We have covered extensively on this blog the damaging patterns of troublemaking and emotional abuse psychopaths engage in, but one question victims of them commonly ask is whether it is ever worth trying to confront or expose them. How do we respond to a psychopath’s manipulation – fight, flight, or something else entirely?
In most situations and for most people, confronting psychopaths in an attempt to expose them is not advisable, since they are extremely ruthless and manipulative people who will turn others against you if necessary in order to win any battle of wills you enter into with them with. It is often best to simply escape the psychopath’s control and influence as discreetly as possible.
It is also sadly true that the vast majority of people (the apathetic masses) remain ignorant of the fact that psychopathic personalities exist among the general population who have no remorse, conscience or morality, and are actively looking to cause harm to others.
Instead, most people are very easily taken in by the psychopath’s glib, superficial charm and ability to massage people’s egos and tell them what the want to hear, cleverly playing on the fears, hopes and vanities of everyone they interact with.
The psychopath is well aware of this, hence the common brazen-ness and outrageousness with which they engage in troublemaking, confident that even if they were confronted, they can lie, manipulate, and gas-light their way out of it, happily willing to invert reality and paint the victim out to be the troublemaker and themselves out to be the victim.
The psychopath is well aware that, in most cases, they can actually get away with this, so easily influenced and taken in are the vast majority of people by fake charm and presenting themselves well.
They know they have most people covered and can easily isolate and smear the few people who do see through them should they ever decide to confront them.
This is why, in most cases, confronting psychopaths in work scenarios especially is not recommended, unless you have the full backup and support of plenty of your colleagues to the extent the psychopath cannot so easily isolate you by turning people against you.
Similarly, in personal relationships, confrontation is usually not worth the effort, since it only draws you into more exhausting debate with a personality type that has proven incurable and unchangeable time and time again. It is simply better to save your energy and get away as soon as possible.
Let’s look in more detail at the many reasons why it usually isn’t worth it, along with some essential pre-requisites for rare instances when you might want to confront a psychopath.
Most Times You Should Not Confront a Psychopath
There are many facets of the psychopathic personality which often mean that it is not a wise decision to confront them and call them out on their psychopathy.
Here are some of the main things you need to take into account about psychopaths before making any attempt to confront them.
1. Manipulativeness – Psychopaths are master manipulators and schemers, not just of individuals one to one, but of entire groups of people. Sexual predator Harvey Weinstein’s former personal assistant said of him “This is someone who can manipulate an entire room”.
They are also brilliant at gas-lighting people – invalidating their perception of reality. You can walk into an argument with them utterly convinced you are right, and walk out dazed, confused, and with reality totally flipped on it’s head. They are brilliant at flipping thing around and painting out others to be the troublemakers and themselves to be the victim.
2. Ruthlessness – Psychopaths are cold, calculating and utterly ruthless characters. They will go to lengths other people with a conscience will simply not go to. This includes blatant lying, stealing, cheating, bringing your family into conflicts, “going personal”, ruining your reputation and livelihood and much more.
You must understand that the psychopathic personality simply doesn’t have the same moral and ethical brakechecks that normal people do. Literally nothing is off limits to them to make sure they always “win” and stay in control.
Going up against this mentality is very difficult, because anyone with a conscience and heart will reach a certain which they won’t go beyond in terms of ruthlessness. Psychopaths don’t have this same limitation. They just do whatever they have to to win, and don’t feel bad about it afterwards.
If you want a real life example of this, check out all the accounts of how ruthlessly Lance Armstrong treated anyone who tried to expose his cheating, and how low he stooped in trying to discredit any whistleblowers. See this video for just one of many accounts of this.
Remember that when going up against a psychopath – you have conscience and morality; they have none. You feel guilt and remorse; they feel none. You have boundaries and limits; they have none.
3. Viciousness – Related to the above point, psychopaths are also very vicious characters, but they often save their worst side for when it is really needed. As Stefan Verstappen puts it in the embedded video, even if you think you’ve seen their worst side, they can still turn a shade of ugly you haven’t seen yet if you really try to confront them on their psychopathy.
This can include shouting, screaming, physical violence, nasty and personal verbal abuse and a whole host of other things. People also sometimes decribe an auru of poisonousness that comes off a psychopath when they turn really nasty, at odds with the glib charming persona or “mask of sanity” they normally present to the world. The “real them” is momentarily leaking out.
4. The Cost of Confrontation – Adding all these factors together, it is important to weigh up whether it is really worth confronting a psychopath, or simply getting away.
