Contrary to popular belief, most psychopaths aren't serial killers. They're simply manipulative people who intentionally cause harm to others without any sense of remorse or responsibility. Psychopaths are social chameleons who can fit perfectly into any situation. They are experts at morphing their identities to get what they want and mirroring others for money, sex, and—most commonly—attention. Because of their ability to idealize others, psychopaths are often perceived as charming, innocent, and fun to unsuspecting onlookers and casual acquaintances. But when they're feeling threatened or bored, a psychopath's true colors start to show Here are the signs you're arguing with a psychopath and what to do when it happens:
1. They lie and make excuses.
Everyone messes up every now and then, but psychopaths recite excuses more often than they follow through with promises. Their actions never match up with their words, and their lies disappoint you so frequently that you actually feel relieved when they do something halfway decent. They've conditioned you to become grateful for mediocre treatment.
2. Their tone is condescending and patronizing.
Psychopaths often try to make you unhinged in an attempt to gain the upper hand. Throughout the entire argument, you'll notice that they keep a calm and cool demeanor. It's almost as if they're mocking you—gauging your reactions to see how much further they can push. When you finally react emotionally, that's when they'll raise their eyebrows, smirk, tell you to calm down, or feign disappointment.
3. They employ mind-blowing hypocrisy.
In heated arguments, psychopaths have no shame and will often begin labeling you with their own horrible qualities. It goes beyond projection because most people project unknowingly. Psychopaths know they are smearing you with their own flaws because they are seeking a reaction. The point is to lure you in so that you react and seem "crazy" to onlookers.
4. They seem to have multiple personalities.
When arguing with a psychopath, you're likely to notice a variety of their personas. It's sort of like good cop, bad cop, demented cop, stalker cop, scary cop, baby cop. Once you begin pulling away from their manipulation and lies, they'll start apologizing and flatter you. If that doesn't work, they'll suddenly start insulting the qualities they just flattered two minutes ago. As they struggle to regain control, you'll be left wondering who you're even talking to.
5. They play the eternal victim.
Somehow, their bad behavior will always lead back to a conversation about their abusive past or a crazy ex or an evil boss. You'll end up feeling bad for them, even when they've done something horribly wrong. And once they've successfully diverted your attention, everything will get messy again. Psychopaths cry "abuse," but in the end, you're the only one being abused.
6. You feel the need to explain basic human emotions to them.
You'll find yourself attempting to explain emotions like empathy and kindness, guided by the thought that if they understand why you're hurt, they'll stop hurting you. You are not the first person who has attempted to see the good in them, and you will not be the last. They behave this way because they know that it hurts you.
These are just a few signs that you're arguing with a psychopath. You can also watch out for a few common things psychopaths say. Just be aware that there are different types of psychopaths, and pay attention to specific signs that you're dating a psychopath.
How to win a fight with a psychopath.
There's only one way out of these arguments. You need to disengage!
Arguments with psychopaths leave you drained. You might spend hours, even days, obsessing over the argument. If you think you have the perfect response to their latest outrageous comment, they planted it there on purpose. They're trying to provoke you. They're trying to draw you in.
In professional environments, they want you to blow up so that co-workers and superiors see you as unstable. In romantic settings, they want you to lash out so that they can use your "hysterical" reactions to show potential partners and exes how crazy you've become. Until we understand this, we'll continue to fall into their trap.
So next time someone you're arguing with uses these tactics to draw you in, try a different strategy: Simply smile, nod, and go live your life.
They don't deserve another second of your time.
Jackson MacKenzie is the author of Whole Again and Psychopath Free, and co-founder of PsychopathFree.com, an online support community that reaches millions of abuse survivors each month. He has his bachelor’s in computer and information sciences from Northeastern University and is based in Boston. Driven by personal experience, MacKenzie's mission is to spread awareness and give survivors a safe place to validate their experiences, so that every empathetic person can find happiness and love after abuse.