Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Psychopaths, Sociopaths, Antisocials

It can be confusing when you try to understand the labels attached to certain types of behavior. Behavior defined as psychopathy by one expert can be referred to as sociopathy by another expert. The important thing to remember is that only professionals can properly evaluate an individual's behavior. Dr. Robert Hare, in his new book 'Snakes in Suits - When Psychopaths Go To Work', cautions all of us to be careful not to use labels as it indicates a diagnosis. Dr. Hare believes "it is sufficient to be aware that a given individual appears to have many of the traits and behaviors that define psychopathy."

Dr. Hare collaboarated with Dr. Paul Babiak to write his latest book. In Chapter 10 of the book, the experts list fourteen things we can all do to protect ourselves from being taken by a psychopath. Avoiding the use of labels is number two on their list; number one on the list is to learn all you can about psychopathy. Some of the other items on the list: understand why a psychopath would target you - your utility to a psychopath, understand your hot buttons and weak spots, understand how psychopaths manipulate others, and the one I believe is critical, avoid the psychopathic bond.

Dr. Hare and Dr. Babiak say "the most common types of utility attractive to psychopaths relate to money, power, fame and sex. The authors go on to say that psychopaths use impression management to get you to share with them. Psychopaths may prey on your generosity, trusting nature or sense of charity. Along with impression management, psychopaths use subtle charm and manipulation techniques to convince you that they like who you are. "Over the course of a long conversation or a series of meetings, a psychopath will try to convince you that he/she shares many of your likes, dislikes, traits, and attitudes." The manipulation can be very subtle. "Psychopathic stories are carefully crafted to mesh with an individual's hot buttons and weak spots." Psychopaths try to convince you that their integrity is real and that the relationship is based on honesty and trust. Dr. Hare and Babiak believe that at this point an individual will believe that the things they had learned about the psychopath's life are true - "they do not suspect that they were being lied to or that much of what they had heard was fabrication. Psychopaths are able to convince you that the relationship is special, unique and that you were meant to be together. They portray themselves as the perfect partner, friend, business partner or employee.

It is important to avoid the psychopathic bond. According to Dr. Hare and Babiak "Sensitivity to the bonding process is good preventive medicine. Be wary of falling for someone's story too quickly. Solid relationships take time to develop and grow; apply critical thinking and careful assessment along the way. If you feel that this person is too good to be true, try to prove yourself wrong."

Even though 'Snakes in Suits - When Psychopaths Go To Work' focuses on psychopaths in the workplace, I believe the book will be helpful to anyone who wants to protect themselves from the seduction and manipulation of a psychopath.