10 Success Secrets of Psychopaths
When most of us hear the word ‘psychopath,’ we immediately picture a serial killer with a trail of dead bodies behind him. A psychopath is not always a killer, however. In fact, many of them aren’t violent at all. Psychopaths are characterized by their lack of empathy for others, their inflated self-confidence, their self-centered impulsiveness, and ability to be utterly ruthless. Some psychiatrists and scientists have studied psychopaths and found they have a damaged amygdala, or the portion of the brain that controls emotions. Others believe that a combination of genetic and environmental factors lead to psychopathic tendencies. Regardless of how people develop into psychopaths, many of them never commit violent crimes and have incredibly successful careers in high-profile industries. While many of their qualities can damage relationships, or impact their ability to connect with others, some psychopaths succeed in their careers not despite their character flaws, but because of them.
Psychopaths tend to fall on a spectrum. In fact, some believe that we all fall on the spectrum somewhere, though most of us are so low on the spectrum that we are not considered psychopathic. The ‘psychopaths’ who tend to display the behaviors we traditionally think of as abnormal fall very high on the spectrum. High functioning psychopaths who can control violent impulses and mimic normal emotions are those who often rise quickly to the top of the corporate ladder. Here are ten of their ‘success secrets’ and how they utilize their deficits to get ahead.
10Psychopaths are Fearless
The same lack of fear that leads many psychopaths to commit crimes can also help them walk into a boardroom and give a presentation to twenty hostile businessmen. Some experts argue that psychopaths can still feel the emotion of fear, they simply don’t react normally to what we consider threats. When they cannot adequately identify the dangers around them, they cannot react to them. They may feel fear in the long run for their own safety or well-being, but tend to rush into situations that most of us would shy away from because we perceived it as dangerous to our physical or emotional safety. This could explain why many psychopaths have more broken relationships that their ’normal’ counterparts. They simply cannot see all the ways that rejection or a failed romance can hurt them.
Fearlessness, or lack of threat detection, can be a huge asset in the workplace. Psychopaths take chances and risks that normal people would not because they aren’t afraid of failure. While normal people analyze all the ways a plan could go wrong and juggle pluses and minuses, psychopaths simply barrel ahead. This trait also assists them with confrontation. A psychopath is not afraid to go head to head with the boss or be the designated ax man in an organization. This often gains him favor with his less brazen co-workers who often hand him the ‘dirty work’ of firing an employee or telling a manager off.
9Psychopaths Have a Reduced Sense of Empathy
Empathy is a trait that holds many of us back from getting what we want. When we consider others’ feelings and the impact our decisions may have on them, we usually find some compromise between what we really want for ourselves and what will benefit those we care for. Psychopaths, who have little to no regard for how other people feel, don’t play by these same rules. While our society is always admonished to ‘treat others as we would like to be treated,’ psychopaths not only have no ability to consider how others would want to be treated, but they also couldn’t care less. Compassion, kindness, and altruistic behavior are foreign concepts to psychopaths, which is why they are often caught abusing animals or other innocent creatures. Psychopaths have no interest in the ‘greater good’. They believe justice applies only to what is best for them, and that fairness results only when they get what they want.
While a lack of empathy is usually a bad thing, it can come in quite handy in high-pressure situations. A psychopath cross-examining a sobbing witness on a stand or attempting to save hostages from an armed attacker will most likely benefit from his or her steely resolve to get the job done no matter what the consequences. Psychopaths can easily disengage from any personal feelings they may have about a situation and simply achieve the results that are most advantageous for them. In a work situation, getting a task done or succeeding on a project or presentation is what will most likely get them ahead, so they single-mindedly focus on that while disregarding how their actions may affect others.
8Psychopaths Have Increased Self Confidence
There is some debate whether psychopaths actually have high self confidence or whether it’s all an act to cover up their inner deficiencies. Many researchers believe there is a certain type of psychopathy that is non-violent and produces individuals who excel in areas like business and politics. Coined ‘fearless dominance,’ the types of psychopaths who display these characteristics have good social skills, are very resilient to stress, and have extreme self confidence. Because they have no fear of failure or what others might think of them, they can take control of situations that many of their peers may find intimidating or too risky.
Research finds that the more educated and intelligent a psychopath is, the more likely he is to utilize his inherent personality quirks to dominate the workplace. While less intelligent psychopaths tend to cause more harm than good and often resort to physical violence, the highly intelligent psychopath can manipulate and connive his way to the top. These types of individuals are extremely confident in their own manipulative skills because they are utterly convinced they know human nature and how to bend it to their will. Their understanding of how ‘normal’ people are motivated enables them to manipulate successfully. Many psychopaths are especially skilled at getting close to neurotic people and exploiting their vulnerabilities. While this usually does not end well for the exploited victims, it can often result in achievements in business as psychopaths can manage and lead with complete authority.
