There is a class of people whom I’ve come to refer to as “Socialopaths”. These people appear to have no empathy, compassion, or sense of right or wrong when it comes to dealing with others. The male Socialopath is more commonly known as a “prick”, while the female is more commonly known as a “selfish bitch”. These people go through life with an apparent sole focus on their own selfish needs and near complete disregard for everyone else. The Socialopath differs from the true sociopath merely as a matter of degree. Whereas a sociopath may see no distinction between disliking someone and killing them, a Socialopath usually stops short of killing or injuring someone, not because they don’t want to but because they know that the potential repercussions are too large.
- Rarely uses blinker when turning or changing lanes.
- Blathers loudly on cell phone regardless of surroundings (elevator, airplane cabin, movie theater, restaurant, public transportation, grocery store, etc.).
- Wants to know the price of everything.
- Blames others when things don’t go their way.
- Drives a BMW.
- Steps in front of others if there is any question who was in line first.
- Takes two parking spaces.
- Lets breast size impact love life (him).
- Lets diamond size impact love life (her).
- Smokes cigars (him AND her).
- Takes the handicapped spot (because nobody uses it and/or they’ll just be a couple of minutes).
- Never thinks twice about making others wait.
- Is bothered by children and pets.
- Isn’t bothered by cruelty to children and pets.
- Is only happy with the latest and greatest, even if they don’t really know the difference.
- Has zero sense of humor about themselves.
- Undertips when nobody will know, overtips when everybody will know.
- Eats sushi because it’s cool, but secretly despises it.
- Insinuates themselves onto the side that is winning.
- Grabs credit for things they really had nothing to do with.
- Passes blame for things they really had everything to do with.
- Respects lawyers (from an income and personality perspective).
- Sees spending time with family as an annoying chore.
- Does the right thing only out of fear of consequences.
- Collects (art-watches-baseball cards-wine-comic books-etc) not out of love but as an investment and/or as an affectation.
- Regularly plans and throws their own birthday party.
- Puts others in danger for their own selfish reasons (drives like a maniac, leaves kids in the car to run into the store, shoots off firecrackers, etc).
Driving Us Crazy
The key element in most of these is a complete lack of thought paid to other people. A more complex example involves a pharmacy that we regularly frequent that is in a free-standing building with its own parking lot. There are plenty of spaces all around for everyone. However, there is a certain class of person who presumes to pull up to the curb right by the door, hop out, and run in to do their shopping. Their car is obviously not in a parking space, and it has obviously reduced the available driving space from two lanes down to one, meaning that all the through traffic must now alternate and creep around this creep’s vehicle. It’s not necessarily causing a total blockage, but it is quite an annoying impediment.
I can only presume that these Socialopath drivers thinks that since people can manage to get by them then there’s nothing wrong with it. However, the problem with that “logic” is two-fold. First, the sheer ego of thinking that it’s okay to inconvenience all other shoppers for one’s own convenience demonstrates a complete lack of social morality. Secondly, if all shoppers decided to park for their own convenience then we would have anarchy. So this Socialopath presumes to flaunt the conventions of a workable society because they know that the rest of us will not follow suit, allowing them to take advantage of our more mature social skills.
This scenario is played out over and over again. At the pharmacy, at the grocery store, dropping off or picking up riders downtown (stopping in moving traffic lanes to let people in or out, oblivious to their outrageous impertinence and selfishness!), all so they don’t have to be inconvenienced to find a parking space or garage.
In fact, I think that driving is one of the primary areas where Socialopathy manifests itself. The participants are fairly anonymous, most of the players follow the rules, and nobody wants to crash their car even if they have the right of way. This is the perfect milieu for a Socialopath to demonstrate their complete selfishness and lack of empathy. Cutting people off, gunning through red lights, not letting people out of parking lots, pulling up past slow traffic in a different lane only to cut into the head of line (a Sneaky Pete, described more fully here), yapping on cell phones, ignoring school zones, etc, etc, etc, etc. Maddening.
Particularly maddening because there is little that can be done, and the Socialopaths know it. If someone cuts in front of the head of a line of traffic, most of us will not hunt them down and confront them. If we see a car taking two spots (usually some over-priced, Euro-trash car that they don’t want “dinged” by the hoi polloi), most of us will not “key” the car (although even I, who attempts to always be a gentleman, have been sorely tempted).
