It can be difficult to know how to spot a sociopath for several reasons. Firstly, sociopaths are often actively hiding their true nature because they know that people would run a mile if they introduced themselves as sociopaths. Therefore, they act like normal, caring human beings while hiding many of their characteristics at the start of the interaction or relationship.
Secondly, the sociopaths are usually toying with their victims' emotions and when someone's emotions are running high, whether it is joy and happiness or sadness and pity, that person's ability to think rationally is impaired and their decision making is easily influenced.
Thirdly, most people don't actually understand what a sociopath is and they don't consider, for example, that the person in front of them might have no emotions, could be a professional liar and may be smiling nicely at them while preparing to abuse them in a major way. Unfortunately, it's only after a person has become a victim do they bother to learn about such people.
When sociopaths meet people initially they engage in impression management. It's to their advantage to have people think of them as smart, witty, caring, intelligent, interesting and successful. So they set about creating this idea in their targets' minds. And they do this with words.
They will often talk a lot, telling stories about themselves that might seem a bit far fetched, but you're too polite to call them out on it, because, after all, you hardly know them. They have a story about anything, they have opinions on everything and they have a quip for whatever anyone else says. Basically, they have a gob for all occasions.
These things are warning signals for you. However, there are other more subtle things to watch out for, too. The sociopath can be a real motor mouth and there is so much information coming at you that you can't process it all. Your brain cannot analyze everything you are hearing so it stops trying. The words go in your ears and affect you anyway, without any filtering.
The second thing to watch out for are the rapid changes in topic. The sociopaths link one thing with another and another and these things may have no logical connections. This avalanche of information and the quick fire changes in topic will cause people to zone out and stop thinking critically.
This is why they will often miss the contradictions in the speech and stories of the sociopath. And there will be contradictions. The sociopath has the ability to say one thing with 100% certainty, and then if it suits him or her, within moments sometimes, they will say the opposite with the same level of certainty. They can switch their beliefs in an instant if it will serve them to confuse or manipulate the mark in front of them. Unless you are actively looking out for the contradictions, it's very easy to miss them. Of course, noticing them means actively seeking them as well as not being zoned out so that you can analyze what is being said to you.
The other scenario here is the psychopath who says very little when in groups of people or on meeting new people. However, they may simply be gathering information which they will have no trouble using later in one to one situations with their targets.
This is a major factor in how to spot a sociopath. The sociopath will share supposedly personal aspects of his life with you as a way to get you to open up and share with them. You may later find out that these things were outright lies, exaggerations or a bit of truth with a lot of fantasy. Either way, the result of the sociopath's sharing is that you feel closer to him or her.
They will also make out that they have the same interests as you do. We generally like people who have the same ideas or interests as we do and the sociopaths know this. It is one of the tricks they use to accelerate the relationship.
They may also use terms of endearment very early on as a way to make it feel like the relationship is further along than it actually is. Kissing on the lips instead of the cheek and putting their arms around your shoulders or even waist are other forms of speeding the intimacy up. If a person is doing these things and you feel it is too early in the relationship for such things, beware! Don't give them the benefit of the doubt. This is what gets people into trouble. Justifying their behavior to yourself by thinking that they are just touchy, feely people and that they are not really doing any harm is not a good idea. If you don't want it, don't tolerate it.
As well as acting as if there is a strong friendship already in place, the sociopaths will be busy doing things to build your trust. The big one here is to offer to do you favors. Bringing your groceries into the house, offering to cut you in on a business deal, mowing the lawn, you name it, they are prepared to do what for them is a small favor, because they have something else in mind for you later on. And you are not going to like it!
If someone is doing you favors from the very start, or a stranger is offering you exactly what you need right at that point in time, chances are that a sociopath is setting you up for something. Read more about the stages of an abusive relationship here.
If you want a good way to spot a sociopath, learn to pay attention to what someone says and what they do. This sounds easy to spot but if one is already under the influence of a sociopath, it can be difficult to recognize the pattern. The reason this is so is that the victim has literally been programmed to believe what the sociopath says. So when the sociopath does not do what he or she promised, he or she gives a reason, and the victim accepts this. In this way the sociopath justifies away the mismatch between what is said and what is done.
