Imbi and I meandered around Lake Simcoe on Saturday on our way up to visit Bill and Cindy, great friends of ours who have a cottage on Go Home Lake in Muskoka. (This song particularly describes this location. I was the editor on this project where that song is featured…just in case you were asking.) Of course, only a small part of this information is pertinent to the post I’m prognosticating* upon here.
I met Bill when I was a stammering Grade Niner. He was a year older. (UPDATE: Apparently he still is a year older.) My home room teacher had urged me into a play (to help me overcome my stammer) and Bill had the lead role. (He was the villain in Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap.) I always thought Bill would be one of Canada’s great actors – he owned the stage whenever he was on it. Instead, he’s had a very successful career in upper management. (Perhaps his acting skills have come in handy.)
Whilst enjoying the gorgeous scenery of Go Home Lake, we talked about leadership. Both Bill and Cindy have done a lot of reading on leadership issues (for many reasons) and they highly recommended Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us, by Robert Hare. I’d already read about the book Hare had co-authored, Snakes in Suits in the comment section of Bob Sutton’s blog – where Sutton had heartily agreed that Snakes in Suits "is a very well-crafted and useful book."
Psychopaths are ruthless, cunning, and conscienceless egotists. They will sell out their own mother in their quest for power. And yet they are loved and admired by many. How can we reconcile this contradiction?
Babiak and Hare demonstrate that psychopaths are masters of adopting a "mask of sanity" (a term coined by Hervey Cleckley in his masterpiece, "The Mask of Sanity"); that is they are extremely effective at impression management. They are con artists who can fool even the experts, donning whatever persona is needed to manipulate their victims.
If you can be of value to the social striving of a subclinical psychopath, you can bet that he will convince you of his good intentions, his honour, his kind nature, etc. But it is a lie. He is simply using you.
Hare’s book, along with Martha Stout’s (The Sociopath Next Door), are probably the most accessible, easy-to-read introductions to the reality of psychopathy. Without Conscience is loaded with entertaining and disturbing accounts of researchers’ experiences with psychopaths. You can see almost first-hand the psychopath’s strange use of language, his total disregard for the truth, his absolute lack of guilt or conscience.
Hare debunks some of the myths of psychopathy, like the idea that it is the result of poor child rearing, and that it is the same as ‘antisocial personality disorder’.
Amazon tells me that both books have been shipped. They should arrive in the next few days (at our soon-to-be lived-in Toronto location) and I look forward to sharing some of the insights with you.
UPDATE: This post of mine from the end of July fits this topic rather well.
*I realize "prognosticating" was used incorrectly in the fourth sentence of this post – but I was going more for alliteration than clarity of understanding. Snakes freak me out, eh!