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Sociopath Definition And The Signs Of Sociopaths

Sociopath Definition And The Signs Of Sociopaths

There are about 8 million sociopaths in the US, according to the American Psychiatric Association.[1] That means about 1 in 25 people you know is a sociopath.[3] You probably know at least one – or at some point in life, you’ll probably get to know one pretty well.

M. E. Thomas, a law professor, has a chilling confession. As a professor with many close friendships, Thomas is also a churchgoer and helps her family out. She is not what you might imagine a sociopath to be like. Instead of being outwardly volatile, she has a stable career and social life.

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But she admits that she is not normal. She does not feel ashamed when she breaks rules or hurts others. She doesn’t trust even her “close” friends. She lies and manipulates others – frequently. And her remarkable ability to stay calm helps her appear totally in control.[2]

What Is a Sociopath

By definition, a sociopath is someone with an antisocial personality disorder. This disorder includes impairments in personality (affecting both self and interpersonal relationships) as well as pathological personality traits (compulsiveness or obsessiveness).

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Sociopaths feel, think, perceive, and relate differently than people without personality disorders. They aren’t able to turn off their negative thoughts or traits, and they can’t always see how their pathological traits are problems.

So what causes sociopathy? As far as experts can tell, it’s probably a result of both “nature” (genetics) and “nurture” (environment).[4] Biologically, the brain of a sociopath matures at a slower rate than that of a non-sociopath. Early life experiences, such as trauma, abuse, or physical damage, can cause sociopathy as well.

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Some people only have some sociopathic tendencies but they’re not full-blown sociopaths.[5] Those who have the sociopathic tendencies only exhibit sociopathic behaviors and attitudes sometimes. By contrast, a full-blown sociopath never possesses genuine respect for others.

How to Tell If a Person Is a Sociopath

  • Lack a sense of shame: Sociopaths can’t really feel remorse and guilt, and they don’t get easily embarrassed.
  • Constantly lie: They’re very comfortable in telling lies, as they won’t have any guilty feelings.
  • Calm in any circumstances: Unable to feel fear and anxiety, sociopaths are good at staying calm in any circumstances.
  • Charming and generous just at first: They greet you with a charming smile and ask the appropriate questions. But the fact is, they have no interest in you at all.
  • Manipulative: They love to be in control of every situation, so they target weak people and try to dominate every aspect of their lives.
  • Have a huge ego: Sociopaths tend to be narcissistic and much more interested in talking about themselves instead of listening to others.
  • Unable to take criticism: Owing to their huge ego, sociopaths can’t take criticism. While they may not outwardly express anger, they won’t believe the criticism and instead blame others for failures.
  • Have very few real friends: Sociopaths often have difficulties in making friends, or in any relationships. They seldom truly connect with people.
  • Isolate you from others: To be the centre of your world, they would try to isolate you and ask you to stop hanging out with your friends.
  • Secretive: They don’t connect with people, and so they seldom explain what they do or why.
  • Have low tolerance for boredom: Sociopaths have a strong need for stimulation. This might even include physical punishment or gambling.
  • Poor in behavioral controls: They have a hard time predicting people’s reactions and understanding their feelings. As a result they hurt or annoy people around them without even noticing it.
  • Express shallow emotions: Sociopaths have no emotion but this doesn’t mean they don’t express emotions. They can fake it. So the emotions they express are usually shallow.
  • Authoritarian: Sociopaths see themselves as superior, and so they tend toward authoritarianism.
  • Paranoid: Sociopaths often lack trust in people, doubting what they say and do.
  • Cruel to animals: They might show this in their early childhood – for example, pulling wings off of flies.

How to Deal with a Sociopath

Sometimes we have no choice but to cope with a sociopath. Maybe you recognize sociopathic traits in your coworker or even a family member. Under these circumstances, the best thing to do is to understand their personality and protect yourself. Here are some actions you might take to guard yourself against a sociopath:

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Don’t reveal too much information about yourself.

Sociopaths are often charming at first and look like they want to know more about you. But that’s not the case. All they want to do is to find someone who is weak and then they can manipulate you to achieve their goals.

Never reveal personal information about you or your friends and family or difficulties you’re having. These are the best materials for them to gain dominance over you. Instead, keep conversations with sociopaths to neutral subjects like television and news. They will gradually lose interest and walk away from you.

Don’t give them more than 3 chances.

Sociopaths are good at lying. They can absolutely tell a lie to cover whatever bad move they have done. But don’t give them more than 3 chances. If they lie to you once or twice, they can be forgiven as it might be a misunderstanding or a mistake. But when it comes to the third time, you should better cut your loss and run. Don’t let them have any chance to do more harm to you.

Don’t try to take them down.

It is dangerous to be an enemy of a sociopath. Their calculating nature always grant them whatever they want. Instead of trying to take them down, try to come up with a win-win agreement. Propose as many win-win scenarios as you can. Get them on your side.

Reference

More by this author

Anna Chui

Anna is a communication expert and a life enthusiast. She's the editor of Lifehack and loves to write about love, life, and passion.