It may be very obvious to the friends and family of the victim what is going on, but when they try and point it out, the victim often ends up defending the sociopath.
However, this pattern is very significant in how to spot a sociopath. Watch out for when someone says one thing and does another. It's a good idea to apply the rule of 3 here. When it happens the first time you take note. After all, these things happen to everyone. When it happens the second time, this is a warning to you. If it happens a third time, then you need to get rid of the person doing this to you. Don't let them fob you off with excuses about misunderstandings, difficulties at work, it won't happen again etc. If you don't do something about it early, you are asking for trouble.
The sociopath is great at playing the victim. It may start with the first meeting where the sociopath has this sob story about all the horrible things that have happened to him or her in the past. In fact, it's so common it has a name, the pity play. These stories are often false but can be very difficult to verify.
Basically the sociopath knows that if he can elicit pity from you, then you are like putty in his hands. Humans are social creatures and we seem to be wired to take care of each other. The sociopath simply plays on this natural response by first eliciting it and then directing it. Once he has you feeling sorry for him, then it's a logical next step that you will want to help out if you can.
The sociopath will often play the victim card at other times, too. When you are not paying them enough attention, they are the victim of neglect and you are made to feel bad about it. If you criticize them, you are made to feel bad for picking on them all the time. If you don't do what they want, they complain that you don't appreciate them, and so on and so forth. Even when you have a valid complaint, they play the victim and you end up feeling bad. They know what they are doing!
These people are professional liars and they even lie at times when it would be better to tell the truth. If you catch them out in a lie, they simply try and weave a more complicated story to fit all the new 'facts'. But there is never any shame, embarrassment or guilt.
It's a good idea to apply the rule of 3 to anyone who is lying to you as well.
Lies are one of the important signs of verbal abuse.
Another important thing that should never be overlooked if you want to know how to spot a sociopath is the isolation from family and friends. In normal relationships, when a couple gets married, it is typical that each will accept the other's family, warts and all.
However, with sociopaths, it is very common that the victim is isolated from their family. This is quite common in cults as well, where the leader is often a sociopath or psychopath. The idea is that the sociopath does not want anyone else influencing the victims, especially if there is a risk that the person will tell the victim the truth about the sociopath.
Anytime where you end up siding with, and going along, with someone against the wishes of your family and close friends, this should be a very strong warning to you. It is not normal. It is dangerous. And it is also very difficult to avoid if you are enamoured or falling head over heels in love with the man or woman of your dreams. But you ignore it at your peril.
Have you noticed that there were really nice times at the start, then some rough patches, then nice times again and then more bad patches. But instead of things improving things go hot, cold, cold, hot, freezing, cold, cold, freezing, cold, cold, hot, cold, cold... and the nice times are getting less and less while the bad times are longer lasting?
On top of that, there is a cycle of abuse where you are walking on eggshells not to upset your partner/friend/spouse, but despite your best efforts an argument breaks out and it's just horrible. Then afterwards, you get blamed, or they deny it was all that bad, or say they had to do it, and then later there is a period of calm when you hope that things will improve but things start to deteriorate again until there is the next episode?
This cycle is common with the sociopaths and it never changes. No matter how much they promise that they will change, it's a lie and you can expect more of the same. If you want to spot a sociopath, this is a consistent pattern in the emotional abuse that should never be overlooked.
If you think you may be in a relationship with a sociopath, it's really important to pay attention and sort it out. Hoping the relationship will change is a very poor strategy. Thinking that you have had nice times in the past and you can have nice times again, despite all the abuse, is also a very poor strategy. Neither of these things ever work.
Learning about mind control and sociopaths is a must. Getting away from them is a big step and then undoing the damage they have done is important in order not to be caught again by the next sociopath you meet.
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If you think you are or have been in a cult or a destructive relationship, or a friend or family member might be in a cult and you want to talk to someone, send me a message on the Contact page and we can arrange to talk. All communication will be treated in the strictest confidence.
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