Picture a psychopath and you’re likely to think of the stereotypical Hollywood serial killer such as Hannibal Lecter or Christian Bale’s character in American Psycho.
But while an estimated one percent of the adult population could rightfully be categorized as psychopaths, many are functional, often successful individuals.
Most of the time, you’d probably struggle to identify one, but find yourself in an argument – or an apparently friendly debate – and it becomes all too obvious who you’re dealing with.
Here are 8 telltale signs that you are arguing with a psychopath.
1. Pathological Lying
When the argument revolves around past events and the actions of this person, you will encounter a wave of lying, denial, and fantasy that bears no resemblance to reality as you know it.
They will deny wrongdoing, blame others, make you out to be wrong on the facts, and use all sorts of smoke and mirrors to project their own version of events.
Even when you offer counter-evidence to prove otherwise, they will spin further lies to disorient you to the point where you are no longer confident in your own memories.
2. Refusing To Take Responsibility
A psychopath’s lies will often be used as a means to avoid taking any responsibility for their actions. They are incapable of admitting when they are at fault and will defend their innocence until the death where necessary.
It doesn’t matter how big or small the indiscretion, they will deny any accountability because it might tarnish the otherwise grandiose vision they have of themselves.
3. Never Conceding A Point Well Made
It doesn’t matter how well structured your argument is, or how clear and factual a point may be, a psychopath will never concede that you may be, in any small way, right.
They will refuse to grant you even the smallest gesture of congratulations, instead using spurious information and irrelevant details to confuse the point you’ve made and spin it so that they can maintain their air of superiority.
4. Condescending Approach And Tone
Psychopaths are, when it suits them, incredibly able to maintain their cool, poised exterior. They can stay calm even when you are losing your composure, and when you finally blow your top and react with annoyance, they will belittle you for it.
Part of their approach involves poking and prodding you – metaphorically speaking – to force you into a reaction. They know exactly what they are doing; baiting you into an emotional response allows them to gain the upper hand.
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5. Body Language That Differs From Their Words
To convey an image of themselves as anything but psychopathic, they will sometimes attempt to express opinions or emotions that are anything but genuine.
They may be masters at detecting what you are feeling, but psychopaths struggle to translate this into their own feelings; they have cognitive empathy, but not emotional empathy.
The result is that they can often slip up when trying to convey emotions that are conspicuous by their absence. Their body language is especially telling, but the tone of their voice and even the look in their eyes can also betray their underlying state.
6. Rapidly Shifting Moods
Because their cool and calm appearance is often staged as a means of controlling the argument, a psychopath is vulnerable to extreme and rapid changes in temperament.
When they feel that their balanced exterior no longer serves its purpose, and especially when they sense they are being out-argued, they will flick a switch and unleash a torrent of abuse, a barrage of flattery, a tirade of criticism, or some other form of manipulation.
They can swing wildly between various moods until you no longer recognize who you are arguing against.
7. Disturbing Lack Of Empathy
When the argument revolves around people or other living creatures, a psychopath’s stance will often lack empathy of any kind.
You might be discussing the plights of people in war-torn countries, victims of crime, or even the misfortunes of a friend. They might even blame those who suffer for their very suffering, regardless of whether they had any choice or say in the matter.
8. Unrealistic View Of Reality
As you argue with a psychopath, you will get a sense of just how warped their view of the world is. They often see things completely differently to others, and this twisted vision of reality forms a basis for their arguments.
They not only create unrecognizable world views by themselves; they assimilate equally distorted information to bolster their beliefs and convince themselves of new ones.
It will often seem like an attitude of denial and can be regularly seen among climate skeptics, conspiracy theorists, and other such groups.
Of course, should you ever find yourself arguing with someone who embodies many of these traits, there is only one, sensible course of action: stop talking and physically remove yourself from the argument. It may not feel great to concede in this way, but it is the only option if you want to maintain your sanity.
Have you ever encountered someone like this? Leave a comment below and share your experience of what it was like to argue with them.
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