Four simple ways to spot a psychopath in the first three minutes.

Statistically speaking, within your lifetime you’ve met a psychopath.

Estimated to make up one per cent of the population, you might have been struck by their profound lack of empathy or their grandiose sense of self. Perhaps they revealed themselves to be a pathological liar, or demonstrated an inability to feel guilt or remorse. At first, they were probably charming – but before long you realised something wasn’t quite right.

Psychopaths, apart from being over represented in prisons, are drawn to careers in law, media or sales. Their most common position in the workplace, according to psychologist Kevin Dutton, is that of CEO.

How to tell if your boss is a psychopath. Post continues below.

So, how can you spot a psychopath in the first few minutes, and avoid being manipulated by one? The research provides some fascinating answers.

1. They’ll shower you in compliments

In Paul Babiak and Robert D. Hare’s book Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go To Work, they identify “excessive or incongruous compliments and flattery,” as a significant red flag. They recommend you ask yourself, “What does this person really want of me?” because extravagant compliments can often be a means to an end.

Furthermore, a psychopath is prone to making wild promises, or committing to favours you never asked for.


2. Their stories will draw a crowd

Psychotherapist and social worker Amy Morin says that psychopaths are quick to win you over with their wit and fascinating stories – that often aren’t true. They will leave you feeling positive.

Dr. Randall T. Salekin adds that they’re the person, “able to gather a crowd around them at the water cooler,” due to their impeccable storytelling abilities. At first, they will be “all charm,” and attempt to develop a close bond with you very quickly.

3. They’ll bring up one of these three topics

A 2011 study found that psychopaths are twice as likely to bring up food, sex or money as topics of conversation.

They are far less likely to discuss subjects such as family, religion or spirituality, unlike their non-psychopath counterparts.

The same research found that psychopaths are less fluent in their speech, often using more ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’.

4. Their body language

A research paper published in 2015, found that psychopaths do not mirror body language in the same way that non-psychopaths do.

Specifically, they used the example of yawning.

Yawning is understood to be contagious as a result of empathy. “It indicates an appreciation of other peoples’ behavioural and psychological state,” Garrett Norris says.

But psychopaths will have no response to seeing a person yawn, and won’t mirror body language or enact rapport in the same way someone else will.

So what do you do when you’ve identified a psychopath?

Author David Gillespie told Mia Freedman on Mamamia’s No Filter podcast that it is useless trying to change a psychopath.

The best thing you can do, according to Gillespie, is distance yourself from them and ensure you have a strong support network.

Once a psychopath gets close to you, things get significantly more complicated.