What Can You Learn From Psychopaths

Who exactly are psychopaths? We have many T.V series that have characters based on psychopaths and sociopaths. There’s Dexter, Sherlock, Joffrey Baratheon, Ramsay Bolton, Dr House and many more. Often the word psychopath and sociopath are used interchangeably but the truth is that they are quite different. The key difference between the two is that Psychopaths have no conscience ergo feel no guilt at all and are meticulous whereas Sociopaths do have a conscience but a very weak one and are quite reckless. Both these terms fall under the spectrum of Anti-Social Personality Disorder and have quite a few overlapping traits.

You’d be surprised to know how many top CEOs of companies, surgeons, world leaders, custom officers, etc are society bound highly functioning psychopaths. Psychopaths in business schools and the ones at CXO levels are fondly called the Executive Psychopaths or Snakes in Suit.

The common traits of the Snake (Psychopath) are that they have a grandiose sense of self-worth, they’re persuasive, have a superficial charm, are ruthless, they lack empathy and remorse and are excellent at manipulating others, they’re fearless and confident, they’re extremely focused but they are NOT NECESSARILY VIOLENT.

The purpose of this article is not to turn you into a psychopath but to adopt a few traits that can help you be better at your work. Some of the things to consider are:

  1. They are the ultimate optimists; they always think things will work in their favour: We often spend considerable amount of time focusing on the negatives and are inherently pessimistic in nature. This often leads to wasting time on overthinking, worrying and sulking instead of taking action oriented approach which psychopaths usually opt for. They’ll never see a cloud but always a silver lining. A CEO who is always pessimistic would never have a sustainable vision for his company. So be optimistic and be proactive.
  2. Psychopaths don’t procrastinate: Psychopaths, unlike the normal population, do not believe in procrastinating. They are confident beings and will ensure that their confidence emits through their work. They tend to make quick and calculated decisions. This is an important characteristic not only for a sustainable corporate life but also for everyday life.
  3. Psychopaths are firm and assertive: So many of us find it difficult to say a simple NO when we don’t want to do something. Psychopaths usually disregard others’ feelings and continue to do as they please. They are able to do so as they are detached from their emotions. Imagine being a manager who has to fire an employee. By being a little detached the task becomes easier.
  4. They are Oh-So Charming: Psychopaths have this charisma about them which makes them inherently very persuasive and excellent conversationalists. This is an important trait when it comes to advancing in a profession such as sales and marketing.
  5. They are pretty cool under pressure: Psychopaths don’t lose their cool when faced with adverse situations. How many times have we panicked and lost our cool resulting in total chaos that we have no control? Very few people manage to perform well under pressure. This is possible for psychopaths as they don’t really have any real attachments and have no sense of loss. Take the profession of surgeons, they work in high pressure situations day in and day out but they always maintain composure. A surgeon when interviewed about this replied, “I have no compassion for those whom I operate on…. In the theater I am reborn: as a cold, heartless machine, totally at one with scalpel, drill and saw. When you’re cutting loose and cheating death high above the snowline of the brain, feelings aren’t fit for purpose. Emotion is entropy, and seriously bad for business. I’ve hunted it down to extinction over the years.”


Quite true, isn’t it? There is no place for feelings sometimes. Taking important decisions with heart instead of taking well calculated decisions with brain can lead to catastrophic consequences.

Think of these attributes in a sound equalizer. Tune up the attributes the ones which you need in order to excel in the situation and tone down the ones that don’t aid in achieving your potential. Treat these attributes like a switch. Turn it on when need be and turn it off when you don’t. That’s how you learn to use the psychopathic traits and attributes without turning into a psychopath. Because even Sherlock does take offence to anyone who calls him a psychopath.






About the Author:

Nidhi Malkan has studied psychology for 7 years with a specialisation in Industrial Psychology. She has conducted various training programs on Soft Skills and Grooming for students across all streams. She is currently working as a Product Manager – Content Strategist at InsideIIM.com.  When she’s not working she is reading.