As a lawyer, I deal with weasels and sociopaths a lot. Weasels and sociopaths love power. And money.

As a lawyer, I deal with weasels and sociopaths a lot. Weasels and sociopaths love power. And money.

As a lawyer, I deal with weasels and sociopaths a lot. Sometimes they are a party to the lawsuit. Often it’s the lawyer on the other side, or even the judge. Weasels and sociopaths love power. And money.

There is a fine line between a weasel and a sociopath. All sociopaths are weasels, but weasels are usually just thoughtless, self-absorbed jerks who spend too much time staring at their own colons.

Sociopaths are different.

Sociopaths do not care about the consequences of their own actions, and will do anything to get their way. About 4% of the population are sociopaths.

When I first read The Sociopath Next Door, I struggled to believe that there could be a human being without a conscience. But then I started to realize that the legal system is full of them. So is the C-Suite (which should really be called the C-section).

Signs of a Sociopath:

  1. No Empathy – they think that it’s funny when someone is hurt or harmed by others.
  2. Lies – they lie about everything, defend their lies, and don’t care when they are busted.
  3. Cheating and Stealing – the rules do not apply to them. But they are the first ones to try to enforce them against you. They will take your stuff, your ideas, credit for your work, and then lie about it all with convincing certitude.
  4. Charm- sociopaths are enchanting and beguiling. They are adept at figuring out what you want to hear and telling you that. They adapt easily to new people and situations, and are shape-shifters. There’s nothing underneath, so it’s easy for them to take on new personas.
  5. Risks- since sociopaths don’t care about the consequences of their actions, they take risks other people wouldn’t. They require a lot of stimulation and are always in the middle of whatever is happening.
  6. Drugs and Alcohol- there is a high correlation between sociopaths and substance abuse. Experts believe it’s partly related to their need for stimulation, and partly because there are no checks on their own behaviors.

What to Do:

First: Believe it. Sociopaths exist, and you are probably dealing with one. It’s okay to label a person a sociopath or psychopath. Monsters with names are easier to manage intellectually and emotionally. You will probably blame yourself for not catching the situation earlier, or not preventing what happened. Yet, there was virtually nothing you could have done before you realized you were dealing with a sociopath. We simply don’t expect people to be that way, or to act without concern for what happens. And that is exactly why so many sociopaths get away with it.

Second: Trust your gut. There are people who make the hairs on the back of my neck rise, even though they seem charming, generous, and caring. I trust my instincts rather than my initial observations. Then I watch closely for lies, for words that don’t match actions, and for excuses for broken promises. Everyone screws up sometimes. Sociopaths screw up often, and always have the best reason why it’s not their fault.

Third: Get the person out of your office, out of your home, and out of your life. Do not buy their stories, lies, pleas for sympathy, promises to change, or anything else they say. If you need to, go yourself. Get as far away as you can. Sociopaths who have been caught can be ruthless and vindictive. They also love to look good and will always lie to make themselves the hero and everyone else the villain. The good news is that they also lose interest fast and are eager to find the next opportunity/victim/hostage. So if you can let go, they will move on quickly.

Further Reading

The Sociopath Next Door by Dr. Martha Stout (2006).

The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson

Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work by Paul Babiak (2007)