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How to Avoid and Deal with Psychopaths

8 min read

By Katherine George

  • Common signs of a psychopath are a lack of empathy and remorse, inability to know right from wrong, behavior that goes against societal norm, manipulation, and criminal tendencies.
  • The most important rule to follow when dealing with a psychopath is to not engage and create space. This will help ensure overall wellbeing and safety.
  • If space isn’t possible, set clear boundaries and communicate them, limit body language,

Psychopath is a term that can stir up a lot of commotion, not only because it’s often used incorrectly, but just due to the nature of this condition. While it’s not technically an official mental health diagnosis, it’s often used to describe someone who is callous, unemotional, or morally depraved, explains VeryWell Mind.

People with this condition are not only difficult to deal with, but sometimes dangerous. To ensure general wellbeing and safety, it is important people are able to identify a psychopath so they try to avoid and limit their time with them. To get better informed, read on for some useful tips to follow…

What is a Psychopath?

Even though people use the term psychopath frequently to describe another person’s behavior or mental health, psychopathy is not listed under the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder, 5th edition (DSM-5). According to Healthline, it’s simply an informal term used to describe someone with antisocial personality disorder (ASPD). However, it’s still often used in clinical and legal settings.

While many characteristics of psychopathy and ASPD overlap, only a small number of people with ASPD are considered to be a psychopath. Merriam-Webster defines a psychopath as “a person having an egocentric and antisocial personality marked by a lack of remorse for one’s actions, an absence of empathy for others, and often criminal tendencies.”

Signs to Look Out For

In order to successfully avoid a psychopath, people need to know what signs to look for. While these can vary from person to person, the most common are lack of empathy and remorse, inability to distinguish between right and wrong, behavior that conflicts with social norms, manipulation and hurting others, as well as a disregard for safety and responsibly, says Healthline.

Oftentimes a person will start showcasing psychopathic traits during childhood and they will continue on into adulthood, becoming even worse over time. VeryWell Mind lists the following as some additional signs of a psychopath:

  • Superficial charm
  • Need for stimulation
  • Pathological lying
  • Shallow affect
  • Grandiose sense of self-worth
  • Impulsive
  • Lack of realistic long-term goals
  • Numerous marital relationships and promiscuous behavior
  • Criminal versatility

How to Deal with a Psychopath

Get Space

To be quite frank, the best way to deal with a psychopath is to not deal with them at all. Create as much space as possible. You can do this by putting walls and boundaries in place within the relationship.”Only by creating strong walls can you protect yourself from manipulation, but that’s something that can take finesse, time and practice to master,” writes Medium.

When it comes to their behavior, don’t stoop to their level or accept poor treatment. Medium advises strongly communicating to them what your boundaries are. Don’t compromise on things that matter. Take time to focus on what you want and need. Consider what you’re willing to tolerate and what you’re not. They will likely try to engage in emotional conflict, but don’t let them. If necessary, walk away.

Win-Win Agreements

Psychopaths are very aggressive in nature, especially if caught in a heated debate. Even when they know they are in the wrong, they have to win or come out on top in every situation. This means they’ll do whatever it takes to win, even if it hurts others. To them, self-gratification is the only thing that matters, explains Medium. When possible, look for win-win situations if ever in a disagreement with a psychopath.

Look for the win-win that will put the agreement to rest. “The more benefits you both can walk away with, the more enticing the offer will be for them — so make it as juicy as possible,” writes the source. Avoid compromising or settling for a loss, but rather look for a way both parties can win. Medium also warns to avoid letting them dominate. “Domination is part of the reward for the psychopath, so make sure they understand that real living is about compromise,” notes the source.

Practice Acceptance

Practicing acceptance might sound like it’s writing off and just accepting their bad behavior, but it’s much more complex than that. To protect your own wellbeing, you need to learn to accept a psychopath for who they are. This doesn’t mean allowing them to treat you badly because you’re also accepting your own limitations. Don’t invest energy trying to change them or waste time thinking it has anything to do with you.

You can’t change or heal them. “While our medical histories and genetics might play a part, we ultimately decide to seek treatment and heal the wounds that plague us on every level of our being,” writes Medium. No one can change their behavior but themselves and some people don’t want to change.

