How to control a sociopath

How to Disarm a Manipulative Sociopath « Mind Hacks :: WonderHowTo

There are a lot of manipulative people out there, but you don't have to let all of them push you around. It's time for the tables to turn.

You already know how to manipulate people, how to lie to them, and how to convince them that you're trustworthy, but what about when someone is using these techniques against you?

No problem. These seven steps will help you identify, dismantle, and destroy a manipulative personality for good.

Step 1: Spot a Manipulator

Manipulators are everywhere. Although psychologists estimate that only 4% of the population is truly sociopathological, in the entire United States that's about 12 million Americans. Not to mention, if you're in a career that attracts manipulators (think law, media, and sales), then there's a damn good chance you know a sociopath or two.

Don Draper of Mad Men / AMC

Manipulators usually exhibit the following traits.

  • They like you.
  • They claim they have something in common with you.
  • They say you can trust them.
  • They display subtle hints that they're lying (unless they're really good).
  • They use insults to get you to engage. "I don't know if you could keep up with the conversation."
  • They give unsolicited promises. "I swear I'll stop bothering you in a second."
  • They rarely want your company just for the sake of it.

That's just a few of the things to look out for, but it's enough to help you identify the majority of manipulators in your life.

Step 2: Be as Unemotional as Their Souls

Your emotion is the fuel that keeps a manipulator running. Without it, they have nothing to work with and they stall. Here are a few ways to interact unemotionally:

  • Only say what is necessary. No fillers, no fluff.
  • Detach yourself from the conversation. You are not the subject.
  • Imagine yourself outside of your own body. You're observing two humans interacting.
  • Avoid using "I" and "we." For example, "This conversation has run its course. It's time to go."
  • Remember that ultimately you will die, the sun will explode, and everything will cease to exist. Seriously, this helps.
Clerk talking with Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men / Miramax Films

Step 3: Ask Them Too Many Personal Questions

It can be tough to resist talking about yourself, and a manipulator knows that. So when they ask you a question, be as short as possible and then ask them a personal question. Ask them how they feel about something.

"I'm fine. You look kind of pale. Everything alright? Have you been feeling okay?"

Gordon Gekko of Wall Street / 20th Century Fox

This is like throwing a wrench in their machine. Manipulators do not expect to talk about their emotions. They expect you to open up and become vulnerable. When you ask a manipulator personal questions, you will quickly see how reluctant they are to share personal information with you unless it can be used to ask for something from you.

Step 4: Find a Flaw & Point It Out Without Letting Up

Much like narcissists, most manipulators don't take well to criticism. They're appealing and charming, and in their eyes, anyone who sees otherwise is not a good victim. Casually point out little flaws that you find in their presentation and laugh about it.

"Sorry to interrupt, but have you ever noticed that you have a slight lisp when you say that. Say it again. Thpecimen. Specimen."

Frank Underwood working hard in House of Cards / Netflix

Manipulators are bullies. They're used to taking an "alpha" role and they're thrown off track when someone points out a belittling flaw. Doing this to them with courage and a sense of humor will alter their perception of you. It shows them that you can't be walked over and you'll bite back.

Step 5: Incorporate More Small Talk in the Conversation

Never talk about your feelings. The only thing you should talk about with a manipulator, if you must, is the weather, celebrity gossip, sports, and politics (apathetically).

No matter the topic, they will try to pull your strings. They'll say, "It is very cloudy. Cloudy days are depressing, you know what I mean?" And you'll say, "Clouds look like giant cotton balls!"

Frank Booth in Blue Velvet / De Laurentiis Entertainment Group

Manipulators aren't entertained by small talk. They have nothing to gain from it. To them, there is no sense in "shooting the shit" with a group of friends for the sake of it.

Step 6: Be Terrifyingly Strong with a Simple "No"

Sociopaths are stunted in a developmental stage that most of us grew out of as toddlers. They don't understand the concept of "no." To them, it's just another obstacle they have to work around. With enough "noes," even the most persistent sociopath will recognize futility and give up.

