- Sociopaths have a profound lack of empathy for the feelings of others. They lack the internal feedback system by which normal people monitor themselves. (Most people call this “conscience,” which is probably as useful a term as any.) Sociopaths do not have this and don’t feel bad about abusing other people. It’s not that they feel bad and ignore it—they don’t feel it at all.
- Sociopaths understand that they are different from normal people and learn to mimic normal behavior. This mimicry has a purpose: It gets the sociopath what he or she wants.
- The sociopath hides his or her difference. After letting it show a time or two—and probably being punished by a parent as a result—the sociopath covers up the truth and keeps it covered. But the reason for hiding it is not embarrassment (the sociopath doesn’t feel embarrassment), but because it hinders him from getting what he want.
- Since sociopaths have no empathy for others, making use of normal people feels just fine to them. Likewise, they feel no remorse.
- Empathy, as viewed by the sociopath, is a weakness, and he considers himself superior, because he isn’t burdened by it.
- Because they lack an internal feedback system, sociopaths are excellent liars. For example, they can often pass lie detector tests, since those tests register the effects of our internal feedback system, which they don’t have.
- A sociopath is likely to maintain a group of people who believe wholeheartedly that he is a good, kind, honest person. He’ll work in calculated ways to create and maintain that opinion in them.
From They Walk Among Us by Paul Rosenberg
According to Braiker, manipulators exploit the following vulnerabilities (buttons) that may exist in victims:
- the “disease to please”
- addiction to earning the approval and acceptance of others
- Emotophobia (fear of negative emotion)
- lack of assertiveness and ability to say no
- blurry sense of identity (with soft personal boundaries)
- low self-reliance
- external locus of control
According to Simon, manipulators exploit the following vulnerabilities that may exist in victims:
- naïveté – victim finds it too hard to accept the idea that some people are cunning, devious and ruthless or is “in denial” if he or she is being victimized
- over-conscientiousness – victim is too willing to give manipulator the benefit of the doubt and see their side of things in which they blame the victim
- low self-confidence – victim is self-doubting, lacking in confidence and assertiveness, likely to go on the defensive too easily.
- over-intellectualization – victim tries too hard to understand and believes the manipulator has some understandable reason to be hurtful.
- emotional dependency – victim has a submissive or dependent personality. The more emotionally dependent the victim is, the more vulnerable he or she is to being exploited and manipulated.
Manipulators generally take the time to scope out the characteristics and vulnerabilities of their victim.
- too trusting – people who are honest often assume that everyone else is honest. They commit themselves to people they hardly know without checking credentials, etc. They rarely question so-called experts.
- too altruistic – the opposite of psychopathic; too honest, too fair, too empathetic
- too impressionable – overly seduced by charmers. For example, they might vote for the phony politician who kisses babies.
- too naïve – cannot believe there are dishonest people in the world or if there were they would not be allowed to operate.
- too masochistic – lack of self-respect and unconsciously let psychopaths take advantage of them. They think they deserve it out of a sense of guilt.
- too narcissistic – narcissists are prone to falling for unmerited flattery.
- too greedy – the greedy and dishonest may fall prey to a psychopath who can easily entice them to act in an immoral way.
- too immature – has impaired judgment and believes the exaggerated advertising claims.
- too materialistic – easy prey for loan sharks or get-rich-quick schemes
- too dependent – dependent people need to be loved and are therefore gullible and liable to say yes to something to which they should say no.
- too lonely – lonely people may accept any offer of human contact. A psychopathic stranger may offer human companionship for a price.
- too impulsive – make snap decisions about, for example, what to buy or whom to marry without consulting others.
- too frugal – cannot say no to a bargain even if they know the reason why it is so cheap
- the elderly – the elderly can become fatigued and less capable of multi-tasking. When hearing a sales pitch they are less likely to consider that it could be a con. They are prone to giving money to someone with a hard-luck story. See elder abuse.