Psychopath watching you

Psychopaths are good at reading people. It’s how they play at being normal. How they get close to you quickly. How they know how to manipulate you. Read on to find out how they do it…

Well, a little bit anyway. You don’t think I’m just going to blurt out all my secrets to you, do you? For shame, sir or madam, for shame.

But don’t worry, they all look shifty and dress like prohibition-era spies.

I’m a starer. Around town, on public transport, in cafés; I’m a regular Emile Zola, without the writing talent of course. I can spend hours people-watching: either listening to conversations and absorbing new ways of talking, new titbits of emotional intelligence and good stories to steal, or by turning my iPod up loud enough to drown out all conversation and focus purely on people’s expressions and body language. This second activity is particularly informative. You’d be surprised at how much you can learn just from the way people hold themselves, how the corner of their mouth is shaped, what their eyes are doing. With very focussed concentration, I can sweep an entire train carriage full of people and pick out the weak and vulnerable – and any probable psychopaths too. Ted Bundy infamously claimed to be able to scan a crowd and find a good victim from the way she walked, and I can totally buy that. I am not in the business of stalking the streets looking for people to rape and kill, but if I were I’d know who to go for.

So imagine how effective this high-powered observation is when concentrated on just one person: you. That is how your psychopath, if you have one, seems to know you better than you know yourself, while appearing to have the uncanny ability to read your mind. It’s not mind-reading, silly, I just know all of your thoughts! Wait…

Anyway, all this staring at people I seldom ever interact with sounds incredibly creepy and it probably is. Some people notice me staring and that just motivates me to stare more, just to unnerve. One day, if they ever come across someone who actually wants to murder them, they may sit up and take notice. For me, the staring pays off later when talking to people. Just looking into their face as they talk, and looking them up and down for any additional body language, pay dividends. But it’s not really a conscious process, it’s more an automatic response (whether learnt or instinct I couldn’t say) and I often only reflect on the results afterwards. As with any such skill, you often only notice its benefits when it’s gone; for example, I don’t like it when people wear sunglasses, because they hinder any attempt to look into the person’s eyes. And that’s why you never meet any psychopaths at the beach.

With this knack for reading people, I often notice traits or underlying emotions a long time before such attributes become more prominent or ‘general knowledge’ within social circles. So for example, when I first moved into university halls of residence, my early impressions turned out more accurate than those of the people who became my friends (How do I know what their first impressions of others were? I asked them of course, stupid). When charming Will turned out to be a boorish twat and everyone was saying “He seemed such a nice guy”, and when quiet Greg was revealed to be psychologically unhinged (“What if he murders us in our sleep?”) I was the only one not surprised. In addition, I picked the two weakest members of the group to be the scapegoats and the butts of all the jokes, and the group accepted this like I knew they would.

As a preteen, I knew my uncle was a lonely alcoholic just by looking at him (years before his ‘shock’ death). When he died and my mother told me he’d had an addiction, I said “Of course he did, didn’t you know?” She replied that nobody had known and there was nothing anybody could have done to save his life to which I just laughed “You cannot be serious. I knew he was an alcoholic when I was 12. One of you must have thought of getting him help” Of course this upset her, and though she quickly chalked what I’d said up to grief it was nothing of the sort; I was genuinely incredulous that nobody else had seen what I had. Not wishing to appear weird, these days I pretend to be surprised when somebody reveals something like that about themselves e.g. they have got an anxiety disorder. “Well, no shit!” I want to say, but I don’t.

“Oh my god! YOU have confidence issues?! I never knew!”

The flip side to this is that when someone says something about themselves that I didn’t already know, it’s a novel surprise, one which I really appreciate. Think you can surprise me? Leave a comment below, that should do it.

Images courtesy of the Internet.