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© 2014 Kebba Buckley Button, MS, OM.  World Rights Reserved.

sociopaths, ruthless, relationships, stress, stress management, upbeat living

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A few months ago, a Dairy Queen employee named Joey Prusak did a wonderful thing.  He was taking an order from a blind gentleman, when a $20 bill left the gentleman’s wallet and dropped to the floor.  The woman behind the blind gentleman picked it up and popped it into her purse. Seeing this, Joey Prusak asked if she wouldn’t like to give the $20 bill back to the man who dropped it.  She indicated she did not wish to give it back.  So Joey Prusak took $20 of his own, and firmly presented it to the gentleman, saying that on behalf of Dairy Queen, he would like to replace the lost $20.  He then also declined to serve the woman who had taken the dropped bill.

We know all this took place, and how, because a customer wrote a detailed letter to Dairy Queen, praising Joey Prusak’s handling of the situation.  He took ethical action in the face of someone’s sociopathic behavior.  You may be thinking, “the nerve of that woman!”  But according to author Martha Stout, the woman who took the $20 bill would not have needed nerve if she was, in fact, a sociopath.  If that was the case, she simply had no conscience. Dr. Martha Stout is a clinical psychologist who served on the faculty of Harvard Medical School for over 25 years.  She is the author of The Sociopath Next Door:  The Ruthless and the Rest of Us.  Stout says one in 25 lack conscience, and they are often very charming.  There are several types of sociopaths.  Some want to be supported, some want to take something of yours or invade your privacy, and some want to hurt your career with lies—just for fun.

Sociopathy is the inability to process emotional experience, including love and caring, except when such experience can be calculated as a coldly intellectual task. 

~ Martha Stout, The Sociopath Next Door: The Ruthless Versus the Rest of Us

Recently, I was at a meeting at the office of a prestigious organization, and I witnessed an extraordinary thing.  One friend wanted to share a photo of her home, and she passed her phone to the woman next to her.  The second woman praised the photo of the home.  She then started flipping through other photos on the phone and joyfully making personal and suggestive remarks.  I was astonished at the invasion of the first friend’s privacy.  First Woman was frozen in horror.  I kept offering Second Woman the chance to gracefully relinquish her peeping, by saying pleasantly, “I want to see the home photo!  Flip back to the beginning!”  I tried this 5 times.

But she kept laughingly narrating, going deeper into First Woman’s private photos.   I went around the conference table and leaned over Second Woman, asking again for her to go back to the home photo.  She gleefully continued.  In fact, it seemed she was becoming more joyful and satisfied, the longer this drama went on.  She was feeding on it.  We had previously thought she was a warm, creative, delightful contributor to our program.  This was a new side of her; although later we realized there had been previous odd sequences.

Normally, I am gracious to a fault.  But this time, something rose in me, and I made a choice.  I took the phone out of Second Woman’s hands!  I told the group that I was sorry to be so emphatic, but I was on the subject of privacy.  Second Woman was unsurprised!  She laughed gleefully, saying, “and I’m on the subject of peeping!”  She looked straight at me, with the total joy of someone who has gotten away with something and is glad!  There was no remorse, no guilt, no apology.  She just wanted to enjoy every second of the invasion she could before someone stopped her.  We will be very careful around her from now on.

Like the woman in the Dairy Queen, Second Woman was very satisfied with her behavior.  She was a sociopath.  She was taking what she wanted and did not care if others were hurt.

People say I am ruthless.  I am not ruthless. And if I find the man who is calling me ruthless, I shall destroy him.

~ Robert Kennedy

Perhaps you’ve had a boss who hurt employees as often as possible, for personal satisfaction.  Or a colleague who told career-damaging lies about you. Maybe you’ve had a neighbor who refused to return a borrowed tool, claiming it was his/hers to begin with. In Stout’s fascinating book, you can read 13 strategies for dealing with sociopaths.  But perhaps it boils down to this:  learn about them and learn to recognize them faster and faster.  Then, don’t get sucked in.

And watch who you hand your phone to.  Once you know your friend is a sociopath, keep smiling and stop associating with them.  Don’t let them know they are hurting you: they love that.  Live your life with eyes wide open, and make the most of every hour.  As Stout says in her thirteenth strategy, “[L]iving well is the best revenge!”  Now that’s Upbeat Living!

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Stress, stress management, energy, vitality● Kebba Buckley Button is a stress management expert.  She is the author of the award-winning book, Discover The Secret Energized You (http://tinyurl.com/b44v3br), plus the 2013 book, Peace Within:  Your Peaceful Inner Core, Second Edition (http://tinyurl.com/mqg3uvc).  She also has a natural healing practice and is an ordained minister.

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