DO YOU KNOW A SOCIOPATH ?
WHAT IS A SOCIOPATH
At one time the world of psychology used the term “psychopath” to describe someone with a sociopathic personality disorder. Because of misunderstandings and misuse of terms like psychopath, idiot, and retarded, those terms have been retired and replaced with new terms. For instance, the “psychopath”, now known as a “sociopath”, is not a “psycho” and is not insane. The word comes from “socio” which means “of society” and “path” which comes from pathology – the study of illness. It literally means “social illness”. Recently, the world of psychology has decided to revive the term “psychopath” but have reserved this term for the most criminally violent sociopaths. Link here on terminology: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mindmelding/201301/what-is-psychopath-0
A “sociopath” is someone with a personality disorder whereas they have no regard for the rules, laws, morals, and practices of society. It’s a very broad term and both the serial killer and the compulsive gambler both fit into the term “sociopath”.
You probably don’t know any serial killers or compulsive gamblers, so you may think you don’t know any sociopaths, and you are probably wrong. Depending on your source of information, one in twenty to one in thirty people are sociopaths. You may think that almost all sociopaths are locked behind bars, but because sociopaths are cunning and shrewd by nature, most sociopaths don’t have a criminal record, and may even have a position of authority – supervisor, manager, corporate vice-president, even CEO or senator.
Sociopaths are cunning and manipulative and seek positions of power and authority and have no problems with lying, cheating, or using any means possible to obtain that position. In fact, sociopaths are usually more successful in their careers than the average person.
Think of these factors: sociopaths are very goal oriented, won’t take no for an answer, determined to meet their goals and will let nothing stand in the way of achieving their goals. They are “go-getters” with charisma and charm who know how to “play the game” and get things done. Doesn’t this sound like the kind of person any company would like to hire? And perhaps – doesn’t it sound like someone at your company?
Sociopaths are very successful at climbing corporate ladders. They also are extremely good at sales. They can be very successful starting up new companies or running a business. In fact, they only time they are usually caught and found out is when their hunger for success becomes so strong and undisciplined that they wind up on the wrong side of the law. And even then, if they are important to their company or peer group, they may find others “pulling strings” to get them off the hook.
Before I go into some of the signs that someone (even yourself) may be a sociopath, remember that all sociopaths don’t have all the traits of a sociopath, and that people who are not sociopaths may have one or two of their traits.
Even when someone is a sociopath, there are different levels of the personality disorder. Some may stop at nothing and even kill to achieve their goals while others stay just short of running afoul of the law.
TRAITS OF SOCIOPATHS
–Very extroverted and charming and are great at making a first impression, but their charm is purely superficial. They are outstanding at “buttering up” those individuals who can help them to achieve their goals.
–Very manipulative and seek to dominate and control others. People are just there to be used. They are drawn to those who are easily manipulated and love “yes men” while at the same time they are annoyed and irritated by those who see through their facade and will lie and spread false and damaging rumors about them.
–Feels very entitled and sees themselves as having every right to do the things they do, while at the same time, those who want them to take responsibility for their actions are being unreasonable and unfair.
–They lie without effort and when questioned they always have a quick comeback or answer a question with a question. When they are caught lying, they immediate have another lie to explain the first one, and so on. They will never admit to lying and just create another lie to cover up their lies. They are actually so good at lying, they can even fool lie detectors. When they are asked a question they don’t know the answer to, instead of researching the question, they will just make something up. A true sociopath will even lie when there is no benefit to lying. They just like to “mess with people.”
–They never feel guilty or sorry for anything they have done, although they may claim sorrow or guilt or shame if they feel that’s what you want to hear. They have difficulty feeling sympathy, and may have inappropriate reactions to suffering. When someone we know falls and seriously hurts themselves, a normal person will cringe and feel sympathy for their pain while the sociopath may laugh or blame the person for their own suffering.
–They fake warmth, love, compassion, and understanding. They don’t actually understand these emotions or may actually feel such emotions are for weaklings.
–They have difficulty controlling anger and other impulses and have no problem humiliating or otherwise behaving cruelly to someone that has displeased them. If they later admit they were wrong and sorry for their actions, it is only because they feel they can gain an advantage over the victim by saying so.
–Unconcerned about consequences. If they ruin someone’s life with their actions, it means nothing to them. They never accept blame and can always find someone else to blame. They often blame their victims. It was somehow the victims’ fault that they did what they did. When they find themselves in a position of authority, they can fire someone without batting an eye. When they are caught in a mistake, they can blame a valued employee and fire them without the slightest feeling of guilt.
