“How do I know if I am dealing with a sociopath?” is one of the most common questions I am asked, ranking slightly above how to find meaningful work and just below mixing a mean martini. The problem is that you are asking the wrong question. Sociopaths comprise less than 5% of the population, and are probably overrepresented in politics, media, and finance, industries which tend to attract and reward the ruthless, uncaring, and manipulative types. Sociopaths often possess uncanny insight into people in the moment, expertly exploit the weaknesses of their victims. Sociopaths can be “charming”, their charm masks their underlying coldness. They are pitiless, lack genuine feeling, and are often sadistic. They enjoy being cruel. They are driven by feelings of omnipotence and power, which ultimately lead to their downfall, by their lies and inability to perform as promised. Sociopaths fail at business, at relationships, at life. Over 20% are in prison for crimes ranging from fraud to murder, but very few ever beat the system. A good sociopath can fool everyone. If you think you have found one, you probably have found an “a**hole” instead.
A**holes are far more prevalent than sociopaths and even more dangerous because they can easily get under your skin but rarely cross the line. Think of sociopaths like the Zika virus, and a**holes like mosquitoes at the cottage, and really big a**holes like black flies. They can take a chunk out of your arm but they won’t kill you.
Most of us are plagued by a**holes who just make our lives miserable. From micromanaging bosses to lazy coworkers, from oppressive work rules to malicious office gossip; we are either on the receiving end or dishing it out ourselves. So, as a public service, here is a short test to see if you are a real jerk, or not.
Please answer Yes/No:
- Do you tend to blame others when things go wrong?
- Do you tend to say “no” first when asked for a favour?
- Do you “butt in” and then pretend you didn’t see the sign?
- Do you take credit for work you didn’t do?
- Do you complain about party noise on New Year’s Eve?
- Do you worry about second hand smoke harming your dog?
- Do you park so close to someone they can’t open their door?
- Do you try to beat your kids at sports? Do you cheat?
- Do you tell your partner s/he could lose a few pounds?
- Do you argue with people when they suggest you are argumentative?
- 8-10 Congratulations! You are a perfect a**hole
- 5-7 Well done. You are part-a**hole
- 3-4 Good. You are normal, like most of us
- 0-2 Gotcha! You are a lying sociopath
And there you have it. What may have started as an “innocent” question about sociopaths is more often about how other people bug us. And the final test is this: If you are not part of the solution then you are most likely part of the problem.