I think sociopaths can recognize each other. I imagine it's like con artists stumbling across each other -- there are so many shared tricks, that it's easy to see part of yourself in the other person. But not all sociopaths are the same, so that wouldn't be universally true, and I think some sociopaths are more open about manipulation, etc. than others. So it depends. But I have found other sociopaths by doing a delicate dance of disclosure and eliciting information before sharing my own. But there could be others that I have just never known about, so it is hard to say what percentage of sociopaths I am successfully able to detect.
Manipulation is a lot about reading the other people for their reactions in a trial and error sort of way. Imagine the best "yes men." They pretty much just throw out a lot of opinions, see which one their target seems to latch onto, and then reemphasize that particular one. Most people are expecting to see some things and not others, so you just watch for those signs in their face. If it seems like you are getting off, you'll see a look of confusion or disgust, after which you quickly backpedal and go the opposite way. Otherwise you'll see signs of apathy or approval. I imagine it is a lot like a blind man feeling his way through an unfamiliar room. I do the same thing in interviews or first dates, and I think everyone does it to a certain extent. We sort of give vague answers to feel people out and avoid committing on anything until the other person commits first.
Hmm, what are some of my favorite manipulation movies/books? Housesitter, Dangerous Liaisons, Being John Malkovich... also The Art of Seduction and The 48 Laws of Power are very good resources. I do categorize people, but don't really have standard lines the same way pick up artists or con artists seem to have. So I guess it is more intuitive, and by that I mean there is an excessive amount of data mining going on in a seemingly innocent conversation. Or if I'm feeling lazy, or am in a group, I put on a show for everyone, tell some charming story, or engage the group in the story of someone else there -- trying to be a curator of the interesting, the cultural, the entertaining. Actually I was just talking with a friend who knows what I am and she said she sometimes wishes she could be me in group settings -- always entertaining, charming, intoxicating. My gut tells me it can be taught, and those resources I mention above are starting points. The real thing keeping most people from being charming, I think, is that they are unwilling to devote their entire energy and attention to someone else. They remain afraid that they are not coming off well, or self conscious, or whatever else it is that keeps people from diving into a role, so they never can be as affective as someone who can keep the focus entirely on the other person. I don't know to what extent that can be learned...
Monday, February 11, 2013
Sociopaths recognizing each other and manipulation
A reader asks whether sociopaths can recognize each other, and what's the deal with sociopath charm and knowing the right thing to say, etc.: