Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Dale Carnegie was right about criminals

[“Two Gun”] Crowley was sentenced to the electric chair. When he arrived at the death house in Sing Sing, did he say, “This is what I get for killing people”? No, he said, “This is what I get for defending myself.”

The point of the story is this: “Two Gun” Crowley didn’t blame himself for anything.

Is that an unusual attitude among criminals? If you think so, listen to this:

“I have spent the best years of my life giving people the lighter pleasures, helping them have a good time, and all I get is abuse, the existence of a hunted man.”

That’s Al Capone speaking. Yes, America’s most notorious Public Enemy—the most sinister gang leader who ever shot up Chicago. Capone didn’t condemn himself. He actually regarded himself as a public benefactor—an unappreciated and misunderstood public benefactor. ...

I have had some interesting correspondence with Lewis Lawes, who was warden of New York’s infamous Sing Sing prison for many years, on this subject, and he declared that “few of the criminals in Sing Sing regard themselves as bad men. ...”

If Al Capone, “Two Gun” Crowley, Dutch Schultz, and the desperate men and women behind prison walls don’t blame themselves for anything—what about the people with whom you and I come in contact? ...

Criticism is futile because it puts a person on the defensive and usually makes him strive to justify himself. Criticism is dangerous, because it wounds a person’s precious pride, hurts his sense of importance, and arouses resentment.


A survey of convicts serving time in an English prison found they rated themselves higher than the average person on a range of positive characteristics, including morality and kindness. A research team led by University of Southampton psychologist Constantine Sedikides reports the one exception was law-abidingness—“for which they viewed themselves as average.” ...

The study, published in the British Journal of Social Psychology, was based on a survey of 79 convicted felons serving time in a prison in the south of England.
--Tom Jacobs, Pacific Standard, confirming the wisdom of Dale Carnegie. HT: Chris Blattman