Let's face it:  self-delusion is as much a part of the human condition as breathing.  We have a tendency to do nice things to people we like and bad things to those we dislike.  But, what the psychology behind this tendency is an inverse relationship:  a reverse-engineering of attitudes that takes place as we grow to like people for whom we do nice things and dislike those to whom we are unkind.  This curious effect is called the "Benjamin Franklin Effect," and was so named after a specific trolling incident that happened early in Franklin's political career.  Here's the story:


    Benjamin Franklin was one of 17 children growing up in a family of impoverished means.  In spite of very low odds of becoming an educated man of status and power, he learned formidable people skills and became a "master of the game of personal politics."  When he ran for his second term as a clerk, a peer whose name was never mentioned in Franklin's autobiography, delivered a long election speech censuring Franklin and tarnishing his reputation.  Franklin won the reelection, but he was furious and wanted to tame the troll and tame him shrewdly because the troll was a gentleman of fortune and eduction who might one day come to hold a government office.  So, he set out to turn his hater into a fan, "but without paying any survile respect to him".  By that time, Franklin's reputation as a book collector and library founder gave him a standing as a man of discerning literary tastes, so Franklin sent a letter to the hater asking if he could borrow a specific selection from his library, one that was a "very scarce and curious book".  The rival, flattered, sent it right away.  Franklin sent it back a week later with a thank-you note.  Mission accomplished.  The next time the legislature met, the man approached Franklin and spoke to him in person for the first time.  Franklin said the man "ever after manifested a readiness to serve me on all occasions, so that we became great friends, and our friendship continued to his death."


    We would all do well to deal with our critics in a similarly clever fashion.  It would immediately reduce the level of angst, vindictiveness and divisiveness in our world ... and that's a great start for change in 2017.

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