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Characteristics Of A Psychopath And The Common Myths About Them

Characteristics Of A Psychopath And The Common Myths About Them

Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter series, Dexter Morgan in Dexter, Patrick Bateman in American Psycho. They are all psychopaths.

Psychopaths are usually depicted as serial killers or villains in the entertainment industry. They are antisocial yet powerful, often display threats and put others at peril. How much of this impression is true under the definition of a psychopath?

Here are six characteristics of a psychopath:

  1. Lack of empathy: Psychopaths are callous and coldhearted. They lack the ability to understand and identify other’s emotions.
  2. Egocentric: They are extremely selfish. They live a “parasitic lifestyle”, meaning they habitually rely and exploit on others to maximize their own benefits.
  3. Shallow emotional investment: Without the ability to form emotional relationships, psychopaths only build artificial relationships to manipulate people to benefit themselves.
  4. Superficially charming: Despite an emotional deficiency, psychopaths are great actors. They can bring out the charm and trustworthiness to be likeable, to gain more relationships for further manipulation.
  5. Lack of morals and social consciences: Psychopaths rarely feel any guilt or remorse regarding their behaviors.
  6. Highly calculated: Their actions are well-planned, especially those with huge consequences, like a criminal activity. They tend to act in a way to minimize the risk they will encounter and ensure to not get caught, with multiple contingency plans in mind.

In short, “psychopath” is defined as an amoral person who is amoral with impaired remorse and empathy, and egotistical traits.

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Wait, so how often would I bump into a psychopath?

A research on psychopathic traits[1] results in a surprising yet daunting finding — 5 percent of the general population may possess psychopathic tendencies. Maybe your heart is pounding right now and you want to double check if someone’s lurking around with a machete or chainsaw.

Calm down, let me finish.

Contrary to popular beliefs, psychopaths aren’t always violent.

Yes, there are psychopaths who are criminals, killers, and madmen, like Hannibal Lecter from The Silence of the Lambs. A psychopathic behavior doesn’t revolve around violence, but focuses on how psychopaths use their apathetic, manipulative, and selfish nature to get what they want.

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It’s time to debunk other myths and misconceptions of psychopaths.

I’m sure some of you are linking people you know while reading the traits of a psychopath earlier in the article. And you are probably eager to learn how to clearly spot a psychopath.

Psychopaths do not occur on a binary level. As much as everyone wants a rubric to separate psychopaths from the population, there are no concrete parameters to measure psychopathy, different than some antisocial behavorial personality like autism. The spectrum of psychopathic tendencies ranges from minor to severe.

There are no any brain imaging or biological test to diagnose a person as a psychopath. The most common device to identify psychopathic tendencies is the psychopathy checklist-revised (PCL-R). The test provides a 20-item list to evaluate the test subject, and will generate a maximum of 40 points with a cutoff at 30 (in the United States) to determine whether a person is psychopathic or not.

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Psychopaths and sociopaths are different.

Sherlock Holmes once said, “I’m not a psychopath, Anderson, I’m a high-functioning sociopath, do your research!” Both disorders are defined as antisocial and often amoral, but what are the differences between them?

Intrinsic vs. extrinsic causes. Researchers believe psychopathy is a genetic predisposition, as psychopaths lack parts of the brain responsible for emotional regulation. On the other hand, sociopaths tend to be stemmed and made by their environment, like childhood trauma, physical or mental abuse.

Well-planned vs. impulsive actions. As mentioned above, psychopaths plan their criminal actions cautiously to avoid bearing the consequences; but sociopaths often act upon their impulse and pay little attention to the risk or impacts of their actions.

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Charming vs. erratic. Psychopaths have the ability to mold themselves to gain trust and relationships. They are able to obtain a long-term job or even a family life, because these are all pieces and pawns for them to move around in the giant chess game. For sociopaths, they lack what their psychopathic counterparts have because of their impulsive and unpredictable actions.

