Psychopaths are masters of manipulation and one thing they can do very effectively is play on a person’s kinder nature and use it against them. How and why do they do this?
Psychopaths are predatory characters and can very quickly hone in on a person’s character traits and take advantage of them to their own ends. A crucial way in which they do this in their ability to constantly get people they have mistreated to give them another chance, even when they clearly don’t deserve it and will never change.
This is a cynical and exploitative move which takes advantage of the kind and forgiving nature so many of the people they target seem to have. It is part of the game they love to play of constantly deceiving people and getting an internal kick out of getting away with it.
Even experts trained in psychopathy such as Dr Robert Hare admit that psychopaths are masters of disguise and can tug at the heartstrings of anyone, even the most experienced interrogator.
However, with better understanding of the common tactics psychopaths use to manipulate others, it becomes far easier to spot them and defend ourselves. Let’s have a look in more detail at how psychopaths use other people’s good nature against them.
Getting You To Give Them Another Chance
Once a relationship with a psychopath has been going a while and they have their claws in, you will start to see the mask slip and their real personality come out. You will start to see toxic behavior – contradictions between their behavior and the act they have been putting on for you, saying and doing unacceptable things, boundary violations, incessant lying and so on.
However, once they transgress to the point where you show real objection and anger, they are masters at reeling you back in and getting you to give them another chance. Their toxic behavior may have gone so far that you are ready to ditch them as a friend or partner, but they can play at the heartstrings of anyone and get you to forgive them.
They will try any number of tactics to try and elicit your forgiveness. Here are some of the more common ones:
- Apologizing in a seemingly heartfelt and sincere way, promising it won’t happen again
- Showering you with warmth or charm to make you feel good
- Projecting blame onto you by pretending you are over-reacting or they didn’t mean it like that or you misread what they meant.
- Gas-lighting you and pretending nothing happened when it did. This may work depending on how much they have chipped away at your identity and perception by this point
- Confusing the issue with a load of rationalizations, justifications and word salad nonsense to try and explain away what they did or said to you.
This is all part of the game they love playing, knowing how easily they can manipulate others and get away with it. Every time they get someone to give them another chance they don’t deserve, they get an internal kick out of deceiving someone yet again. You may even see this manifest externally in a grin or smirk; see our article on duping delight and psychopaths.
The important thing here is to realize the game that the psychopath is playing here and not collude with it. They are playing on your kind nature. If a psychopath has targeted you in the first place, it is ususally because you are an empathic, kinder natured person, not prone to getting angry or hostile with others.
Forgive the Psychopath or Narcissist? Erm…No
If you are caught up with a truly toxic person, it is important to be able to see this and pull the trigger on the relationship metaphorically, to let the person go even if the confrontation and anger that may be involved is not something you are naturally built for and enjoy.
You must also understand that with a psychopath, whatever behavior patterns they have been displaying are only going to continue and get worse not better. Psychopaths are completely incapable of change and permanently stuck the way they are.
Do not waste your time trying to change them, thinking “it will be different this time” or any other self deception. Be especially wary of the “hoovering” tactic psychopaths and narcissists often use to try and draw people back in who have finally got rid of them, claiming they’ll do everything the person wanted them to do before.
See the video just below for excellent example of this common form of deception with the psychopath or narcissist.
A Perfect Example of Hoovering From the Psychopath/Narcissist
If hurting another’s feelings is what worries you then you needn’t be because the psychopath doesn’t have any. They will not take it personally and will readily move on to the next target. People are disposable to them. They only value people for what they can get off them and not the person themselves.
Psychopaths can tug at the heartstrings of anyone to give them another chance. The toxic behavior from them will never stop though.
Getting You to Open Up and Reveal Weaknesses
Psychopaths are the masters of charm and can produce a fake sense of kindness and receptiveness to get you to open up and confide things. They can momentarily appear to be very open and receptive to you, or show what seems to be genuine concern about you.
This can happen for instance in a work scenario, where a psychopathic manager will call you in “for a chat” and pounce on a small mistake you made or make a big deal out something really small. They can appear though to be “on your side”, the essence of attentiveness and receptiveness. They just want you to admit to something they can later use against you.
The trick here is to put this fake act up against the huge long list of toxic behavior you will have by now observed in them and see the bigger picture. That is their true nature and not this performance they are putting on for you.
It is important not be taken in by the psychopath and open up to them, however much glib charm and fake warmth they are bombarding you with. This is just a trick they are using to get you to lower your guard. They are constantly prying for weak points and trying to extract information out of you that they can use against you later on.
If you have seen enough evidence that this person is a toxic personality, then you know that any surface charm and temporary “niceness” is just an act. There is an agenda behind it. Check out our Checklist page for some of the more common traits to look for in psychopaths. If you find a whole cluster of these together in a person over time., then you are likely dealing with one.
As the old say goes “if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck….”. Once you have crossed the point where you have seen enough evidence that has gone way past your point of credibility where you know there is something seriously “off” with this person psychologically, then defend yourself around that person accordingly. Don’t give them anything they can use against you.
