We all can recognize a sociopathic character in either a book, movie or television program. And the thought of encountering a person that displays these types of traits in our own lives is the stuff nightmares are made of. But with four percent of the population considered to be sociopathic, many of us will have the misfortune of crossing paths with a sociopath within our lifetimes. According to Martha Stout, a clinical psychologist and author of, The Sociopath Next Door, one of the terrifying things about sociopaths is not just the fact that they have absolutely no emotional bonds to others, or that they have no guilty conscience, but how difficult it may be to identify one before it’s too late.
So this begs the question: How do you know if you’re about to enter into a relationship with a sociopath?
It’s an important one to ask because as Stout points out, being targeted by a sociopath can be frightening, difficult to get out of and even harder to talk about due to feelings of extreme self-doubt. These predators are masters of manipulation, often leaving those in their wake feeling gaslighted and responsible for their own suffering. But once a sociopath is revealed, others affected by them slowly come out of the woodwork, and these shared experiences give those victimized and taken advantage of by the sociopath a sense of vindication.
That’s all well and good, but wouldn’t it be better to avoid getting into a relationship with an untrustworthy person in the first place? Stout tells us how to spot the early warning signs that we may be interacting with a sociopath. Her method is called the “Rule of Threes,” and it focuses on the claims and promises a person makes and breaks. Liars beware. This approach gives new meaning to the term, three strikes you’re out!
The First Lie: Not a Deal Breaker
“One lie, one broken promise, or a single neglected responsibility may be a misunderstanding instead,” Stout writes, meaning that we should give someone the benefit of the doubt for the first mistake that they make. Sometimes life gets in the way, and stuff happens. For example, a new co-worker was working with you on a project and then failed to complete their half on time. It could be a misunderstanding, miscommunication, or more. If anything, it’s a sign for them to be on your radar.
The Second Lie: Be on Alert
If they pull the same thing twice, this indicates the possibility of a behavioral pattern. “Two may involve a serious mistake,” Stout says. Let’s say you’re dating someone new and they double-book you and have to cancel. Doing this once is a sure bummer, but fine, it happens to the best of us. But to double book your dates twice, or to be inconsiderate in another sense towards you, is shady. Recognize the sign.
The Third Lie: It’s a Pattern
Lastly, “three lies says you’re dealing with a liar, and deceit is the linchpin of conscienceless behavior,” Stout states. At this time, you need to cut your losses. It may prove difficult, and you’ll likely struggle through self-doubt (because the sociopath will try to charm you into believing otherwise), but it’ll be worth it and less costly in the long-run.
Illustration Credit: Marie Guillard