How to Spot the Sociopath in Your Midst
by Joshua Krause, The Daily Sheeple They always know how to get what they want from you. They know your weaknesses better than anyone, even yourself. They can always turn a no into a yes, and they don’t seem particularly concerned with laws, safety, or right and wrong. They’re the most predatory members of our society, and they’ll take what they want, and hang you out to dry. They’re also a bit more complicated than all that. In recent years, the term “sociopath” has become a loaded word. Uttering it creates an immediate knee jerk response in the listener, and for anyone who doesn’t have any real world experience with a sociopath, hearing that word probably brings to mind a barrage of Hollywood villains, cop shows, and serial killers. Unfortunately, the media’s portrayal of this mental condition couldn’t be further from the truth. For starters, the definition of a sociopath isn’t so clear cut. Most people use the terms “sociopath” and “psychopath” interchangeably, and according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) both conditions are listed together under “Antisocial Personality Disorders”. They certainly share a lot in common, including a disdain for authority and social mores, recklessness, a lack of empathy, and violent tendencies. But according to an article from Psychology Today, there are some significant differences as well. Sociopaths are more volatile, and can lash out unexpectedly. Furthermore, most crimes committed by them will be spontaneous and disorganized. Psychopaths on the other hand are more cunning. Their crimes are well executed, and difficult for police to figure out. They excel at mimicking human emotions, and tend to have a good education and a steady job. They just fit right in. They’re the sorts of people who rise to the top of corporations, governments, and law firms. We probably don’t even how many psychopaths there are in the world, or what they’re really like. They’re simply too elusive to pin down. However, the biggest difference between psychopaths and sociopaths, is the context of their condition. Psychopathy is often considered to be a genetic condition, whereas sociopathy is considered a learned condition (often brought on by a volatile childhood). But more importantly, psychopaths hold no loyalties whatsoever. It doesn’t matter if they’re a member of your family, or someone you’ve known for years. If they think it’s in their best interest to hurt you, and they think they can get away with it, that’s exactly what they’ll do. This can also be true for sociopaths, but only up to a certain extant. Sociopaths still have loyalty, and they can still feel remorse, empathy, and attachment, but they only feel that way for a limited number of people. It could be a close friend or a few members of their family. But everyone outside of that inner circle is fair game. Though for practical purposes, this may be splitting hairs. Chances are, if you have a run-in with a sociopath of any kind it’s not going to be a pleasant encounter, even if it seems like it at the time. Their chief attribute is mimicry. On the inside they’re individuals, but on the outside, they’re a blank slate. The personality they present to the world can shift and adapt, depending on the person they’re interacting with. Obviously this makes them fantastic liars, but it also presents an opportunity to see them for what they really are. By observing them around other people and in different situations, you can catch their inconsistencies. Pay attention to what they say and claim to believe, and see if they walk the walk. Remember their opinions and see if they change depending on who they’re talking to. And look for extremes in their behavior. It’s not unusual for a sociopath to seem introverted and quiet, only to suddenly shift gears, and become the most loud and affable person you’ve ever met. They also have other, smaller tells that you can use to spot them. Because their outward personality is a blank slate, they’ll often talk in a somewhat monotone voice before they get to know you better (then they’ll know how they should talk to you), and they’ll usually leave a lengthy pause before answering any of your questions. What they’re doing is trying to gauge your personality, while they think of the “best” way to respond to you. You have to remember that since they can’t really relate to most people, they treat human interaction like you might use a computer. Everything is a simple input/output to them. “If I say this in a certain way, I’m going to get a specific response.” Sociopaths also won’t reveal very much about themselves. They’ll always try to keep the conversation about you, because for them, every conversation is an opportunity to extract information. However, to make the conversation seem more genuine, they’ll slip personal details to you from time to time. Pay close attention to these, because what they reveal to you is either an exaggerated truth, or an outright lie. Everything they tell you about themselves is designed to illicit sympathy and trust, and impart a sense of intimacy. I guess another way to look at it, is that sociopaths are not interested in small talk. It doesn’t further their goals in any way, and is waste of time to them (again, they don’t care about social mores) You can’t say “how about this weather?” or “how about the game last night?” and expect a prompt and brief response, or even a nod or shrug. If approached with small talk, the sociopath is either going to ignore you or they’re going to turn it into an intimate conversation about you, depending on whether or not they want something from you. Once you’ve confirmed that this person is a sociopath, the most direct approach is the best way to deal with them. They don’t respond well to passive-aggressive sleights. They either won’t recognize it at all, or they’ll view it as a weakness. You have to confront them, and call them on their lies and inconsistencies. Otherwise they’ll just keep walking all over you. Whenever they get away with something, they keep doing it until they don’t get away with it. It’s that simple. So you have to draw a very clear line in the sand and not back down. And don’t think for a second that you can beat them at their own game. Deceit, misdirection, and mimicry is what they do every single day. For most folks, lying takes considerable planning and effort, but for them it’s quite natural. You’re not going to outwit them, at least not indefinitely. But ultimately, the path towards beating a sociopath starts with knowing yourself and your shortcomings. If you accept your weaknesses and become familiar with them, you’ll stand a better chance of guarding them from the predators in our society. Other than that, stand your ground, don’t let your guard down, and call them out. If you do anything less, then they’re sure to get the better of you.