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Last Updated on May 7, 2019

How to Detect a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

How to Detect a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Work in any competitive field long enough, and you’re bound to run into a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It’s a powerful image. A shepherd watches over his flock to protect them from harm. He’d chase away any predator that tried to make its way into the flock. A clever wolf wearing the skin of a sheep as a disguise can sneak by the vigilant shepherd and get into the herd undetected.

The story isn’t just a colorful description–it’s a warning to all of us to beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing. They may seem innocent, but they have ulterior motives. They’ll use different tactics to camouflage their intentions.

The person who is kind to you, but undercuts you when you aren’t around is a wolf in disguise. A wolf in sheep’s clothing might pick your brain for ideas and then pass them off as their own to get a promotion. They’re always looking out for themselves at the expense of everyone around them.

Wearing a Disguise Has Its Advantages

People don’t go out of their way to manipulate others unless they’re getting something out of it. Hiding their intentions gives wolves the chance to manipulate other people to advance their own agenda. They know that what they’re trying to do wouldn’t be popular, or it might cause struggle if they presented themselves honestly.

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    They’ll be able to do what they want with less interference if they put on an act. By the time people figure out their true motives, the wolf has what it wants.

    Signs That Someone Is a Wolf in Disguise

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        1. They live to take power instead of empowering others. A wolf uses people as stepping stones to get the things that they want. They don’t care what happens to anyone else.[1] A wolf at work might make you look bad during a presentation to make themselves look amazing in front of the boss.
        2. Wolves seem sweet on the outside, but they’ll show you their teeth. If wolves revealed their true identity, people wouldn’t associate with them. They develop a friendly or kind persona, but they can’t keep up the act 24/7. Eventually, they’ll reveal their aggressive tendencies. A wealthy person who likes to break the law may make sizable charitable donations to convince people that they are kind and thoughtful. These donations largely keep them out of trouble, but if someone calls them out, they destroy that person’s reputation to stifle the criticism.
        3. They manipulate through emotions to get what they want. Wolves know that they can get ahead by appealing to your emotions. They find out what you want and need, and they give you just enough to keep you quiet and compliant. Imagine that your boss is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and you want to ask for a vacation. She might try to play on your guilt and feelings of insecurity to get you to skip vacation or take fewer days off.
        4. A wolf will charm you first. Wolves are experts at manipulating the people around them. They appear interested in whatever you’re doing, and you’ll get the impression that they care. After they get you where they want you, they do just enough to keep you on the hook. This is the coworker who may start out being your friend, but they end up dumping responsibility onto you. When they see that you are growing frustrated, they’ll surprise you with something to charm you some more. Then, they’ll continue to do whatever they want.
        5. Their stories are full of holes.  Calling a wolf out is the surest way to make them squirm. When this person tries to come up with a story, it won’t make much sense because they are improvising.[2] The classic example of this is the significant other that you suspect has cheated on you. When you ask them why they came home so late, they’ll either become upset with you, or they’ll make up a weak explanation.

        How to Spot a Wolf

          Know What’s Real So You Can Spot the Phony

          Do some homework so that you have as much of the story as possible before you work with them. Research how they respond in certain situations, or give them hypothetical problems to see how they respond.

          A job applicant might tell you that she’s always positive and thinks of herself as a team-player. That’s what every employer wants to hear. During the interview you ask applicants to work in groups to solve a problem to see how they handle the situation. The applicant “positive team-player” is bossy and negative. You’ve spotted the wolf.

          A wolf will tell you something that ultimately benefits them. Gather evidence that proves or disproves their position, and see what happens. Chances are, when you choose the side that supports their agenda, they’ll act like your best friend. If you disagree, they’ll become aggressive.

          Spotting a potential wolf–especially if you are one of the sheep–can present you with some challenges. If your gut tells you that a wolf is lurking among all the other sheep, pay attention, and make sure you take the next step.

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          Ask Questions, the More the Better

          There’s nothing wrong with asking questions to uncover the truth. The safety of everyone in your group is at risk. Since wolves often make up stories, you may be able to call them out when their tales lack details.

          When they state an opinion, ask “Why do you think that?” or “How do you know it’s like that?” They’ll have trouble coming up with enough information to pull off the lie.

          Since wolves are always pretending to be something they aren’t, they don’t usually have a clearly thought-out reason for what they say. In a debate, they won’t understand the root of an issue.

          They may also tell you what they think you want to hear, but when pressed for more information, they won’t have anything to add. Their knowledge is superficial. No matter how much you try to encourage discussion, they will not be able to carry on a conversation about the subject.

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          Wolves Are Everywhere

          As much as we want to believe that everyone has the best intentions, it isn’t always the case. Some people only do things to benefit themselves, and they don’t care who they hurt in the process.

          Wolves in sheep’s clothing can be found in almost every setting. You can’t get rid of them, but if you can spot them, you can avoid falling into their traps.

          Reference

          [1] Association of Biblical Counselors: Three Ways to Spot a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
          [2] Power of Positivity: Beware of a wolf in sheep’s clothing

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