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7 Tips On How To Deal With A Sociopath

Famous movie characters often present the audience with a close-to-real version of an event or situation.  Sometimes these fictitious characters hit the mark for their authenticity and representation. The popular 2014 film Gone Girl describes the life of a husband and his wife, Amy, who stages an elaborate scene, framing her husband for her murder before disappearing for days. Amy shows no remorse for her actions, no empathy for the pain and torment she inflicts on her family and friends and only seems to care for herself. These are the trademark qualities of a sociopath.

In many cases, sociopaths can be charming, likable and seemingly genuine. However, their motivation for this behavior only stems from a desire to fit in and take what they can for themselves. There may be many times where sociopaths blend into their surroundings, seeming only to be missing something that cannot be named. Other times, they may be obnoxious, overbearing, uncaring and selfish individuals who hurt those around them.

How do you deal with a sociopath? What are the best ways to protect yourself from their manipulative charm and mischievous behavior? Is it possible to have a genuine relationship with a sociopath? If you have a sociopath in your life, here are some tips on how best to deal with these individuals.

Understand the nature of a Sociopath

Individuals diagnosed as a sociopath have an extreme personality disorder which manifests itself in a variety of ways. Sociopaths can be charming, seeming to have everyone like them, but they lack empathy for others. Unlike psychopaths, sociopaths do have a conscious, but it does not govern their behavior. They may know that an action is wrong but will do it anyway if it benefits them. They are often selfish and use manipulation to gain something they desire, such as money or gifts.

Use Caution when in Conversation

Sociopaths are well-trained hunters for any information that may be useful to them. Any conversation can provide them with the information they need to best use you for money, power, relationships or other benefits for them. When engaging in conversation, try to discuss mundane, commonplace topics such as the weather or sporting events. Avoid conversations discussing your personal life or relationships, money, travel plans or any topic which could provide the sociopath with an opening to manipulate you for their own gain. Keep your thoughts about business ventures, powerful connections you may have or plans that you are making to yourself. A sociopath can use these pieces of information to make you doubt your plans, interact with your connections themselves or sabotage your business just because they enjoy the feeling of manipulation.

Present a cheerful attitude

Sociopaths will take advantage of any opportunity to manipulate you. If your car broke down, your best dress shirt was still at the cleaners and you are late for the morning meeting, a sociopath can take your bad morning as a sign of weakness and use those feelings to find out what drives your emotions. This can provide them with the ammunition to manipulate you later by knowing exactly what buttons to press to change your mood.  When engaging with a sociopath, it is a good idea to appear to be content and happy, even if you are not feeling entirely pleasant.  Sociopaths have a difficult time finding ways into your life if you appear to be content and confident whenever you are around them.

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Maintain a bit of doubt

Sociopaths are known for manipulating others just to cause emotional turmoil, self-doubt or trouble for others, just because they can. This type of behavior feeds into the sociopath’s idea that they are above or better than others. They may tell you that they saw your spouse or partner at lunch with someone or mention that they received a bonus for a project you both worked on. These can be ploys to exercise their manipulative power. It is best to keep in mind that sociopaths will lie to accomplish their own goals. If a sociopath shares some devastating or seemingly important news that will cause you emotional pain, it is best to wait for confirmation from another source before responding.

Manage your expectations

Sociopaths do not function in social settings like other individuals. They lack empathy for others and their feelings and care only for themselves. They seek opportunities to manipulate others for their own benefit, without regard or concern for the repercussions or consequences of their actions. They will lie, cheat, and steal to achieve their own goals. If you live or work with a sociopath, it is best for you to manage your expectations in that relationship. A sociopath will not do the right thing just because you and others expect him or her to do so.

Don’t wear your heart on your sleeve

Sociopaths are not individuals who will comfort you when you are feeling sad. Instead, a sociopath will see this as an opportunity to manipulate your feelings better and use you for their own gain or pleasure. They do not care about your feelings unless it offers them a way to become more ‘powerful’ over you. Sociopaths are not interested in helping you, they are only interested in what benefits themselves. If you must be around a sociopath, keep your feelings guarded and do not let them see that your emotions are easily manipulated. Do not allow a sociopath to see that what hurts or pains you.

Limit your exposure

In some cases, sociopaths are unavoidable. However, these master manipulators can be difficult to deal with, particularly if you are an emotionally sensitive person. Sociopaths will ‘feed’ off your emotional responses if you engage with them on a regular basis. If you are in a relationship with someone who is a sociopath, it may be best for you to consider ending the relationship and terminating contact with them. If the sociopath is a friend or relative, consider limiting the times you will spend with that person. If the sociopath is your boss or co-worker, consider limiting your conversations and interactions to strictly business, avoiding all personal connections. If you think that you or someone you know is a sociopath you can take the symptom test here.

Sociopaths can be tolerable individuals in the right setting. If you must engage with a sociopath, by keeping your guard up and not allowing them to find ways to manipulate you, you can protect yourself from the manipulation and tactics they often use.

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Angela Sartain, PhD Psychology
Angela Sartain, PhD Psychology

Angela is currently finishing up her doctoral degree program in General Psychology. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family, reading, and crafting crochet dolls for her small business.

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