The many faces of Hannibal Lecter, someone who will not like "no" for an answer. Image via Wikimedia Commons

Step 7: Give Them What They Want—Just Not the Good Stuff

A manipulator wants you for something. So if you have to give it to them, give them the crappiest version of it available. Let them down. They'll gladly move on to someone more valuable.

(1) Former CA Governor Schwarzenegger. Sad face. (2) President Obama. Disappointed face. Images via NBC, Mandel Ngan/AFP

And that's all there is to it. Obviously, if you're dealing with a master manipulator, they will be able to rebound fairly quickly and one-up you for the win, but most of these sociopaths won't see it coming.

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Cover image via A Clockwork Orange/Warner Bros.


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What upsets a sociopath? 5 Ways to win

Sociopaths are antisocial people who’re willing to harm others for selfish gain. They show a chronic pattern of antisocial behaviors and are likely to become criminals.

Sociopathy emerges in early childhood, suggesting it has more to do with genes than the environment. Also, there have been cases of acquired sociopathy after damage to specific brain areas.

Humans are genetically programmed to be selfish. But most of us don’t harm others to pursue our selfish gains. We realize that hurting others will eventually be bad for us. Also, we’re able to empathize and co-operate with others for mutual benefit.

These things keep our unbridled selfishness in check.

Sociopaths seem unable to understand the adverse long-term effects of their short-term selfishness. They may be downright aggressive in exploiting others, or they may use soft power like manipulation and superficial charm.

The spectrum of sociopathy

Like many human traits, sociopathy lies on a spectrum. On one end, we have extreme sociopaths willing to commit crimes for selfish gain. On the other end, we have altruists who can be prosocial to the point of being gullible.

Most of us lie in the middle of this spectrum or normal curve. Most people adopt a mixed strategy of sociopathy and prosociality depending on the situation.

I’m sure you know people you wouldn’t call sociopaths, but they sometimes exhibit sociopathic tendencies. You might also know some people who lie on the extreme ends of this spectrum- people who’re prosocial to the point of gullibility and chronic sociopaths.

Research shows that around 4% of men and less than 1% of women are sociopaths.1

Those statistics make sense since men have more to gain reproductively by being aggressively selfish.

When I was in school, two boys in our class were chronic sociopaths. They misbehaved the most, snatched the lunch of other students, and frequently got into fights. They continued this behavior for years.

There were 50-55 students in our class, all boys. 2 out of 50-55 is in the neighborhood of 4%.

Sociopathic traits

The primary goal of sociopaths is to gain at the expense of others. To do this, they have to lack traits that can make them empathize with others. Also, there are significant social costs to being sociopathic. 

Society frowns upon sociopathic behavior because it threatens group cohesion. It formulates laws to keep them in check and punish them.

Naïve sociopaths disregard laws and get incarcerated. More advanced sociopaths understand the importance of reputation. They craft this perfect image of themselves to hide their sociopathy.

By showing others that they’re prosocial, they win the trust of unsuspecting people and exploit them.

We often hear news of so-called ‘spiritual’ people who craft an ideal public image but later get caught as fraudsters, offenders, or scammers. Advanced sociopaths can exploit others for very long before they’re caught.

To summarize the traits of sociopaths:

  1. Sociopaths are power-hungry and controlling people
  2. They’re manipulative liars and gaslighters
  3. They lack social emotions like love, shame, guilt, empathy, and remorse
  4. They’re high-conflict personalities2
  5. They have superficial charm
  6. They’re selfish, impulsive, irresponsible, and deceptive
  7. They see other people as tools and have a win-lose mentality

Upsetting sociopaths

Think about how people usually respond to sociopathic behaviors. They either give in, or they fight back aggressively. While fighting back aggressively can sometimes work, it can also backfire. If you fight back against a sociopath, they’ll likely take revenge, leading to a cycle of conflict.

If you’ve followed my work here for some time, you know you have to be more sophisticated than that.

Following are the strategies you can use to upset a sociopath:

1. Don’t play their game

They can’t win if you don’t play with them. It takes two to quarrel.

If you refuse to play a sociopath’s game, they lose power and control over you. What do I mean by refusing to play their game?