You have to weigh up all the potential negatives – emotional and psychological damage, identity erosion, damage to reputation in work scenarios, being isolated and ostracized at work, and the general exhaustion of going through HR and legal battles, and so on.
You need to choose your battles very wisely and make a very considered decision as to what is the best use of your time and energy – confrontation or getting away from them as soon as possible. In most cases, the latter will be the best choice for you in the long run.
5. Apathetic Onlookers – This is another huge factor to take into account. Just because you can see through the psychopath’s surface act, it doesn’t mean everyone else can. In fact, in most cases, psychopaths can manipulate and charm their way into most people’s good books.
If you decide to confront the psychopath in a work scenario for example, they will often be able to co-opt apathetic bystanders into siding with them and against you, meaning you are the one who is left isolated and undermined, despite calling them out on something unacceptable they had done.
See our article on the sociopath-empath-apath triad for more on this.
In this way, again the psychopath flips reality on it’s head, because they are so effective at manipulating others, and most other people are so easily taken in and influenced by their glib charm and ability to ego-stroke others for their own ends.
Confronting Psychopaths in Personal Relationships
Much of what we covered above relates to work scenarios, but in personal relationships with psychopaths, the advice often remains much the same – get away as soon as possible and don’t even waste energy trying to confront them.
The main reason for this is that so often, confrontations in relationships carries with it some kind of expectation from the person that confronting the other person on their unacceptable behavior will somehow make them change this behavior.
With psychopaths, this is completely futile. They never change their toxic behavior and have proven completely immune to any kind of treatment or incitement to change, either clinically or simply through being asked to stop certain behavior.
Psychopaths simply don’t care. They will carry on behaving as they always have. If you try to confront them, they will often flip things around and gas-light you into thinking there is something wrong with you for even challenging them.
This simply draws you into more exhausting and pointless back-and-forward nonsense with the psychopath, while they continue to invalidate your feelings and perception, and you will find you make no progress with them at all, and are often simply more toxically tied to them emotionally than before. See our article on the psychopathic bond for more on this.
Here are a couple of great quotes from other personal accounts of toxic relationships, and of the futility of confronting them and trying to get them to change:
“….in the past you would have kept tolerating, and kept trying to work it out with this person, or kept trying to explain to them how their behavior affects you. But that’s not what a person with high value does. That person walks away.”
Meredith Miller – see here
“In the end, after being well and truly drained and poisoned, idealistic fixers realize that they have made no progress (with the psychopath) whatsoever. (They have) merely upgraded their arsenal and become more experienced in deception”
Psychic Vampirism site – see here.
Cases When You May Be Able To Confront a Psychopath
All this being said, there are some cases when you might be able to confront a psychopath. The cards have to be very firmly stacked in your favor to even consider doing this though, especially in work environments.
Here are some factors which are important to consider before even thinking about confronting a psychopath.
1. Self Awareness – You are a very strong, self aware person who is not frightened of anyone or anything. You have no psychological weaknesses, fears and vanities the psychopath can play on (they are masters at spotting and honing in on any weakness in you they can exploit to their own ends). You need to be fully sewn up psychologically to go up against these types of people.
2. Awareness of Psychopathy – You are fully aware of all the things we mentioned above about how ruthless and immoral they can be, resorting to any lengths necessary to “win” any battles they enter into. You are aware they will go to lengths other people will not in order to win, because they have no conscience.
3. Work culture and environment – In work scenarios, you have carefully assessed the upper management who may be involved in any confrontation proceeding, and consider them to be good people of strong character, immune to manipulation and ego stroking by the psychopath.
You also have strong backup from fellow work colleagues, and also preferably from at least some mid and upper level management. You have people willing to go into meetings with you and back you up on the inappropriate conduct of the psychopath.
4. Parting words – You have cut all ties with the psychopath, and there is no further way they can negatively impact your life, and on the way out you want to simply get everything off your chest as regards to their toxicity. There is no lying that it can be cathartic to do this and send some negative energy back where it belongs.
In all reality, in how many cases are all these conditions likely to be met? Not many, which is why in reality it is usually not worth it confronting the psychopath in work scenarios especially, but simply detaching yourself from their influence as quietly and quickly as possible.
Beware of the Smear Tactic in Workplaces
“It’s called the smear campaign and it started even before your breakup or the blowup in a work situation…What they’re doing is provoking reactions from you and then sneaking around sharing those reactions with people to slowly show this person is going “crazy”….