Socially unconscious vs. conscious. As cruel as it sounds, psychopaths are not guilty of what they do. For example, their emotionless selves allow them to intentionally harm someone without holding any remorse. But for sociopaths, they are familiar with societal norms and they are just relatively less socially conscious than the general public. They know they shouldn’t harm someone but it’s not enough to stop their deviant behaviors.

There are female psychopaths too, but they express their psychopathic tendencies differently.

Most of the psychopathic characters you see on TV or movies are male. In reality, the ratio of psychopathic men and women is 20:1. So where are all the female psychopaths?

After numerous studies and experiments, researchers have found female psychopaths are just as dangerous as sociopaths. The main reason behind such discrepancy in gender ratio is because female psychopaths are harder to identify.

A research[2] suggests men and women with this disorder do not differ in the existence of psychopathic characteristics and traits, but the expression of these personality traits. Female psychopaths display manipulative, deceitful, impulsive characteristics in a way which is typically associated with other mental illnesses. For example, a woman with explosive outbursts, or constantly wants to be the center of attention, you may not immediately associate her actions as psychopathic.

Reference

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Frank Yung

Writer. Storyteller. Foodie.

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Last Updated on April 11, 2019

How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

Possessing strong communication skills will help you in every phase of your life. This is especially true in the workplace.

I have personally worked with several leaders who were masters of communication. A few were wonderful speakers who could tell a great story and get everyone in the room engaged. Those of us in attendance would walk away feeling inspired and eager to help with what came next. Others were very skilled at sharing a clear direction and job expectations.

I knew exactly what was expected of me and how to achieve my goals. This was the foundation of an energized and vibrant role I was in. What I have found is strong communication skills are incredibly helpful and sometimes critical in how well we perform at work.

Here we will take a look at how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

How Communication Skills Help Your Success

Strong communication skills pave the way for success in many ways. Let’s look at a few of the big ones.

Create a Positive Experience

Here are two examples of how well developed communication skills helps create a positive experience:

When I first moved to the city I now live in, I began a job search. Prior to my first live interview, I was told an address to go to. Upon arriving at the address provided, I drove around and around attempting to find the location. After 15 minutes of circling and looking for the address, I finally grabbed a parking spot and set out on foot.

What I discovered was the address was actually down an alley and only had the number over the door. No sign for the actual company. The person that gave me those very unclear directions provided a bad experience for me.

Had they communicated the directions to get there in a clear manner, my experience would have been much better. Instead the entire experience started off poorly and colored the entire meeting.

As a recruiter, I frequently provide potential candidates with information about a job I’m speaking to them about. In order to do this, I also provide a picture of the overall company, the group they might be joining, and how their role fits in and impacts the entire company.

Time and time again I have been told by candidates that I have provided the clearest picture of a company and role they have ever heard. They have a positive experience when I clearly communicate to them. Even when the position does not work out for them, often times they will want to stay in touch with me due to the open communication and beneficial experience they had during the interviewing process.

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Strong communication skills will provide a positive experience in virtually any interaction you have with someone.

Help Leadership Skills

It’s certainly a skill all its own to be able to lead others.

Being a mentor and guiding others towards success is a major hallmark of great leaders. Another characteristic of effective leaders is the ability to communicate clearly.

As I referenced above, having a leader who can plainly articulate the company’s mission and direction goes a really long way towards being the Captain of the boat that others want to follow. It’s like saying “here’s our destination and this is how we are going to get there” in a way that everyone can get on board with.

Another critical component of everyone helping to sail the boat in the right direction is knowing what your portion is all about. How are you helping the boat move towards its destination in the manner than is consistent with the leaders’ vision?

If you have a boss or a manager that can show you what it takes for not only you to be successful, but also how your performance helps the company’s success then you’ve got a winner. A boss with superior communication skills.

Build Better Teams

Most of us work in teams of some sort or another. During the course of my career, I have led teams up to 80 and also been an individual contributor.

In my individual contributor roles, I have been part of a larger team. Even if you are in business for yourself, you have to interact with others in one manner or another.

If you have strong communication skills, it helps to build better teams. This is true whether you are in an IT department with 100 other fellow programmers or if you own your own business and have customers or vendors you communicate with.

