BY ELIZABETH BASTIAN, Opinions Editor
We have all experienced an encounter with one.
It’s that charming, charismatic person who everyone seems to gravitate towards. You feel as though you would do almost anything to be considered a part of their group. They flatter you, make you feel good about yourself.
But little by little, you begin to notice something off about them. Maybe it’s the way they constantly put others down behind their backs. Maybe it’s how they make you continually question your own thought process and conclusions. Perhaps it’s because, eventually, you realize that you fear them.
Sound familiar? It should. This individual is what psychologists like to call a “sociopath,” and recent studies have shown that 4% of America’s population can clinically be labeled as one. That is one in every 25 people. One in 25! How crazy is that?
So what exactly defines a sociopath? Dictionary.com claims that a sociopath is “a person, as a psychopathic personality, whose behavior is antisocial and who lacks a sense of moral responsibility or social conscience.”
But there is much more to recognizing these psychologically dangerous colleagues. They do not possess a conscience or any amount of empathy, but they learn early on to easily mimic emotions from those who surround them. This means that although they may seem to care about others, all they really care about is themselves, simply because this is the only way they know how to function. They will use whatever means possible to achieve their own selfish end, including such tactics as public humiliation, false compliments, and deceit.
Some of these sociopaths go on to become the serial killers and mass murderers in the news. But most lead lives on a quieter front, becoming the business leaders and politicians of the local and regional sectors. They are the social climbers who routinely step on others and don’t look down. They are the spouses who cheat on their significant others and show no signs of remorse. They are the sadistic dictators of the past and present: Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein.
Their lack of a sense of humanity makes their unbelievably inhumane acts possible. They are able to get ahead because they are ruthless. They manipulate others in such a way that it is nearly impossible to catch them in a lie.
So what is one to do in order to protect themselves from getting ensnared in a sociopath’s web?
Martha Stout, author of “The Sociopath Next Door,”has some suggestions.
First, always trust your instincts. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise when your gut feeling is that something is not right.
Always follow the rule of threes. One lie or one instance of embarrassment can be a simple misunderstanding. If it happens three times, cut your losses and get out of the situation.
Don’t confuse respect with fear. If you begin to perform acts that make you uncomfortable in the workplace because your boss asked you too, something is very wrong.
And if it comes to a point where you can’t take it anymore, get out. The best way to deal with a sociopath is to avoid them at all costs.
As more and more research is conducted in the medical community concerning these extreme forms of mental disorders, understanding the pattern of a sociopath becomes an easier task. But think about this; it also makes it easier for the murderers of the population to plea mental instability, which ensures them a lighter sentence. The unfaithful spouses and creepers of the world now have a ready excuse for their acts at their disposal. Business professionals can lay off their workers on a whim because they “have a psychological disorder.”
Isn’t the thought rather terrifying?
It’s a cruel world out there, ladies and gentlemen. And now there’s studies to justify it.