7Psychopaths Tend to Be Bolder Than the Rest of Us
If you’ve ever admired someone who can walk into a room and take complete control of the people and situation, you very well may have been admiring someone with psychopathic tendencies. Boldness, which encompasses charm and poise as well as an increased tolerance for risk-taking, is a hallmark of psychopaths. Boldness leads to quick, though shallow, relationship development, which is beneficial for those who need to develop a following or group of supporters. It is also linked to higher possibility of attaining leadership or management roles as bold individuals are more likely to ask for raises and promotions—and believe that they deserve them. Psychopaths also excel in crisis management, public speaking, persuading others to their point of view, and performance due to their bold nature.
Bold psychopaths not only dominate at work, but they also desire to, and often succeed in, dominating social situations. Their willingness to take both physical and emotional risks and their apparent fearlessness and immunity to feelings of anxiety can be very appealing to others. This is especially pronounced in those who suffer from low self-esteem or shyness as they emulate the psychopaths who are seemingly afraid of nothing or no one. The bold psychopath also has no trouble approaching those of the opposite sex and charming them into relationships. Due to their understanding of human nature and willingness to play on others’ weaknesses, they often seek out needy people who are susceptible to their charms and find ways to quickly become close to them.
6Psychopaths Can Be Highly Manipulative
Many of us are not successful in manipulating others because we try to be ourselves. We are open about our differences, and don’t try to pretend to be someone we’re not. Though we may appreciate others for their different ways of thinking and acting, we don’t try to understand them for the sole purpose of using these details against them. Psychopaths are different. They know that if they can get to know someone, they can mimic their emotions, pretend to be interested in the same issues, and find ways to become interesting and appealing to them. Psychopaths also have no problems utilizing other manipulation tactics, such as offering to do favors or telling lies, that others would never dream of.
Psychopaths are willing to use every tool in their arsenal to gain trust, develop a group of supporters, and use that group to achieve their own selfish goals. These tools may include slander of those they view as ‘enemies’, fabrication of details or outright lies, playing upon the emotions of others, and distracting from their lies by employing glibness and charm. They enjoy pitting people or groups against each other, and are highly effective in creating rifts in workplaces or social groups. Psychopaths have little interest in the consequences of their manipulative actions. If they lose a follower or ‘friend,’ they simply cultivate a new one with little to no regret or even thought for the broken relationship. This often results in a psychopath leaving a trail of failed relationships and bitter ex-friends in their wake.
5Psychopaths Don’t Experience Guilt or Remorse
Researchers who have performed tests on psychopathic brains have found that they are incapable of experiencing basic human emotions like empathy or feelings of guilt and remorse. Though they are aware that they are different and that many of their actions are technically wrong, they simply are not capable of caring how these actions may hurt others. They certainly can feel regret when a situation does not go their way or when the results they are seeking don’t occur, but they lack the ability to care about how getting what they want may affect others. While most of us avoid self-serving tactics that throw others under the bus or result in the hurt feelings of others, psychopaths simply don’t care if others are damaged by their words or actions.
How can a lack of guilt or remorse help a psychopath succeed? In the workplace, it can mean taking credit for others’ work or putting policies into place that are self-serving but not beneficial for the company as a whole. While these tactics will end up hurting the company in the end, they can sometimes result in some short-term success. A lack of guilt or remorse can also be extremely beneficial for those in roles that require cold-blooded decisions. These include high-powered prosecutors or defense attorneys who must focus solely on achieving a good verdict for their client, CEOs who perform corporate takeovers, and military personnel who sometimes must endanger innocent people to a successful operation.
4Psychopaths are Impulsive and Thrill-Seeking
Psychopaths are rarely happy with calm, normal lives. Raising a family and working at a good job for their entire careers are boring and uninteresting to them. Most psychopaths need the thrill that comes with frequent job changes, new and exhilarating relationships, and adrenaline-fueled adventures. While this usually doesn’t bode well for those who want to settle down with a psychopathic individual, it can lead to success in certain areas of the psychopath’s life. Thrill-seeking and impulsive behavior can easily be mistaken for drive, high energy, and enthusiasm. It may also come off as an entrepreneurial spirit as many of these psychopaths seek out the thrill of starting multiple small businesses. The fast-paced environment that is inherent in many industries is especially suited for the psychopath who would rather multi-task and take risks than sit behind a desk or work their way up the corporate ladder.
