6 Signs You're Arguing With A Sociopath (And What You Can Do About It)

When sociopaths enter the picture, chaos is guaranteed. Without conscience or remorse, they can cause a great deal of destruction. Driven by an insatiable need for attention and power, these social predators exhibit a very predictable set of patterns when manipulating others. Here's what you should be on the lookout for if you suspect you might be dealing with a sociopath.

1. Gaslighting

They say or do things, and then blatantly deny that those things ever took place. Alternatively, they reinvent history and blame you for "misinterpreting" them. This mind-boggling behavior slowly erodes your understanding of reality, and that's the point. When you doubt yourself, you're more vulnerable to their manipulation. I talk about gaslighting in detail in my book.

2. Pathological lying

They lie. More than anyone you've ever known in your life. By the time you've finished dissecting one lie, they've already told 10 more. It's almost like they're doing it on purpose (they are). Evidence is meaningless. And instead of focusing on their dishonesty, they constantly pin the blame on you for being too negative or sensitive. And they'll often accuse you of being the liar.

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3. Drama fatigue

Their behavior is so strange and outrageous that you actually become desensitized to things that would otherwise deeply upset you. You're like a frog in warm water that slowly gets cranked up to boiling. Essentially, your baseline of "normal" starts to shift to accommodate their increasingly abnormal behavior. That's when they start causing the real damage.

4. Polarizing

Sociopaths love to turn people against each other, especially if it results in a fight over them. By turning you against people you might otherwise get along with, you start thinking in extremes. Once your thinking slips from gray to black and white, sociopaths are able to paint "enemies"—good guys and bad guys. This keeps their victims divided and distracted.

5. Provoking

Sociopaths intentionally provoke reactions in you and then blame you for reacting. They use these reactions to call you "hysterical" or "crazy," which allows them to write you off as an unstable lunatic. They'll often play the victim after provoking you, ensuring that people focus on your reaction rather than their inappropriate behavior. By turning you into a caricature of your actual self, they can discredit you and continue causing harm.

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6. Circular arguments

Sociopaths pull others into pointless arguments, mincing words and debating semantics in order to keep you on the defensive. Every argument becomes a meta-discussion about the argument itself rather than the point you're actually trying to make. You can try to defend yourself, but there's really no point. Their goal isn't to win the argument, it's to drain the life out of you.

Why do sociopaths behave this way? Because they do not understand or experience their own emotions, and so they are unable to attach to other human beings. A false, grandiose self is born to make up for this absence of love. Attention and power become love's replacements.

So what can their victims do? Don't get sucked in. Stop hyper-focusing on your differences and start finding common ground. We're all largely driven by fear, humor, and love. In this respect, we have a lot more in common than we think. There is no greater wound to a sociopath than to see a bunch of people loving each other when you were supposed to be fighting over them.

Looking for more signs? This 13-question quiz can help you to determine if you might know a sociopath.

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