Focus on Actions, Not Words

Psychopaths are very good at being charming when they need to be and are master manipulators. Don’t fall for empty promises about how they’ll change or how sorry they are. They’ll easily convince the people closest to them that they are going to do better, but more often than not, slip back into the same bad behavior, warns Medium.

Don’t listen to the words that they say, focus on their actions. This is a good rule of thumb for anyone, but especially a charming and manipulative psychopath. “If you find yourself battling the umpteenth second chance, take a step back and reconsider your boundaries,” says Medium. Friends and loved ones make mistakes sometimes, but constantly deceiving someone or failing to live up to promises is not acceptable. If the actions don’t match the words, it’s time to start creating space.

Invest in Other Relationships

Depending on who the psychopath is (i.e. a parent, sibling, co-worker, or partner), it might not be that simple to just cut them out of your life. For this reason, it’s a good idea to invest and build up other personal relationships. Don’t waste energy on a person who isn’t going to return this investment. Put focus and effort into the good people in your life.

Medium explains that focusing on relationships that bring happiness will help create a future that is fulfilling. “Part of the danger of the psychopath is their chronic unhappiness, and this is something that they can weigh down all of their closest relationships,” writes the source. There’s a reason they are known for failing in marriage and relationships in general — it’s typically due to their bad behavior. If it’s impossible to cut ties entirely, try to detach and focus on healthier relationships.

Build and Maintain Your Reputation

This one pertains particularly to people who are dealing with psychopaths at their place of work. According to Observer, psychopaths in the workplace are constantly recruiting people in upper management to “unknowingly provide cover for them when rumors about their shady behavior start to circulate.” They will use these relationships to spread disinformation against any person who poses a threat to them.

They are doing this to stay one step ahead, but so can you! Similar to investing and building up relationships in your personal life, do the same at work. Make sure you have a good repertoire with others, particularly people in upper management. Don’t complain about the little things so that when real-life, big things come up, people will listen.

Accept That Some People are Bad News

Some people only see the good in others. While this is an admirable quality to have, it’s not the smartest thing when dealing with a psychopath. You need to be mindful of the fact that they almost certainly will not have your best interest at heart and are capable of doing bad things. You need to not only be aware of this, but also accept it.

Learning Mind warns that this is not the time to try and ‘save’ someone or change them. It’s not possible, especially by someone who isn’t a trained professional. The smartest thing to do is avoid them entirely, but if that’s not possible, be sure to guard any weaknesses. Psychopaths are very good at figuring out weaknesses are and exploiting them, warns the source.

Remove Body Language

Body language is something we all use, and most of the time likely don’t even realize it. This can make it extremely hard to limit or hide because we sometimes don’t even realize we’re doing it! However it can be done, and when dealing with a psychopath, it’s necessary. Psychopaths are very good at reading body language to gauge feelings, weaknesses, and intentions.

According to Learning Mind, this is “how they formulate an aggressive and domineering approach to every situation.” Eliminating body language helps retain a small amount of power in the relationship which can help limit their ability to manipulate you. Learning Mind suggests practicing techniques like not wringing hands, biting nails, or looking away when intimidated.

Pay Attention to Warnings

Ever heard the saying, “where there’s smoke, there’s fire?” That rings true in this case. All of us have an inner intuition or “spider sense” that acts as an alarm against danger. While it’s not always right, when it rings, we should listen. We can’t always assume people are out to get us or inherently bad, but take note of any red flags that arise during those first couple encounters.

Another thing to take into consideration might be warnings from other people about this particular person or rumors. When we don’t have the luxury of being forewarned about a person, red flags are useful. Examples of red flags would be any of those psychopathic characteristics we listed under the common signs of a psychopath.

Be Careful

Knowing the signs of a psychopath is super important. Being informed is the best protection. If you’re able to identify one, then you can avoid them or put walls in place so they cannot hurt you. Overall, just be careful when dealing with a psychopath.

If you’re in a situation where you cannot create distance right away, for example if the psychopath is a partner, family member, or friend, use the tips we’ve provided in order to stay safe and walk away when necessary. It’ll not only save your sanity and reputation, but could also keep you out of harms way.

Senior Managing Editor

Katherine is the Senior Managing Editor of ActiveBeat and Childhood. She is constantly striving to live a more active and healthy life, from eating healthy, exercising, and just spending more time outdoors. She enjoys cooking (with wine), walking her dog, reading, and recently joined a yoga studio!

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