That smear campaign is about turning people against you, even your own friends, so you have no support after it’s done”
Jackson Mackenzie – see here
Regardless of whether you decide to confront the psychopath or not, one thing all people who are around these personality types need to be aware of is the smear tactic.
This is where the psychopath is setting up situations which undermine, isolate and devalue you well in advance of them actually happening.
Once they hone in on someone who they see as a threat or suitable target, especially in a work setting, they will do all they can to set this person up to fail.
They will be actively working to do this before, but especially after, any confrontation. Let’s break smear tactics down into before and after to explain more what we mean.
“Before the fact” smearing – This is where the psychopath is smearing you to colleagues and upper management even before any situation or confrontation arises. They usually do this while maintaining a beaming two faced-ness towards the target themselves, further throwing them off the scent (“Well, he seems nice to my face, he couldn’t possibly be smearing me behind my back, right?”).
Their goal here is to turn opinion against you, so that if there is some blowup or confrontation, you have no support and the management are likely to side with the psychopath rather than you.
“After the fact” smearing – This is when you do decide to confront the psychopath, and they immediately respond by getting straight on the phone to upper management, trying to get their shots fired before you can get yours fired.
They will lie, manipulate and twist account of events and conversations so as to paint them as the victim and you as the troublemaker. In this way they again hope to influence people against you and “win” the battle of wills which they see any confrontation to their ego and power as.
This becomes especially relevant in light of the issue of confrontation in work environments, since psychopaths are masters of staying ahead of the game and pre-emptively getting higher management on their side (schoozing, ego stroking, lying etc.) but also of actively turning them against you by smearing you behind your back.
In the case of “after the fact” smearing, more skilled managers will sense that something is wrong, as they see the sheer discrepancy between what the picture the psychopath is trying to paint of you, and the experience they themselves have had of you, plus the feedback from other more reliable sources.
They will use their common sense and see that the psychopath is up to something. But you cannot always count on this happening. Plenty of times psychopaths are successful with smear campaigns.
Less self aware and more egotistical and easily influenced people in management will often fall for these tactics, so it is important to be well aware of them and carefully assess any work situations and cultures before deciding to confront and expose them.
As we have said, you also need to make sure you have rock solid, reliable support and backup from both colleagues and at least some mid level and senior managers, who will back up your perception of events and also have documentation.
Fail to do these two things, and your attempts to confront and expose the psychopath may be batted away by upper management, who may have been taken in by the psychopath’s glib charm and deception, siding with them and trying to put the blame back on you for any situations which have arisen.
This is unfortunately quite a common dynamic in work scenarios, where the psychopath/sociopath successfully plays on the easily influenced nature and apathy of the majority of people to ostracize and push out authentic and virtuous people who can see through them.
See our article on the sociopath-empath-apath triad for more on this dynamic.
Summary – In Most Cases, Confronting is Not Advised
In most cases we can see then that is simply isn’t the best use of your time, energy and mental bandwidth to even bother confronting the psychopath. Your energy would be far better used in detaching yourself from their influence and control as quietly and quickly as possible.
Sure, we get that it can sometimes be satisfying for victims of psychopaths to let them know that they are now “onto” them and know what type of personality they are.
However, firstly, some psychopaths will already know that they are psychopaths. All psychopaths at some point realize they are different to others, not possessing these qualities called empathy, conscience and remorse that others do.
Not all of them are aware that the term psychopath/sociopath is what describes them, but they are all aware on a basic level that they are not like others and don’t have the same restaints on their behavior that others do.
Secondly, whether they know the name for their disorder or not, they do not care about it anyway. Psychopaths don’t care if you call them a psychopath.
They know they are different to others, but far from thinking there is anything wrong with them, they look down on the rest of the world with a cool detachment, considering themselves superior to others since they don’t have the same restrictions on their behavior that others with a conscience and morality do.
So calling them out on their psychopathy doesn’t really achieve anything in most cases. In fact it will likely draw you back into more argument where they try to use their usual tactics of denial, projection, reality inversion and gas-lighting, by the end of which they will have often convinced you that you are the psychopath and they are the innocent victim!
Rather than re-engage with the craziness and inverted reality the psychopath creates, it is best to simply detach from it altogther as soon as possible, once you realize what you are dealing with.
Once you have untangled completely from the psychopath, then break off all contact permanently and never look back, taking whatever lessons you can from the experience but not wasting any more time or energy on them at all.