Tuesday, January 15, 2008


I posed a question to my brother the other night. Why, I asked, do people so readily admire the qualities of confidence, certainty, decisiveness, and charm in others? These could be good qualities, but they could just as easily be the typical traits of a sociopath. A sociopath is confident and certain because he has a delusional sense of his own superiority; he is decisive because he is impulsive and reckless, and doesn't care about the consequences of his actions; and he is charming because he is a natural liar who tells people whatever they want to hear. So these traits actually ought to be red flags that make us suspicious, certainly not things to instantly admire.

Why then, don't people instead prefer the type of person who says, "I'm not 100% certain, but from the information we have now, it seems like A is our best option. We also need a plan B in case it turns out that was wrong. And let's keep an open mind so that as new information comes in and the situation changes, we can take that into account and improve our understanding."

"Because," my brother replied, "that type of thinking gives most people the heebie-jeebies."

I think that says a lot about our world.


LeesMyth said...

Well, most people are NOT psychopaths. And when non-psychopaths are confident, certain and decisive, it's usually because they have a pretty good idea what they're doing, or they have good information or a good plan, etc. So it's usually a pretty good sign!

As for charm...that has to do with being able to say and do things to make a situation light-hearted and put other people at their ease. That skill is (in and of itself) morally neutral, rather than a sign of someone you should necessarily trust or distrust. But obviously it is more pleasant to be around charming people.

m said...

Sociopaths are a lot harder to detect than psychopaths. Sociopaths are much more troublesome! Psychopaths crumble and reveal themselves much sooner, sheesh.

Also, why isn't goofy on the list of traits to swoon over? Goofy is underrated.

Charm should be inadvertent and accidental. It's only premeditated if you're the above-mentioned sociopath.

The only traits I require are honesty and humility. Beyond that, my dealbreakers are purely superficial. If I catch you smoking , throwing away large amounts of recyclables, or at a Wal-Mart....you're out. This topic makes me giggle.