So now that you know you’re not a psychopath, a sociopath, or an idiot, how do you start identifying these personality types in your own life? And then how do you go about dealing with psychopaths?
You might think psychopaths, sociopaths, and idiots are easy to find. If they were, we wouldn’t have to worry so much about them. In fact, psychopaths, sociopaths, and idiots often hide in plain sight. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the Forbes list of the 10 professions most likely to attract psychopaths. They’re not bank robbers and interrogation experts. They’re CEOs, lawyers, clergymen, police officers, surgeons, and television personalities.
So if you’re an upwardly mobile go-getter kind of guy (and of course you are; that’s why you’re reading this blog!), chances are good that you have at least one of these in your life.
Another thing you might notice about the most psychopathic professionals: Most are either directly (CEO) or indirectly (journalist) in control of another person. That’s because psychopaths, sociopaths and idiots tend to be control freaks. Remember what we talked about last time: These types of people are incredibly dangerous precisely because of their ability to control others. Having one of their lieutenants in your life is about as bad as having the genuine article hanging around.
Remember: One in every 25 people is a psychopath. Every one of them has an army of idiots at their disposal.
It’s not that people are inherently bad. It’s just that people are sort of lazy — they’re inertial. They don’t like to upset the state of things unless they have to. It is precisely this kind of inertial state that psychopaths and sociopaths prey on. What’s more, most people don’t do much reflecting on what philosophy professors call “the Good.” Most are trusting folk who aren’t on the lookout for psychopaths and sociopaths. The average person is easy pickings for these types of manipulators and their dupes, who are often just as dangerous.
But you’re not an average person. You’re already thinking about these questions. I’m just going to give you a little direction so that you can hunt psychopaths, sociopaths, and idiots with the best of them. How are you going to do that? With a simple tool I’ve used to teach thousands of men at The Art of Charm: The Value Scale.
What Is the Value Scale?
The Value Scale is something we came up with at The Art of Charm to recognize different personality types and how they go about getting value from other people. The value scale shows four common ways:
- Supplicative Personality: A supplicative person begs value from others. They basically say to other people: “please like me.” Supplicative folks tend to hang around the periphery of a group, asking for permission from others to feel good about themselves. This is a very low-value person, and idiots tend to cluster here.
- Combative Personality: A lot of times, the combative personality is a supplicative person who got stepped on too much. They demand value from others, generally in a highly hostile manner. They can’t take criticism and must be in charge all the time. Both idiots and psychopaths hang out around this level of the value scale.
- Competitive Personality: The competitive person can be all right — as long as they’re the center of attention. If you’ve ever been in a group of people where one guy had to constantly one up your stories, that guy was competitive. It’s not enough for him to be awesome. He has to be more awesome than anyone else. Don’t ever try to compete with these people. When you have, they’ve already won.
- Cooperative Personality: This is where you and your friends always want to be. Psychopaths, sociopaths, and idiots can’t hack it here. The cooperative person understands that one person being awesome doesn’t make them any less awesome. There’s enough awesome for everyone to go around. When you’re here, you get that the best way to get value is to give it out to others. That’s something psychopaths, sociopaths, and idiots can’t ever understand.
Remember the value scale going forward. It’s one of the best ways to keep psychopaths, sociopaths, and idiots out of your life. When you put your mindset into the cooperative frame, you will attract similar people. Likewise, you will be able to immediately recognize people who either want to beg (idiots) or steal (psychopaths and sociopaths) your value away from you.
Do They Show Empathy to Others?
Another way to see if someone is a psychopath or a sociopath is by looking at how well they show empathy to others.
Remember that psychopaths and sociopaths don’t have much empathy — there’s no reason for them to play fair with other people, because they just see others as tools to their desired ends. Mutual exchanges are a loss to the psychopath and sociopath. They can’t win unless someone else loses. So look to the presence of empathy as the defining characteristic of the psychopath and the sociopath. That’s your litmus test.