When you showcase your robust ability to communicate well with others while interacting with them, you are building a better team.

Now let’s jump in to how to improve communication skills to help you pave the way for your workplace success.

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How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

There are many tips, tricks, and techniques to improve communication skills. I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information, so let’s focus on the things that will provide the biggest return on your time investment.

Most of these tips will be fairly easy to become aware of but will take time and effort to implement. So let’s go!

1. Listen

Ever heard the saying you have two ears and one mouth for a reason? If you haven’t, then here’s the reason:

Being a good listener is half the equation to being a good communicator.

People who have the ability to really listen to someone can then actually answer questions in a meaningful way. If you don’t make the effort to actively listen, then you are really doing yourself and the other person a disservice in the communication department.

Know that person who is chomping at the bit to open his or her mouth the second you stop talking? Don’t be that person. They haven’t listened to at least 1/2 of what you’ve said. Therefore the words that spill out of their mouth are going to be about 1/2 relevant to what you just said.

Listen to someone completely and be comfortable with short periods of silence. Work on your listening skills first and foremost.

2. Know Your Audience

Knowing your audience is another critical component to having strong communication skills. The way you interact with your manager should be different than how you interact with your kids. This isn’t to say you need to be a different person with everyone you interact with. Far from it.

Here is a good way to think about it:

Imagine using your the same choice of words and body language you use with your spouse while interacting with your boss. That puts things in a graphic light!

You want to ensure you are using the type of communication most relevant to your audience.

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3. Minimize

I have lunch with a business associate about 3 times a year. We’ve been talking for several years now about putting a business deal together.

He is one of those people that simply overwhelms others with a lot of words. Sometimes when I ask him a question, I get buried beneath such an avalanche of words that I’m more confused than when I asked the question. Needless to say this is most likely a large portion of why we never put the deal together.

Don’t be like my lunch business associate. The goal of talking to or communicating with someone is to share actual information. The goal is not to confuse someone, it’s to provide clarity in many cases.

State what needs to be stated as succinctly as possible. That doesn’t mean you can’t have some pleasant conversation about the weather too.

The point is to not create such an onslaught of words and information that the other person walks away more confused than when they started.

4. Over Communicate

So this probably sounds completely counter intuitive to what I just wrote about minimizing your communication. It seems like it might be but it’s not.

What I mean by over communicating is ensuring that the other person understands the important parts of what you are sharing with them. This can be done simply yet effectively. Here’s a good example:

Most companies have open enrollment for benefits for the employees in the fall. The company I work for has open enrollment from November 1 to 15. The benefits department will send out a communication to all employees around October 1st, letting them know open enrollment is right around the corner and any major changes that year. There’s also a phone number and email for people to contact them with any questions.

Two weeks later, we all get a follow up email with basically the same information. We get a 3rd communication the week before open enrollment and another one 1 day before it starts.

Finally we get 2 emails during enrollment reminding us when open enrollment ends.

There’s minimal information, it’s more of a reminder. This is effective over communication.

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5. Body Language

The final critical component to how to improve communication skills for workplace success is body language. This is something most of us have heard about before but, a reminder is probably a good idea.

When I am in a meeting with someone I am comfortable with, I tend to kind of slouch down in my chair and cross my arms. When I catch myself doing this, I sit up straight and uncross my arms. I remember that crossing arms can many times be interpreted as a sign of disagreement or conflict.

In general, the best rule of thumb is to work towards having open body language whenever possible at work. This means relaxing your posture, not crossing your arms, and looking people in the eye when speaking with them.

When you are speaking in front of others, stand up straight and speak in a clear voice. This will convey confidence in your words.

Conclusion

Possessing strong communication skills will help you in many facets of your life and most certainly in the workplace.

Good communication helps create better teams, positive experiences with those we interact with, and are critical for leadership.

There are numerous tactics and techniques to be used to improve communication skills. Here we’ve reviewed how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

Now go communicate your way to success.

More Resources About Effective Communication

Featured photo credit: HIVAN ARVIZU via unsplash.com

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