Simply disengage. Pretend they don’t exist. A sociopath can only harm you when you’re engaged with them. If they see their sociopathic behaviors do not affect you, they’ll pull away and find another target.

If you realize your interactions with someone are becoming toxic, disengage before you get caught in their web. Quit responding and arguing.

2. Play their game, and beat them at it

Sometimes the best way to fight against sociopathy is being sociopathic, only towards them. I know some people may find this hard to do but let’s face it, most of us lie in the mixed strategy zone.

If you can use sociopathy to protect yourself or a loved one from someone else’s sociopathy, there’s no reason not to do it.

For instance, if a sociopath lies to you, you lie back to them. You help them spin their web of lies and then trap them in it. To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, here’s an example:

Say your spouse comes late one night, and you suspect they’ve been cheating on you.

Them: “Hey, I’m home.”
You: “Why so late?”
Them: “I was attending Susan’s party after work.”
You: “Oh, how did it go?”
Them: “Great.”

Time to play the game. You tell them that a common friend Sam was also at the party. A lie, of course.

You: “Sam was there too. I was talking to him, and he said the party was great. Did you see him?”

(To maintain their lie, they’ll have to agree they saw Sam. It’s hard to deny seeing a common friend at a party.)

Them: “Oh yes, I did. He seemed to be having a lot of fun.”

You knew that Sam was at work at the time. There’s no way he could’ve been at the party. Liar detected!

3. Assertive non-compliance

If a sociopath tries to exploit you in a situation where you can’t disengage, assertive non-compliance is the best strategy. It means you call them out non-aggressively. You let them know that their behavior is unacceptable without giving them an excuse for revenge.

You simply say “No” to their unreasonable requests. Make sure you add a reason why you’re saying “No”. This way, you remove yourself from the situation and avoid making it “You vs. me”. Instead, you make it “Their unreasonable behavior vs. reasonable behavior”.

4. Let them expose themselves

Exposing a sociopath’s sociopathy can backfire big time. They take great pains in crafting a nice image of themselves. They’ll likely make you pay for it if you ruin their reputation.

Instead, you want them to expose themselves.

For instance, if you know that a sociopathic colleague has been lying about their performance, you can’t point that out in a meeting and throw dirt on them. Instead, you hint at it indirectly.

You ask them innocent questions that they can’t answer without exposing themselves. This way, you force them to expose themselves and let others ‘discover’ that they’re a liar.

“Jim says he made 100 sales calls last month. What a liar!” (direct)

“Jim says he made 100 sales calls yesterday, but the records only show 50 calls. How do you explain that Jim?” (indirect)

Jim: “I’m a stinking liar. That’s how.”


If you gather solid incriminating evidence, the liar will get automatically exposed. They don’t even have to admit anything.

The point is, they can’t get mad at you for dispassionately stating the facts. They’ll still be upset, though, but won’t have anyone to blame, which can be even more upsetting.

5. Reveal little about yourself

The more a sociopath knows about you, the more power they have over you. This is why you can’t be ‘vulnerable’ with everyone, fashionable advice these days.

Sociopaths will charm you to extract information from you. Once they get critical information about you, they’ll use it as a weapon against you. You’ll regret revealing too much.

Prevention is better than cure. If you feel someone you know has sociopathic tendencies, avoid giving them too much information.

Hold your ground even if they pressurize you to reveal stuff (which they will). Give a vague, moderately satisfying answer, change the topic or ask them questions instead.


  1. Mealey, L. (1995). The sociobiology of sociopathy: An integrated evolutionary model.  Behavioral and Brain sciences18(3), 523-541.
  2. Eddy, B. (2019). Why We Elect Narcissists and Sociopaths—And How We Can Stop!. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Hanan Parvez( Author )

Hi, I’m Hanan Parvez (MBA, MA Psychology), founder and author of PsychMechanics. PsychMechanics has been featured in Forbes, Business Insider, Reader’s Digest, and Entrepreneur. Feel free to contact me if you have a query.

How to communicate with a sociopath - Lifehacker

March 21, 2020 Relationship

Living and working with a person who does not consider the feelings of others is difficult, but possible.

