How to Deal with a Sociopath, According to 5 Experts

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If you know someone manipulative and remorseless, it’s crucial to deal with the situation.

So, how do you deal with a sociopath?

Dr. Kathryn Smerling

Kathryn Smerling

Psychotherapist

Recognize a sociopath

A sociopath may present as extremely charming, and you may be dazzled by the compliments that come out of their mouth. But that is never consistent.

One of the first traits that can be used to identify someone as a possible sociopath is the inconsistency in their behavior. They are either extremely positive or extremely negative, and they have the ability to rope you in as they shift between these two extremes. They have the uncanny ability to play on both your strengths and weaknesses.

Sociopaths can be predators, and people often fall for sociopaths when they have low self-esteem. Sociopaths can also appear to be narcissistic – but whereas a sociopath feels no obligation to adhere to the norms of society, a narcissist more than likely does.

Sociopaths can also be volatile, cruel, and bullying. Sociopathy is a personality disorder, and sufferers usually show characteristics by the time they are in their early teens.

Signs that you might be dating a sociopath

  • Chronic inconsistency in behavior
  • Disregard for societal norms
  • A tendency to play “the victim”

Related: How to Recognize and Overcome Victim Mentality

What should you do if you think that you’re dating a sociopath?

Break it off! I’m serious. You will never have any real lasting satisfaction in a relationship with a sociopath. Although your partner may show that they are occasionally capable of empathy, their abilities in this area are extremely limited.

They will never be able to practice empathy reliably or with consistency. You might suggest that your partner goes into counseling, and you might want to look into some counseling yourself – to find out why you are attracted to a person who will more than likely end up hurting you.

Christine Scott-Hudson, MA, LMFT, ATR

Christine Scott-Hudson

Licensed Psychotherapist | Marriage and Family Therapist | Owner, Create Your Life Studio

In order to escape a sociopath without triggering their sadistic, vindictive rage, you must go “Gray Rock”

Gray Rock is a method for dealing with anyone on the narcissistic-sociopathic-psychopathic spectrum. It is primarily a way of encouraging anyone on the narcissistic-sociopathic-psychopathic spectrum (from the average unhealthy and toxic personality disordered and emotionally unbalanced person, all the way to an extremely dangerous predator) to lose interest in you.

It differs from going “No Contact,” in that you may have to remain in contact with them to some degree, such as in the case of shared parenting responsibilities, or when your boss is toxic, but you have not yet found another job.

When going “Gray Rock Method,” you do allow some contact – but you only give boring, monotonous responses so that the sociopath must go elsewhere for any supply of drama.

You let yourself become as boring, monotone, and uninteresting as any Gray Rock in a driveway, no rock any more unique or exciting than the next. When contact with you is consistently unsatisfying for the narcissist-sociopath-psychopath, they learn to expect boredom rather than excitement and drama.

Psychopaths feel empty inside and become addicted to drama to help them feel excited and alive. Narcissists, Sociopaths, and Psychopaths cannot stand to be bored. They feed off of other people’s upsets, dysregulation, reactivity, and fear in order to feel powerful.

If you continually remain neutral and emotionally regulated in their company, then, in time, they will have to find a new person to provide them with their fuel of reactivity and drama. Eventually, they will be forced to go to others in order to obtain their toxic supply of dysregulation.

Gray Rock Method is a way of training the psychopath to view you as an unsatisfying pursuit.

It trains the narcissist-sociopath-psychopath to see you as boring, uninteresting, and as an unsatisfying target.

Practice the method of  Gray Rock, which is making yourself as boring and uninteresting as any gray rock in a driveway, with any encounter you have with the sociopath. Give boring, non-exciting responses. Remain calm.

Psychopaths, sociopaths, and Narcissists enjoy drama. Your big emotional reaction is like fuel for them, so starve them by only supplying them with neutral responses. This helps toxic people tire of dealing with you, as their supply is drama and you are no longer supplying it.

Related: How to Shutdown a Narcissist, What Is Narcissistic Abuse? 

Karen R. Koenig, LCSW, M.Ed.