Of course, there is a darker side to this impulsivity. Though they’re willing to take risks that can lead to big successes, they also have no regard for the consequences of these risks. This leads them to pursue multiple relationships, often at the same time and start businesses that have no chance for success. It also makes them more prone to commit crimes, whether violent in nature or not, to get what they want. The thrill of new experiences and risk are more important to the psychopath than building a strong career or relationship.
3Psychopaths Can Control Their Emotions
There is much debate among experts on how much emotion psychopaths actually feel. Some argue that they experience very few of the normal human emotions such as fear, compassion, guilt, or love. However, many believe they experience more self-serving emotions such as hostility, envy, jealousy, and anger than the normal population. Regardless of which emotions they may or may not feel, experts seem to agree that psychopaths are usually highly successful at managing their emotions and displaying only those they think will get them ahead. For example, a psychopath may control and hide the anger they are actually feeling and instead mimic affection to manipulate a mate or friend. They are very adept at knowing what they should be feeling in a certain situation, though they are aware they cannot feel it.
In the workplace, displays of emotion can often be detrimental. Crying in meetings, having outbursts during stressful situations, or getting angry at managers can seriously impact an employee’s career. A psychopath has a tight rein on all of their emotions, which often comes off as a strength in the office. A psychopath can easily face a raging co-worker or sobbing subordinate without being dragged into the emotion.
2 Psychopaths Have No Morals
The most ethical of us base our behavior on an internal moral code. We simply know what is right and wrong, regardless of who is trying to sway us in a different direction. We make decisions based on the greater good and on how those decisions will affect those who are most important to us. Psychopaths never have the opportunity to develop their own moral code and have little regard for the morals of others. What is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ to them is based on what serves their interests best. If an action helps them get what they want, it’s ‘right.’ If something doesn’t serve them or help them get ahead, it’s ‘wrong,’ regardless of how many others it may be beneficial for.
Those who are high in empathy are also usually very moral people. The emotional void that most psychopaths live in makes it impossible for them to feel the empathy needed to be moral. They can mimic the moral code of others, of course, but they never internalize it. This results in inconsistent behavior that can often appear erratic and random to outside observers. The lack of morals, however, can often be a strength in many industries. Though it may not be ‘moral’ to find a way to fire the employee who has just been diagnosed with a debilitating illness, it may certainly help the company’s bottom line. Lack of morals can also be a tool in the arsenal of those who need to target other companies on the road to success. Having a cutthroat mentality toward competition is often synonymous with success, and psychopaths have this mentality in spades.
1 Psychopaths Have No Social Inhibitions
Words like embarrassment, shame, and hesitation have little to no bearing on a psychopath’s mindset or subsequent actions. When they think of walking into a party where they don’t know a soul or of approaching a high-powered executive on the street to ask for a job, they don’t experience the misgivings that normal people do. Losing face, being laughed at, or feeling uncomfortable are not thoughts that ever enter their head. Psychopaths are concerned only with results. If they believe an action will result in a favorable outcome for their agenda, they’ll move forward with little to know hesitation. They have little regard for social norms and etiquette. While most of us are preoccupied with what others will think of us, psychopaths are focused solely on what they may be able to gain. The concept of social threat is foreign to them because they don’t care about gaining or losing friendships or about their image.
Though this lack of social inhabitation can lead to dire consequences, it can also be an asset for the psychopath who wants to get ahead. Psychopaths can be incredibly successful in starting social phenomenon, igniting trends, and thinking outside the box that most of us are trapped in due to social convention. They are often pioneers in their industry because they are released from normal ways of thinking. If they have business partners or collaborators with a strong moral compass, they can often be quite useful in creating new and innovative products and concepts.
The way of thinking about psychopaths in our society is changing. With more research being done on how psychopaths think and act, we are learning more every day on their role in society. Though some have the capacity for extreme violence and social disorder that many of us equate with ‘psychopathic personalities’, many others life non-violent and even highly successful lives. For the psychopaths who fall on the low end of the spectrum, success based on fearlessness, a lack of social inhibition and control over emotional reactions is often likely. Many highly successful politicians, CEOs, and those in adrenaline-spiked industries like the military and police work benefit from the fearless dominance that is a common trait of psychopaths.
Though no one wants to emulate a psychopath’s less desirable traits such as lack of empathy, an undeveloped moral code, and disregard for others, there are some lessons we can learn from them about achieving success. Being bold, not worrying about what others will think of us, and having a high level of self confidence are all admirable traits that can be very useful in the workplace and in social situations. They can help with conflict resolution, generating new ideas, and going against the status quo. When backed with a normal amount of empathy, care for others, and a desire to help the greater good, these characteristics can catapult careers and even improve our society.