The Socialopathic Boss
The second most common manifestation of Socialopathy, after driving, is as an authority figure, usually a boss or manager of some kind. Socialopaths gravitate towards positions where they can manage others, as their egos do not allow them to think of themselves as workers, only as bosses. They are usually successful in becoming managers because they are driven by an absolutely compulsive need to be seen as being in charge, so they are willing to do anything and everything to move up the ladder, including sacrificing their personal lives in order to achieve power. For a company that is always trying to become more profitable, a driven Socialopath can appear to be the perfect employee, willing to do anything, no matter how morally questionable or just downright wrong, to prove their worth to the higher-ups and so move into a more powerful position.
The problem with this model, however, is that it is not sustainable. Oh, sure, a Socialopath can sometimes produce amazing results, in the short-term, but over time their entire construct falls apart because it is not based in any way on doing the right thing for the company, the customers, or the employees, and is solely based on doing whatever it takes to please the higher-ups and to move up. The Socialopathic Boss (SB) burns through employees like a marathon runner grabbing Gatorade…snatch it up, drain all the usefulness from it, then crumple the empty cup and cast it aside. At first this purging process can be defended as house-cleaning by the SB, telling the higher ups that he has to clear out the slackers and the deadwood in order to produce results.
But eventually the SB starts cutting into known good people, people who are known and respected in the organization, and this can cause the higher ups to take a second look what is going on. Usually at this same point the results being delivered by the Socialopathic boss start to level off or decline, as the people who work for him start to flee his servitude, and this definitely caused the higher-ups to take a closer look. Also at around this point the SB starts looking for a new job, either in another department or outside the company. The SB is usually smart enough to make the move before the whole house of cards can crumble, and so can trumpet his initial, short-term success and use it as leverage in moving to something new. The SB gets out just in time, then looks back on the mess he left behind and might even convince himself that it is failing simply because he’s gone now, instead of seeing that it was destined to fail from the start and all he did was flee like a rat from a sinking ship (that HE sank).
Some of These Apply to Me, But I’m NOT a Socialopath!
Yes, you are. Trust me. You may not have all the characteristics of a Socialopath, but it’s a sliding scale, and you’re definitely on it. And really, you know that you are, don’t you? All your life you’ve had people tell you all these same things, but you’ve always brushed them off as being the other person’s problem, right? And you never accepted the fact that the one common element in all of the belly-aching by these losers is…you. You and your behaviors. It can’t be that everybody else is wrong and that you’re right. The truth is that you are a Socialopath. And here’s a secret for you…having a distorted and unrealistic (to the positive side) view of one’s self is a key characteristic of a Socialopath.
Here’s an exercise for you to demonstrate in a very literal sense just what we’re talking about. For one week, just one week out of your selfish and self-centered life, obey all the traffic laws and also drive and park with consideration for others. Just one week. Don’t blast through yellow lights. Don’t cut people off. Don’t cut in the front of backed up traffic lanes. Signal for every turn and lane change. Let people out of parking lots and into traffic with a friendly wave. Drive no faster than 20MPH in school zones (not 25 or 27 or 28 or 29 MPH, because staying below 30 is NOT the same as driving 20), slow down to let people merge onto the freeway, don’t race the train to the crossing, always park in a designated parking spot, etc.
And what you will notice after a couple of days is just how infuriating it is to see how the few Socialopaths take advantage of the rest of us good folks to selfishly drive however they effing please with no concern or care for the safety of others or for the fact that we all also have just as much of a need to get where we’re going as quickly as we can, but that we don’t sacrifice the smooth operation of the machinery of society simply for our own selfishness.
And, trust me on this one, these same Socialopaths take this same uncaring, unthinking, unfeeling, unkind attitude into every other aspect of their lives. If you have any doubts about the right and/or friendly thing to do, do the thing that you least want to do, because as a Socialopath, that makes it the right thing. You are unable to assess yourself fairly, just as you are unable to comprehend that as a member of a society you must treat others fairly, too, even if there’s no upside for doing it and no downside if you don’t. Do it because it’s right. Follow the slogan of the name brand that I’m sure is on at least some of your possessions…Just Do It.