What does empathy look like in action? Empathic people are naturally curious. They want to know about others and what makes them tick. Compare this to sociopaths or psychopaths, who are only interested in themselves. If they want to know anything about other people, it’s only to further their own ends.
Empathic people, however, always want to know what they can do to help. Take a look at how potential sociopaths and psychopaths in your life respond to the distress of others. Are they looking for a way to give support or the fastest way out of having to keep listening? You’re not looking for the reincarnation of Mother Theresa here, only normal human empathy that you’d expect from anyone who truly cares.
Can They Think in Terms of Win-Win?
Dealing with psychopaths, sociopaths, and idiots can be difficult, because they can’t conceptualize win-win scenarios. In fact, the “win-win” scenario almost defines the Cooperative Personality — the place where basically no psychopaths, sociopaths, or idiots are found.
On the other hand, you’ll find the villains of our story trying to get one over on people in even the most mundane of areas, like choosing where to go for dinner. Look for them to throw a fit when they don’t get 100 percent of their way, or maybe just take their ball and go home.
The reason psychopaths, sociopaths, and idiots can’t think in these terms is that they always have to feel like they’ve come out on top. There’s nothing in their way of thinking that allows them to win without your losing. Whether the person in your life is a certifiable psychopath or not, this is clearly toxic behavior. You don’t need it in your life.
Do They Ever Show Vulnerability?
Vulnerability is one of the only ways that people get to know one another. Think about it: Everything about you that’s interesting also makes you vulnerable. It’s only when we open ourselves up to people that we’re able to start making real connections with one another.
You don’t have to share deep, dark secrets about yourself to be vulnerable. In fact, a funny or slightly embarrassing story makes you really vulnerable, but it also makes you real. The sociopath and psychopath are incapable of doing this, and the idiot is scared to. They see vulnerability as being a weakness at all times, so they never share anything “real” about themselves. Ask yourself if there’s someone in your life you don’t truly know anything about. Someone who never lets you in, who never lets you know who they really are. That’s a red flag.
At the same time, psychopaths and sociopaths can also exhibit a tendency to share too much. This is a tool called floodlighting, or “over sharing” with their target. If they can get a lot of sympathy up front — usually by telling a bunch of lies — then they can run off with a lot of value later. Be wary of floodlighting patterns. Regular people share evenly and proceed from there.
Do They Return Value?
Giving value feels great, but never getting any back can grind you down. When you get value, it’s not about lavishing praise on someone. It can be as simple as laughing at their joke or saying “you seem pretty cool” to a stranger.
While some people are just a little naturally “cold” and take a little while to warm up, the psychopath and sociopath never return value, and the idiot doesn’t know how. These are people who don’t understand why you’re giving value to anyone. They just want to soak up all the value they can, holding on as tightly as they can. This is why you tend to feel emotionally exhausted when dealing with psychopaths, sociopaths, and idiots.
Find the people in your life who don’t just take more than they give; they never give. You’ve found your culprit.
So Who Is Safe?
Given all of this information, who can you trust? Who can you let into your life? There are three marks of a high value person. Keep your eyes peeled for these, and you’ll know you’re not in the company of a psychopath, a sociopath, or an idiot.
- Cooperative behaviors: This is the key to it all, right here. You want to look for people who are going to work with you. Men shouldn’t see other high value men as competition. When they do, it’s a big red flag, whether they’re a psychopath, sociopath, idiot, or just a garden variety insecure cat.
- Vulnerability as a strength: People who are willing to be vulnerable are people you can feel safe around. That’s because they know they have foibles. They accept them and can laugh at them. They’re not going to make you feel bad about sharing yourself with them.
- Personal conviction: One thing that idiots, psychopaths, and sociopaths all have in common: A lack of core conviction. They bend in the breeze like a willow tree. People who have values, who have convictions, who believe in things, and aren’t afraid to stand up for them are people you can feel safe and confident with.
But how do you go about dealing with the psychopaths, sociopaths, and idiots you already have in your life? Stick around for the third installment of this series, in which I tell you how to get rid of these troublesome types.