A reader asked: "Why is it that sociopaths are natural manipulators and expert liars? How can an everyday person acquire such skill?" My response:
Interesting. I posted a little about this a few weeks ago. I think the main skill in lying is to discover how people are able to determine what is truth and what is lie and always make your lies look more like truth and less like lies. I guess that sounds simplistic, but what I mean is that there are certain tells, certain aspects of a lie that alert the listener to be suspicious. If you could figure out what these things are and give the listener more what they are expecting to see when someone tells the truth, then you are a good liar, right? It's the same with any lie detection system -- find out how it works, then game the system. For a polygraph system you know that it establishes a baseline of stress levels and then looks for spikes. The game that most people try to play with a polygraph is to keep your stress levels high when telling the truth, thereby establishing a high baseline level of stress and making the lies more difficult to detect. I think sociopaths are particularly expert at lying because they are very used to being what is expected of them, particularly in wearing masks to become someone or something else in reaction to what people want to see.
Manipulation probably works the same way -- you read people, you really learn what makes them tick, and then you adapt in such a way that they are almost compelled to do what you want them to do. But everyone is a natural manipulator, not just sociopaths. We learn it when we are babies. As babies we fussed for the things we wanted, sometimes we were honestly upset, but sometimes we did it just to make people jump. Look at this site for a hilarious explanation of that.
I don't know whether sociopaths are necessarily better at manipulation than all of the other natural manipulators. If they are maybe it it just because they have had more practice. Sociopaths use manipulation because it is quick and easy and they can't see any reason why not -- they do not have the same respect for personal boundaries and individual autonomy that neurotypicals do.
I personally try to avoid it. I feel like particularly in interpersonal relationships, it is not worth the distrust and bitterness that are its byproducts. I guess in some ways that makes me like an industrialized nation version of a sociopath. When I was younger I was more like China, undeveloped and eager to get an edge anyway I could, even if it meant polluting my sky and water sources. Now I am more like Hong Kong -- at least willing to consider some of the negative externalities that my actions produce, partly because I have the luxury to do so (I have sufficient resources and stature to get what I want without getting my hands dirty all of the time), and partly because I at least half believe that polluting my relationships is probably not in my best interest.