could take a sledgehammer to your ego and it still wouldn’t break. You are unoffendable!

Nailing it is not just about attitude. It’s also about timing. If creativity is your thing, peak inspiration tends to coincide with peak drowsiness — which in most working adults occurs at around 2pm.

As your brain becomes tired, your thought processes become more  diffuse, drifting from one idea to the other and forming associations that a less focused mind might not, so this is the time you can be at your most productive.

If your job revolves around critical thinking and decision making, on the other hand, put in your best efforts in the morning, the optimal time for maintaining focus because concentration requires will power which weakens as we tire later in the day.

Society’s key decision-makers are very aware of this. Do you know, for instance, why you only saw Barack Obama in grey or blue suits when he was president? It’s because selecting what to wear in the morning was one decision that he didn’t have to worry about.

Learn to love cold-callers

Research indicates that being more curmudgeonly could help you better yourself in life. For instance, a study entitled Do Nice Guys — And Gals — Really Finish Last? answers that question with a resounding ‘yes’.

Male employees who score below average on the personality trait ‘agreeableness’ earn around 18 per cent more per annum than those who chill out at the more personable end of the scale.

Tougher-minded women, on the other hand, fare a little worse, but still come out on top: earning around five per cent more.

This is good news for psychopaths who have immense self-belief and, because they don’t care what people think, are not afraid to speak out, particularly when it comes to saying ‘No’.

Just like any other muscle, the ‘no’ muscle needs to be toned and Andy recommends working out on cold-callers.

‘Don’t just put the phone down on them,’ he says. ‘Why would you want to do that? You’re passing up a free training session.

Tell them straight that you’re not interested in whatever they’re trying to flog you and then stay on the line to hear what they’ve got to say.

‘If you’re not match fit and need a bit of a warm-up, it’s just what the doctor ordered. And you don’t even pay for the call. I think cold-callers should be available on the NHS.’

The Good Psychopath’s Guide to Success by Andy McNab & Professor Kevin Dutton (Transworld Publishers Ltd, £10.99). © Andy McNab and Professor Kevin Dutton 2014. To order a copy for £9.89 (offer valid to 09/03/24; UK P&P free on orders over £25) go to or call 020 3176 2937.  

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