5 Things Psychopaths and Narcissists Will Do in Conversation

3) Asks no personal questions or asks very pointed questions.

You may walk out of a social encounter or a date and realize you have not been asked one single question about yourself, despite having learned a ton about the individual (see above). Pay attention to the degree of informational asymmetry: Does he disclose an enormous amount without asking or expecting you to reciprocate?

What’s going on: If nothing is asked of you and no interest expressed, then script delivery is the entire point of the encounter. If he asks a ton of questions but moves quickly from one to another, rather than allowing the conversation to organically unfold, he may be mining you for data, including information that can be used to gain a sense of your vulnerabilities. When chatting with a new target, psychopaths frequently strive to elicit information about stressors or life problems, so that they can ingratiate themselves with offers of assistance. This is an effort to gain your trust, of course.

4) Asks for special favors.

Asking for “special favors” is a DSM-V criterion for a diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder; so common is this behavior. While most people ask for favors out of genuine need or to build intimacy, narcissists and psychopaths are more likely to do so because they feel entitled to others’ time and effort. They may literally use the term “special” to convey that you are on the receiving end of a privilege that they deign to bestow.



What’s going on: These requests can serve multiple functions; after all, psychopaths and narcissists are expedient as well as grandiose. They may simply see you as someone to be used in the manner best suited to their immediate needs. They may wish to create a dynamic in which you are conscious of your subservience. Your compliance with a request, however small, may be a test. You pass if you betray a willingness to be controlled or manipulated. Expect more and escalating requests, either out of pure Machiavellian utility or because such acts will further graft you to this individual. As intimacy increases, the psychopath in particular may become fixated on a target executing his request, as a clear test of wills.

5) Makes odd asides about you.

Off-the-wall statements may come couched as assumptions, positive or negative. You are discussing your family and he might say, “It must be hard to be the smartest person in the room.” This won’t compute—you’ve never said you were smart, nor characterized yourself relative to your family. Such a remark would not be intended merely to flatter you, but also to passive aggressively put down your family.

What’s going on: Psychopaths and narcissists have no direct lock on uncharitable jabs. But when statements are made by people who do not otherwise appear blunt or obtuse, they may be deliberate attempts to destabilize you. This too can be a test, to see whether you will stand up for yourself, or whether you will do spade work to reclaim this person’s kindness or affection, which may suddenly feel imperiled after an ugly remark. Cruel statements that are seemingly out of the blue can also signal the willful or absent-minded removal of the mask.

Unpleasant remarks can be all of the above: Psychopaths and narcissists love to keep others guessing; it reinforces their power. The psychopath’s default attitude toward others is one of disdain. This person does not like you, and he is in fact inwardly mocking you throughout the conversation. Unkind remarks are but the first clue. Stick around and these statements will come faster and more furiously.

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