The psychopath here is preying on your kind, virtuous nature. They know it is not in your disposition to naturally want to be hostile and standoffish to people. You are naturally a trusting person who likes to be open and authentic with others. In an ideal world it would be great if we could be unconditionally this way with everyone we meet but in today’s world this isn’t really possible.
The problem here is that not everyone in the world is truly, genuinely nice and authentic, even though many people can appear this way at first. Some people are just bad at the core and cannot be changed and you need to adjust your openness around these people accordingly.
They do not deserve your kindness, and they certainly don’t value it. You are just an object for them to manipulate for their own ends. Make no mistake, the psychopath knows exactly what is going on here. They are very observant and predatory people. They are using your kind nature against you, on the lookout for any weak points and vanities you have. Be aware of this and raise your guard accordingly.
Playing on Your Kind Nature While Stabbing You in the Back
“You cannot determine to what extent someone might be psychopathic simply by looking at them, even talking with this person for 5, 10 or 20 minutes. Sometimes it may take 6 months or a year. The problem……. is that we continue to evaluate people the way they appear to us”
Dr Robert Hare
This is another very common scenario among psychopaths in the workplace. They are absolute masters of brazen two facedness, acting seemingly kind, warm, and friendly to your face, whilst relentlessly scheming and bad mouthing you behind your back.
The dichotomy can literally be like night and day – they can move from being your best friend one moment to completely burying you two minutes later when you are out the door.
The psychopath is again here playing on your kind nature, knowing that many of us will simply take people as we find them and evaluate them as they appear to us, hence the quote just above from expert Robert Hare. They seem to be perfectly fine to our face, so they wouldn’t be up to anything behind our back, would they?
Wrong! The psychopaths knows full well that they can manipulate anyone who has an overly kind and forgiving nature and is not prone to suspecting badly of others. To the psychopath, other people are just objects to be manipulated for their own ends. They know that most of us love to be flattered, treated kindly, told what we want to hear, and this is what they do to our faces at least, to throw us off the scent and make us assume they are “on our side”.
Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the psychopath is burying you to other staff and management every chance they get, telling lies, feeding false narratives, smearing you, all designed to undermine you and paint you in a bad light to others. That way, if something does blow up, you have no support – the psychopath has set you up to fail from the very beginning if you are a high quality person and they saw you as a threat.
This is why it is so important to watch more carefully a person’s behavior over time to see what their character is really like, even if they appear very friendly and warm to your face. We will go into into this a little more in the section. Here are some things to look out for in a workplace settings:
- Watch out for two faced behavior towards others and radical changes in persona around different people. Even you are just observing and aren’t involved, this is still data you can collect and don’t ignore red flags.
- Document all instances of malicious gossip, smearing, troublemaking, even if it doesn’t directly involve you. Sooner or later you likely will be the target in toxic environments.
- Identify the troublemakers and be very wary around them, even if they are friendly to your face.
- Pay attention to any reports of people talking behind your back. Find people you can trust and confide in and find out if anyone is attempting to smear you. Document all evidence of this and report concerns to mid or upper management.
- Evaluate the general culture of the company. If it is toxic, then consider looking for another job before anything blows up. See our article on psychopathic companies.
Give Trust Only When It Is Earned
What we wrote about above mainly concerns the issue of trust and forgiveness in a relationship with a psychopath that is somewhat established, where you are starting to see red flags but they have already got their hooks in so to speak. What about spotting for this dynamic when you first meet toxic characters?
When you first meet them, psychopaths will also go to great lengths to charm you before you have had a chance to see their more toxic behavior patterns over time. Again it is important to be cautious and selective as to who you open up to and trust.
Trust is meant to be earned over time, not just given away as soon as you meet someone. If someone is bombarding you with warmth and charm from the moment they meet you then it is important to take a step back. They may be just naturally a charming person of there may be something else going on here.
You don’t know them and, just as importantly, they don’t know you, so you have to slow down and think “What’s your angle here?”. Authentic trust and respect is something that is built over time and so if someone is presenting themself to you as the perfect partner or friend and acting as though you’ve known each other years when you’ve only just met, then put the guard up until you have had longer to judge their character.
So in all kinds of relationships nowadays, it is important to be one step ahead of manipulativeness. It is crucial to know the tricks and tactics that psychopaths employ to gain the confidence and trust of others and resist them.
No one is obliged to reciprocate warmth from another if they have any doubts and suspicions and everyone has the right to take as much time as they want to judge someone before opening up to them and extending trust. And you are not obliged to extend trust at all if you do not think someone deserves it.
The good news is that psychopaths have a well worn set of behavior patterns and traits which do not change over time. They are easier to spot once you know what you are looking for. See our Checklist page and also our article on how to spot a psychopath for some good starting points.
Our Resources page also has some excellent books and videos on spotting psychopaths in everyday life.