–Relationship difficulties. They have difficulty being a good partner because they don’t feel love and only stay with their partner as long as they find them useful – although this is not always the case. If they partner up with a perfect victim (enabler) the relationship can last years with their victim partner always forgiving them. Sociopaths are often thought of as “playboys” or “lady’s man” because their false charm can begin relations quickly, but their lying, cheating, and verbal and physical abuse can end relationships just as quickly.
–Secretive. They usually have a “need to know” policy (due to feeling a superior position in knowing something others do not) and may wind up failing to give co-workers needed information. When confronted by such a situation, instead of admitting fault, he may challenge that the co-worker didn’t really need to know or lie saying that the information was given but that the co-worker must have forgotten.
–Irresponsible. This word is often used to describe sociopaths, but it doesn’t mean they are always late for work or something of that sort. Sociopaths can tell time. What is means is that, whenever a problem comes up, it’s not their fault, it’s the fault of someone else. Sociopaths often proudly say “I am the first to admit when I make a mistake” but no one can remember him ever admitting a mistake.
DEALING WITH A SOCIOPATH
If you are in a superior position to a sociopath, you may find the sociopath is remarkably easy to deal with and wonder how anyone can possibly have any objection to this person. This is due to the false charm, “buttering up”, and quick and reasonable explanations the sociopath provides for any complaints against him. But make no mistake – this is part of the sociopath’s manipulation and while he may give the superior the impression that he is a warm and caring friend, the sociopath actually thinks of his superior as a fool. Should his beloved superior be dismissed or transferred, he will have no hesitation to “bad mouth” his old friend and claim to have always known his old friend was not right for the job.
HOW DO YOU RECOGNIZE SOMEONE YOU SUPERVISE IS A SOCIOPATH?
You have never had a disagreement with them – even about things as trivial as sports, movies, music, etc. That’s your first clue – human nature dictates that at some time an individual may have a different opinion.
“Buttering up.” Sociopaths will flatter you about your brilliant ideas, funny jokes, or other “talents”. You may dismiss it as just being a “brown nose” but it could run much deeper.
They have negative opinions about others they work with, which they repeat, often word-for-word. They may even have memorized “tags” to badmouth others. “Not committed to the job.” “Just here for the paycheck.” or even something vague such as “Not a team player.” It’s too hard to come up with new negative things to say, so they repeat their memorized “tags”.
Steering opinions of others. When you have some good things to say about a person, their jealously will rise and they will come up with something negative to say about that same person. This will be even more likely if that other person may be considered for an award, a promotion, or a raise. The sociopath doesn’t like to see good things happen to other people, especially those they have been unable to manipulate.
Volunteering for “dirty work.” If you must discipline or fire someone, they will jump at the chance to do it for you. Sociopaths have no guilt and enjoy humiliating or hurting others.
Complaints from other workers. The sociopath is sure to have some complaints from others, but he will quickly toss them aside with a quick explanation and try to discredit the complaint instead of taking it for what it is.
If you suspect someone you supervise may be a sociopath, keep you guard up for the telltale signs. Once you are fairly sure, you should make the hard decision to terminate his employ. A sociopath is a poison to harmony and productiveness and could very well lead to your best workers seeking employment elsewhere. Terminating a sociopath is not easy because his charms and skill at manipulation makes him a master at changing peoples minds or causing them to put off their actions. You need to be firm and refuse to reconsider. Sadly, however, this seldom happens and many sociopaths rise to high positions of responsibility in his company, and will seek to terminate those who are “on to him”.
HOW TO DEAL WITH A SOCIOPATH IF YOU ARE NOT IN A SUPERIOR POSITION?
Don’t. You can’t win. You are fooling yourself if you think you can “handle” a sociopath. While you may have infinite patience and forgiveness, the sociopath only sees this as weakness and he will have no hesitation to “throw you under the bus” if the opportunity comes up. The sociopath never sees himself owing anyone anything, even if they have literally saved his life.
If you are a co-worker or the sociopath is your immediate supervisor, get a job with another company.
If you are in a romantic relationship, leave immediately and change your phone number. Move if possible. Consider getting a restraining order.
If your neighbor is a sociopath, avoid him completely. Do not engage in conversation. The sociopath always knows what to say to “make things right”. Consider moving.
If a relative is a sociopath – once again moving and changing your phone number is in order.
Avoid sociopaths at all costs. Remember, the sociopath’s entire being revolves around victimizing others, especially those who trust him. Once you think “I can handle him” – surprise! The sociopath has made you another victim.
If you know someone who is a sociopath, please post your experience without, of course, naming any names.
As always, valuing your opinion and challenging others