Who is a sociopath

A sociopath is a person suffering from antisocial personality disorder. Such people lack empathy, the ability to understand the experiences of others and emotionally respond to events. Therefore, a sociopath does not perceive social norms and rules, constantly violates them and does not consider other people's feelings. nine0003

Because of their high intelligence and disregard for rules, sociopaths make the best criminals. And although most do not do anything illegal, sociopaths are potential manipulators, ready to use people for their own purposes.

Lifehacker has already told in detail how to crack a sociopath. You need to be on your guard if a person:

  • at the beginning of communication was charming, but gradually begins to dictate his will to you;
  • lies a lot and often, writing stories on the go without any problems; nine0016
  • lives without friends, family, does not talk about the past, but is surrounded by admirers;
  • prone to sudden outbursts of anger and aggression;
  • tries to isolate you from society;
  • narcissistic to the point of megalomania;
  • likes to manipulate other people to achieve his goals;
  • knows how to keep an icy calm in stressful situations.

How to properly communicate with him

It is better, of course, not to communicate at all. If you understand that you have a sociopath in front of you who is going to achieve what you want with your help, then it is better to refuse communication in time than to suffer later. nine0003

Easy to say but hard to do, especially at work, with friends or family.

Assess the risk

If you are a suggestible person, easily influenced by others or lack confidence, try to keep communication to a minimum. The more vulnerabilities you have, the easier it is to manage you. It is these people who are the victims of manipulation.

This does not mean that the sociopath should be demonstratively avoided. Just try to do less common things.

Think of yourself

Sociopaths choose victims who are dependent on people who tend to obey instructions. The best way to protect yourself from a sociopath is confidence and independence, your own position and ability to think. The more independent a person is, the more difficult it is to control him, which is why sociopaths do not like them.

It can take years to understand who you are and what you are striving for. Learn new things, communicate with different people and listen to someone else's point of view, but do not accept it immediately. This will help develop independent thinking. nine0003

Learn self-confidence. It's difficult, but necessary.

Do not fall for provocations

That is, do not feed the troll. If you are not being manipulated, then it is not interesting to manage you - a sociopath will quickly get bored. Keep calm in communication, do not go into conflict.

Don't tell a person that he is a sociopath

This will either make him angry or irritate him. And it may well be that the sociopath is not aware of his behavior. In general, do not show that you have figured it out. Maintain polite communication. nine0003

Don't be charmed by him

A sociopath can charm and present himself favorably. But this is not a reason to forget about who is in front of you. Remember that behind the stream of compliments lies some kind of catch.

Seriously, don't give in. A sociopath knows how to poison stories in order to arouse sympathy and sympathy, knows how to prove his importance. This is normal for him, but if you believe and follow, you risk becoming a victim of manipulation in the future. Yes, this is not very good, after all, a person is not to blame for sociopathy and mental disorder. But that doesn't make it any easier for you, does it? nine0003

End a difficult relationship

If you recognize a manipulator in your partner and his behavior poisons your life, try to end the relationship as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the harder it is to break free from a sociopath. While feelings can be strong, relationships with a sociopath are often life-threatening. Take a closer look: maybe this is just your case.

Don't confuse sociopathy with indifference.

Want to put a label on someone who hurt you or acted selfishly? Perhaps there are reasons for such behavior, the person made a mistake and repents. The sociopath made no mistake, does not worry and will do it again - when he needs it. nine0003

It is not easy to end a relationship with a sociopath on your own if you have already fallen under his influence. Enlist the support of friends and family. Get ready for the fact that the sociopath does not accept rejection and will be ready for reckless actions for the sake of your attention.

Warn Others

You don't have to yell on every corner that you've identified a sociopath, but it's sometimes worth warning shared family and friends, especially if you see that someone has fallen under the influence of a manipulator. Help the victim to understand the situation. Of course, you don’t have to fight off a sociopath with a gun, but you shouldn’t completely let the situation take its course. nine0003

Don't be afraid

After all that has been written and said about sociopaths, it's hard not to get paranoid and suspicious of everyone around you. But it is not necessary to write down people with a vile character in this category. And do not think that every sociopath will use you and destroy you.

