There is an incredibly fine line between sociopathy & empathy. Some of you immediately grasp the truth of that sentence. The rest are aghast.
First, to the people who grasp it, I’m sorry. You either distrust anyone who is kind to you, imagining there is an angle, or you are a caregiver of some kind, & you know how you get when you’ve given too much.
To everyone else, here’s a quick run down of the surface characteristics of a sociopath & an empathetic person.
- Seek to soothe you by identifying with your issue & offering a solution.
- Are charming & engaging.
- Appear calm in a crisis, detached from chaos & pain to get things done.
- Move from one issue to the next without taking energy from the last one with them (let things go).
- Avoid conflict.
- Seek to soothe you by identifying with your issue.
- Engage you.
- Approach crisis and chaotic energy by matching it and appear to detach when things are done (let things go).
- Move from one issue to the next with no fluctuation in engagement.
- Avoid conflict.
These lists seem similar, & they are, but the subtle differences betray the motivation of the sociopathic and the empathetic. The main difference is that the sociopath is self centered, but the empathetic person is other centered.
The sociopath wants something from you. They have studied how normal people like to be received, & they have become masters at gaining your confidence. They’ve learned to be people persons exactly how we learned our times tables: by rote.
The empathetic person wants something for you. They have no idea how normal people work, either, because they feel best when the people around them are content. They can’t ignore pain, & they want it to end.
Frequently the sociopath is more attractive. They know there is a formula to making others feel important. They make themselves look like someone you want to know, & say things designed to make you feel special.
Empaths are usually unconcerned with appearance & have no idea how to be fake. They sometimes say very awkward things or delve into serious issues without the buffer of small talk. This is incredibly off putting to most humans, who devise a carefully constructed identity for the outer world. There’s nothing wrong with that; it is a survival technique. It’s also a technique the empathetic don’t often learn.
Why isn’t she being funny? you whinge in your head. Ok fine. Let me introduce you to two people.
Tom sees a young attractive woman typing furiously into her phone. He straightens his suit jacket collar & approaches her. “Wow, somebody fucked up.”
She looks up, huffy, then softens slightly at his well coiffed appearance & brushes an errant hair behind her ears. Still, how dare this weirdo interrupt her? “I’m sorry? Did you need something?”
He smiles, embarrassed. “Oh, no, I’m sorry. I noticed you from over there & you just looked so annoyed. I thought What kind of ignorant asshat would piss off this beautiful creature? And I admit I had to find out.”
She blinks up at him for a second and half smiles. “That’s an awful line.”
He rubs the back of his head and looks down, still smiling bashfully. “And you’re smarter than me, too.”
See?! Already half the women reading this are like OMG he sounds dreamy get me one & the men are like “That works?!” & my answer is “If you look like Tom Brady, yes. If you don’t, you will have to work slightly harder. But the technique is the same.”
This is still not funny, KJ. Where is the wackiness I pay good money to see here?
You pay nothing, so screw you. But I will give it to you anyway.
Terry (combonamed after his mother, Teresa, & his dad, Ryan, so his life already started out ridiculous) sees a young attractive woman typing furiously into her phone. He comes over and stands about three feet in front of her. “Hi.”
She looks up huffily, flits her eyes warily over his jacket and t-shirt, then goes back to her phone before saying “Hi.”
He continues to look at her. “Are you ok?”
She looks up again, confused and annoyed. “What?”
“Are you ok? You seem really upset.”
She glares at him & goes back to her phone. “My mother.”
“Ohhh. Is everything ok?”
She looks up. “Who are you?”
“I’m Terry. Your mother loves you. You guys just have a lot of baggage when you communicate. Ok, sorry to bother you. Bye.”
Terry is now either perceived as an intrusive creep (valid, as many Terrys would just secretly pray for this young woman’s happiness & go on with their lives), or as some sort of mystic angel, which he might be. A slovenly mystic angel at a bar, for some reason. But Tom is less likely to be perceived as a creep, because Tom plays the human game.
The human game has rules everybody knows, so they are more comfortable with it. Everybody plays a role & advances according to the dice rolled. People who are good at the human game tend to go pretty far. The unscrupulous ones know how to game the system to their benefit.
The angelic approach (there’s no game) is confusing and weird because it’s like the Spanish Inquisition: nobody expects it. Some people actually react hostilely to someone acting completely outside the rules of the Human Game, even when they are totally benevolent.
Here is your wacky analogy, jerk. You’re playing Clue with Tom & Terry. Tom shows you his cards with a reluctant, play-acted mortification. How dare you be figuring out what I have, his devious winky eyes say. Terry meanwhile is showing you extra cards and skipping his turn so you can go again.
Immediately register your reaction to Terry’s game play before scrolling down…
This is exactly how you are looking at Terry.
Terry isn’t being fun! You ask Terry “Bro, what the fuck are you doing?” and Terry says “I know it would make you so happy to win!” And you say “Bro, not this way. Not this way.”
And yet, he genuinely wants you to win. And it makes no sense.
Thank you for indulging me.
*Your angry comments will be mocked. In a loving way.
*Also this is why you hate empaths.