Confusion over common courtesy, typical use of language, and purposeful misrepresentations
If you find yourself in conversations that come down to common courtesy, common understanding of language, or purposeful misrepresentations (especially if the language used creates a misunderstanding but is not an outright lie), get out, and get out fast. Sociopaths are masters of:
- word salad
- playing games with semantics
- planting distracting misinterpretations of events
- purposefully misleading.
The result is that you get tied up in knots just trying to agree upon the basic facts or “normal” human behavior. This is a warning sign! Most people want to communicate effectively and resolve conflict. But sociopaths often do not share these goals.
Here’s an example that is another version of the “conversation” from last week
You: I thought you said you were going to stop by the store on the way back from work and pick up some milk. Remember, I texted that we needed milk. And you texted back that you’d stop at the store on your way home.
Sociopath: I texted that I’d stop at the store, but I never said I’d get milk. We don’t really need it anyway, right?
You: Of course, I thought if you knew we needed milk and you said you’d stop by the store that you’d get milk.
Sociopath: I got bagels. If you wanted me to get milk, you really needed to communicate more clearly. I never said I’d pick up milk.
You: I guess I just assumed—
Sociopath: You do that all the time, make assumptions and expect me to read your mind and then try to make me feel bad that I can’t read your mind. It’s really upsetting.
You: I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you. I just thought . . . And what am I going to have for breakfast tomorrow? Did you get extra bagels?
Sociopath: Yes, but I didn’t know you’d want any, since you usually have cereal for breakfast, so I only got plain bagels. You only eat whole wheat, right?
You: I guess I could have a plain bagel.
Sociopath: But since you don’t like plain bagels, I only got two. I ate one in the car and left the other for my breakfast tomorrow.
Sociopaths want to get you spinning in circles and want you in their “debt”
Get the picture? It’s all purposeful to get you spinning around in circles, distressed, and in the sociopath’s debt, because you messed up due to your unclear communication. You really need to work on that! Also, sociopaths are masters at getting you to agree to dismiss or discount your own very valid needs—like wanting milk on your cereal and wanting a mutually respectful and mutually helpful relationship.
If conversations like this feel all too familiar, do not invest time to “talk about it” or “work on the relationship.” This is what the sociopath wants—another opportunity to spin you in circles, confuse you, point out your failings, and make you feel in their debt. Of course, make sure you can do it safely, but once you can, simply get out.
This and other subtle red flags are listed in my book Narcissists, Sociopaths & Wolves (just click on the cover).
Identifying names, places, events, characteristics, etc. that I discuss here and in my books have been altered to protect the identity of everyone involved.