Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Dr. Robert Hare: Expert on the Psychopath

When They Get Close

In the final chapter of Without Conscience, Hare offers a survival guide.  He also allows those who run discussion groups about their experiences to link to his Web site (

Cognizant of the fact that there are few formal survivor groups for victims of psychopathsalthough there are several chat groups onlinehe believes that people need to know what to do to protect themselves in the event they find themselves involved or associated with a psychopath.  Among his steps are the following:

  • Try not to be influenced by "props" the winning smile, the promises, the fast talk, and the gifts meant to deflect you from the manipulation and exploitation that may be occurring.  "Any of these characteristics," he writes, "can have enormous sleight-of-hand value, serving to distract you from the individual's real message."  Close your eyes, look away and concentrate on what's really going on.
  • Don't wear blinkers Anyone who seems too perfect, is likely far from it.  Psychopaths hide their dark sides until they get their target person deeply involved.  Too much flattery, feigned kindness, and cracks in grandiose stories should provide clues and put you on your guard.  Make reasonable inquiries.
  • Know yourself or you might be vulnerable at your blind spots.  Psychopaths know how to find and use your triggers, so the more you realize what you tend to fall for, the more closely you can guard against manipulation.
  • Set firm ground rules, and thus avoid some power struggles that you can't win.  Psychopaths tend to like control, so if the rules are unclear or weak, they'll take advantage.  Be clear, and establish and maintain firm boundaries.
  • If necessary, get professional advice.  Too often people wonder if they're just seeing something that's not real, or they dismiss the lies because they don't know what else to do.  Listening to an expert may not only support their suspicions but provide a way out.

Hare admits that even he, with all his experience, can still be dupedat least temporarily--by a psychopath.  "In short interactions," he says, "anyone can be duped."

In a related publication, Hare notes, "We must find ways of studying psychopaths in the community if we are ever to provide some relief for their victimswhich is to say, all of us." 

The best way to protect yourself is to know what you're dealing with.

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