Karen R. Koenig, M.Ed., LCSW

Author | Psychotherapist

To deal with sociopaths, you must first recognize their traits

Common behaviors include lying, cheating, trying to make you believe that you did what you didn’t or didn’t do what you did (called gaslighting), manipulating you to get their way, stealing from you or others and cutting corners to their advantage, trying to undercut your power, taking advantage, and having one set of rules for themselves and another for your/other people.

Unexpected behaviors including being nice (which they do to keep you off balance between bad behaviors), getting friends to do their dirty work, charming others and intentionally putting you in a bad light, love bombing (lavishing love on you to get you dependent on them), and throwing you (and your children) under the proverbial bus to save themselves.

Related: Warning Signs of a Manipulative Partner

Leave the relationship or distance yourself as far as possible from the sociopath

Understand that they will not ultimately change much. If you have one for a boss, tread lightly and watch your back. Don’t view niceness or kindness or a stop to abuse as a permanent change.

If you have one for a spouse or partner, seriously consider leaving the relationship. This may sound drastic, but it is for your own good in the long run.

Be educated

If you think that someone in your life is a sociopath, read books about them and seek the help of a therapist to support you in remaining in the relationship (if need be) or leaving it.

Dr. Fran Walfish

Frances Walfish

Beverly Hills Family & Relationship Psychotherapist | Author | Child Psychologist

Being described as charming is usually a positive and complimentary comment. And, in fact, a charming personality is a lovely quality to be gifted with. However, people who are sociopaths use excessive charm to manipulate others into believing they are good guys.

They use their slippery, slimy charm to weave a false sense of safety and trap their victims into trusting them. Then once they’ve gained your trust, they lower the boom by betraying, exploiting, using you for their own personal gains and pleasure.

This may encompass business, personal, financial, sexual, or violent gains. It can be extremely difficult to detect a sociopath. Even the most highly trained, skilled clinicians have been known to be duped by a well-oiled sociopath. Sociopaths range from liars, cheaters, thieves, to killers, and mass murderers.

The most manipulative tactic used by the sociopath is their charm. Watch out for excessive charm!

There is absolutely no difference between a psychopath and a sociopath. Only the label and diagnostic terminology have changed. The diagnostic criteria remain the same for both terms.

The primary traits of the psychopath/sociopath are that they have no conscious, no accountability, no capacity for empathy, no self-examination or self-reflection skills, and they are loaded with charm and harm. Sociopaths lie, cheat, steal, and even kill depending on where in the spectrum they fall.

Even the most skilled, competent psychologist and psychiatrist can “miss” spotting a well-oiled sociopath. If your ex is overly charming, blames you for all wrong-doings, and turns your reality upside down topsy-turvy to where you question your own sanity, turn and run as fast as you can in the other direction.

Psychotherapy will not change a sociopath. Character disorders are categorized by both insurance companies and psychological professionals as prognostically not hopeful.

The excessive charmer would need to be so terribly motivated and want to fully immerse himself into group therapy, individual therapy, and other confrontational and supportive treatments. I have never known one sociopath who changed his or her ways.

Many people can’t stop thinking about their ex obsessively to ease a feeling of loneliness. Others truly loved their ex and can’t let go. Some are afraid of getting out there again so they keep their former relationship alive as a way of staying involved and not feeling single again.

There is only one way to finally let go of your beloved sociopath ex, and that is to begin dating, enjoy the dating process, and replace your ex with someone who values you and treats you better.

The key factor is the readiness to (finally!) let go. Everyone holds on for a different length of time. Some people avoid the pain of loss and grief and bed hop by jumping from one person to the next quickly.

Others who have been deeply hurt may close the vault to their heart shut and lock it away under a key. You need to know yourself and respect your own personal timing. When you are ready to “let go” and try again, you will.

Adina Mahalli

Adina-Mahalli

Certified Mental Health Consultant, Enlightened Reality | Relationship Expert, Maple Holistics

Consider therapy

Being around someone with an antisocial personality disorder, colloquially referred to as a sociopath, is quite difficult. If you’re still committed to keeping the person in your life, such as if it’s a relative or spouse, you should consider therapy as a way to encourage and improve your relationship with the person.

Create boundaries

When in this type of situation, it’s important to create boundaries for yourself so that you don’t explode at the person or take out your anger on others.

Remind yourself that your expectations for this relationship should be different than your expectations of other relationships. And have an open dialogue with the person about how certain behaviors of theirs upset you.