Most people want to be successful, and some are equipped for success without doing any work. Their social skills drastically exceed their other skills, abilities or experience. They have no compunctions about lying to make themselves sound better or to further their own ambitions.
There is one key task for remarkable success, acclaim, money and power without having to do any of the hard work: networking. Get to know the right people and convince them to share their own influence, cash and connections. But how do you benefit from your own charm when you have no need for scruples, empathy or real hard work? If you do it right, you can get in early, promise everything, get cash up front, and blame someone else when it all goes tits up. There are five important tips for the ambitious and aspirational sociopath:
- Image is everything. Everyone knows no one is perfect, so if you appear perfect you can capitalize on others’ insecurities. When people are admiring you they won’t realize that award-winningly bleached toothy smile of optimism is concealing a shameless lie. Buy a car and a wardrobe that is out of your price range, and flash the logos at every opportunity. People will think your success is earned.
- Lean heavily on others’ accomplishments. You are busy talking the good talk, and promoting yourself. You may not make any time to get things done. Use the royal plural, and overgenerous pronouns to imply “we” accomplished a great deal. “Our team was extraordinarily successful”. It does not matter that you were rarely or never involved. Charm your way into successful groups, impress people with your success, even if you contribute little more than flattery.
- Flattery is everything. People like people who make them feel good. Compliments, flattery and praise should be your holy (and only) trinity of skills. They get your foot in the door when you need something; flattery and simpering will keep you from getting into too much trouble when you make a mess.
- Promise more than you can deliver, for cash up front. You are a busy person, so cannot always be expected to deliver what you promise. You however, are the most important person in every room, so always make sure people pay you (whether in cash, favors, or work) right up front. Promise whatever it takes to get what you want: if you’ve forgotten to finish something, other people have probably forgotten they wanted it.
- Identify a scapegoat early. There is someone in every group who is just a bit unlikeable, unpopular, or can’t keep up with the power politics. Figure out who this person is early on, and drop a few hints at odd intervals. Set them up to take the blame before anything goes wrong.
Of course, these tips can lead to short-term success, but are equally likely to lead to a spectacular crash and burn in the long run. But not to worry, if you’re an intelligent sociopath you’ll probably avoid prison, and can talk your way back into positions of power and influence. To learn how to avoid sociopaths and others likely to derail, High Potential: How to Spot, Manage and Develop Talented People at Work is available Spring 2014. The book identifies what to look for in someone who is likely to fail or derail at work.