As already mentioned, a sociopath has a high intelligence, so many people understand that their reactions and behavior are unusual. And not everyone goes over to the dark side: many even ask what to do if they find signs of a dissocial disorder in themselves. nine0003

It is possible to communicate, work and live with a sociopath, especially if self-esteem is normal.

And don't try to change anyone. It is impossible to re-educate an adult.

Think with your head, do as you see fit, then you are unlikely to become a victim. Your confidence and knowledge will help the sociopath see you as an equal rather than a means to an end.

Read also 🧐

  • How to recognize and protect yourself from an energy vampire
  • 11 unexpected signs that you are a psychopath
  • 10 serious psychological tests you can take on the Internet

How to identify a sociopath and behave properly with him: 7 strategies

Who has determined that one of his acquaintances is a social predator, the so-called sociopath, should be on his guard. How to recognize a sociopath?

The truth is, there are a lot of sociopaths around. Almost everyone has a very high chance of communicating with such a person. However, the "average sociopath" is far from a person with the personality structure of a serial killer or rapist - as with any personality disorder, there are also different gradations here. Only in the case of an antisocial personality style, even a minimally expressed form is already dangerous for the social environment. nine0003

They go over heads, lie, break the law and have no doubts that they are right. They always get their way - by any means. Why? Because sociopaths do it for their own benefit. All without exception. They see themselves as perfect, infallible people who deserve to be valued and respected. To achieve their goals, they manipulate others, sometimes become aggressive and do not feel any remorse. Their "victims" are systematically harmed, deceived or exploited. nine0003

This could be work colleagues, managers, relatives, neighbors or partners. It usually takes a long time for a person to make sure that a sociopath is next to him.

20 questions - one answer

There is a lot of advice on the Internet for identifying this personality disorder. However, they have a significant drawback: they are aimed at pronounced sociopaths. The following checklist is designed to recognize even those people who can do great harm to the soul (and often the body) without being an ardent sociopath. nine0003

  1. The person is charming and eloquent. He often has the ability to convince, even if he is wrong.
  2. He has considerable strong self-esteem, often becomes the center of the group.
  3. He is amazingly intelligent, but uses his intelligence only to achieve a specific (usually selfish) goal.
  4. He is not empathetic or compassionate, but he can feign empathy when necessary.
  5. He tries to control others and exercise power over them. nine0016
  6. He often fails to keep promises or commitments.
  7. He doesn't care at all what others think of him.
  8. A sociopath pays attention only to his own needs. However, he does it so skillfully that others either do not notice it at all, or notice it too late.
  9. He often causes feelings of guilt in those around him.
  10. He likes to deceive others, but he blames others for such behavior.
  11. He sees no evil in distorting the truth for his own purposes. nine0016
  12. He uses any means to convince people of his ideality.
  13. He considers those around him weak and powerless.
  14. He looks down on everyone, considering himself the best.
  15. Usually he does not have long-term relationships, because he is not able to love.
  16. This person uses every conceivable (even illegal) means to get what he wants.
  17. He doesn't care much about the negative consequences of his behavior and actions. nine0016
  18. He is incapable of helping, even if the person clearly cannot protect himself or look after his well-being.
  19. The sociopath does not feel responsible for his own behavior or action - regret is not familiar to him.
  20. He sees life as a theater of war: only the strongest survive.

If someone from the environment is distinguished by such traits, one must certainly know how to properly deal with such a person in order to protect oneself properly, until significant damage is done to the psyche. Psychologists give advice on how to behave correctly. nine0003

Distance Search

In general, the advice here is simple: stay away from social predators. Or, at the very least, look for the maximum possible distance at which you can communicate without harm.

Trust yourself

Trust your feelings. Always! Do not deceive yourself, even being present when a sociopath communicates with another person, defend yourself. If possible, avoid further contact!

Set clear boundaries

One of the most important ways to protect yourself is to clearly express your own needs, ideas and opinions.

Learn more