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10 ways to spot a sociopath

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You will come across sociopaths in the business world more often than you suspect. And you need to be alert and on guard for the damage they can do to you.

In her fascinating book, The Sociopath Next Door, Martha Stout opened our eyes to the red flags of sociopaths. Even though I now believe I lived with one for over a decade, and feel a bit foolish for doing so, I’m now better able to recognize the signs.

Unfortunately, it can be hard to spot a sociopath at first, that’s what makes them so insidious. They earn your trust and are so charming that we start to fall for their lies and stories and may even begin to support their dangerous or illegal activities. And that’s what they count on. Sociopaths lack empathy or guilt and they use our empathy and trust against us. With up to 4% of the population living as sociopaths, by Stout’s estimates, you’re bound to run into one sooner or later. Hopefully you escape their clutches.

Here are 10 ways to spot a sociopath:

1. Sociopaths are charming

Sociopaths tend to attract a following wherever they go, and always seem to make friends easily. Their charm and charisma tends to make people want to be around them – especially to seek advice and guidance. They also often appear sexy or use sexual attraction to their advantage. Of course, not all sexy people are sociopaths, but over-the-top sexual appetites and fetishes may be one of many red flags.

2. Sociopaths are spontaneous and intense

Sociopaths tend to do exciting and spontaneous things. Their bizarre and erratic choices are usually things that most regular people wouldn’t even dream of doing. This is because they are unbound by normal social contracts and rational decisions. They think about themselves and gratifying their desires only.

Their ego-driven behaviors often seem extremely risky or irrational. However, their spontaneous and intense nature can also make them charming and irresistible – they are quite good at “sweeping people off their feet” so beware of grand gestures and fast-forwarded relationships.

3. Sociopaths don’t feel shame, guilt or remorse

Their brains are simply incapable of feeling these emotions. This is why it is classified as a psychological disorder. This makes it easy for them to unblinkingly betray, threaten, or harm people without even giving it a second thought. They only pursue actions that serve their own self-interests, even if those choices seriously harm others.

Paradoxically, this is why you’ll also find many very “successful” cutthroat sociopaths in high levels of government, financial institutions, corporations, medical professions, and other high-profile, high prestige, jobs. In their New York Times bestseller Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work, Paul Babiak and Robert D. Hare, offer a compelling, frightening, and scientifically sound look at how psychopaths manipulate their corporate environments. They’re not afraid to do whatever it takes to reach their goals, and feel no remorse for those they harm in the process.

4. Sociopaths invent outrageous lies

They will wildly exaggerate things to the point of ridiculous absurdity. They will lie about things that don’t’ even need to be lied about. They embellish their stories and lies with incredible yet also irrefutable details. Even though it sounds ridiculous in hindsight, they are such animated storytellers, and such masters of emotional manipulation, they can make anything sound believable at the time. They may even force themselves to cry on cue to provoke your emotional response, even though they themselves can’t feel those kinds of emotions.

5. Sociopaths seek to “win” at all costs

They hate to lose any fight or argument and will viciously defend their lies, even to the point of logical absurdity. This stems from their need to dominate and control others around them to satisfy their own egotistical desires. If you do decide to take up arms with a sociopath, whether in a bantering argument or in a court of law, be prepared for the worst.

6. Sociopaths tend to be highly intelligent

Unfortunately, they use their gift of intelligence to cleverly deceive others rather than empower them. Their high IQs make them dangerous. This is why some of the best-known sociopathic serial killers successfully evaded law enforcement for quite some time. Their intelligence also makes it easier for them to take advantage of people emotionally and financially, often conning people out of money, running up debts in other people’s names, or financially abusing their victims in other ways. This leaves their victims emotionally and financial vulnerable, forcing them to make tough financial decisions and even putting their assets in danger.

7. Sociopaths are incapable of love

They are entirely self-absorbed. It’s possible that they may pretend to feel love or compassion in order to get what they want from others, but they don’t actually feel love in the same way that you or I do. They do, however feel very possessive and controlling of the people and stuff in their lives, even going so far as to treat their family and friends as possessions, not autonomous human beings.

8. Sociopaths speak poetically

Sociopaths are master wordsmiths, sometimes in multiple languages. They are able to deliver a long stream of consciousness monologue or tell a story that is both intriguing and hypnotic. For a great example of this, watch this interview of Charles Manson on YouTube.

9. Sociopaths never sincerely apologize

They can’t fathom to apologize if they think that they’re never wrong. Because they never feel guilt they can never sincerely apologize. At best, they may attempt an apology because they know it is the social norm. However, more likely, even if shown proof that they were in the wrong, they’ll instead counter-attack.

10. Sociopaths are delusional and believe that whatever they say is the truth

Many of them don’t actually understand that they are lying. They believe that because they think it or say it is reality.

If you come up against a sociopath, and one day you probably will, be aware that you’ll not be able to spot them until it is too late. Sociopaths are masters at using their charm, lies, exciting personality, and knowledge of emotional manipulation to rope people in closer and get what they want. 

At best you may be a few meetings in when you realize that something is a bit off. Trust your gut, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Once you believe that the person you know may be a sociopath do everything you can to break free from their grasp – you’ll thank me for it.

About Zyana Morris

Zyana Morris is a passionate Health and Lifestyle blogger who is most interested in writing topics related to wellness and Lifestyle.