You want to believe in the best of everyone, give people a second chance, and take them at their word, right? So it isn’t easy to do the opposite. But with some people, that’s what you have to do.
Read more: Are your alarm bells ringing?
We’ve only lately come to recognise the damage that bullies cause and even more recently to understand their relationship to the sociopath (those with ‘antisocial personality disorder’). Both terms are often misunderstood: bullies are generally thought of as loud, aggressive, and rude, while we imagine sociopaths to be those more extreme characters we see in the movies or on the news. Some are like this. But only a few. The rest are less noticeable – and more successful.
It’s estimated that around one in 25 people is a sociopath. Many of these are in positions of power but by no means all. You will know some. They could be friends, family members, colleagues or your boss.
It’s challenging to identify a sociopath. Contrary to common thinking, they usually hide behind a charming mask. They know how to manipulate their way into lives, hearts, minds, purses and positions of power. They bully subtly through coercion. They have no conscience, no empathy, and no moral compass. They fool people. If you express doubts about them, others will likely not believe you.
If your alarm bells ring, listen to them. Whoever they’re ringing about.
If your alarm bells ring about someone, only get further involved once you’ve had time to observe them, if that’s possible. Sociopaths tend to give themselves away before too long. And you’ll recognise the red flags once you know what behaviour to look out for.
If you’re already involved with one, you must take steps to protect yourself, depending on your situation. You might be dealing with a bully at work. Or a personal relationship that seemed so sweet has started to feel threatening. Maybe you realise that an old friend has always manipulated you. Or you’re seeing a therapist who you feel uncomfortable about. The sociopath is likely to make it hard for you to extract yourself from the relationship; they need to be in control. Be warned; they don’t play by common sense or decency rules.
The antidote to this extreme kind of behaviour is trusting yourself:
- Trust your intuition.
- Trust that events happen as you experience them, not as someone else interprets them.
- Trust your assessment of someone – not what others tell you you should think.
- Trust that someone is as they are, not as you would like or hope them to be.
The sociopath will use all your best, most human qualities against you – your conscience, the desire to give people a second chance, an instinct to help, a sense of connection to others, and your belief in the essential goodness of human beings.
What are the best ways to protect yourself? Please do some research into sociopathic behaviour so that you can recognise it. And listen to your alarm bells when they ring! Remember, trust yourself.
Received wisdom says that good people give others a 2nd chance.
This seems reasonable – doesn’t it?
I watched a film the other day called Buck – maybe you’ve seen it? It contains a powerful lesson about how to make genuine change.
Read more: How To Change Behaviour For Real
It’s a documentary about Buck Brannaman, the real-life horse whisperer. There are several threads within the story, and the one I want to share is Buck’s inspiring approach to changing behaviour.
Buck travels the USA, giving clinics to “horses with people problems.” He transforms the behaviour of these horses in a matter of moments. He goes entirely against the grain of the accepted way of horse breaking – that is, imposing the human’s will upon it until it complies. Instead, he treats them with respect and uses gentle persuasion. Within minutes the horse drops its defensive behaviour.
The resistance is gone.
The horse can be itself.
Then, instead of the human dictating its behaviour, the horse is happy to be guided. And, together, human and horse dance.
As I watched, it brought to mind how we’re too often ‘trained’ or educated. The ways that we’re frequently ‘broken in’ or socialised.
Learning is a natural, enjoyable, thrilling part of being human, yet it seems to have become a chore. Too often, the teacher, trainer or coach will dominate us, infantilise us, or force us to behave in ways that satisfy them. And we’ll comply to get the star, the grade, the promotion.
As is shown in the movie, many trainers think this is the only way to make a change. Others are afraid that their students will become unruly if they don’t come from this angle.
Others enjoy the power.
But, as Buck’s horses elegantly demonstrate, there is another way.
If you’re going through any change programme, make sure you have a ‘Buck’ type guiding you.
You’ll recognise them because they won’t impose their will, they don’t let you know just how great they are, and they’ll guide you to change for yourself, towards yourself.
How often do you say this?
“I’d love to do that, but I just don’t have the time.”
Isn’t it strange? Our (western) world is crammed with every conceivable convenience, designed to make our lives easier, to free us up to do the things we love. Yet we still frequently cite lack of time as a reason for not doing something.
Would you like more time? If so, here’s a way to get some.
Barrier Breakers Foundation believes we must re-think our education system for equality to become a reality. We need to move away from the mechanistic ‘teaching to the test’ approach and towards an education system where soft skills are embedded in every learning experience.
Soft skills are the traits and abilities of attitude and behaviour rather than knowledge or technical aptitude.
Soft skills – such as communication, leadership, confidence, motivation, self-awareness, creativity, and teamwork – are increasingly recognised as key to enterprise, entrepreneurship, and leadership.
‘Soft skills are an asset that neither employers nor employees can ignore.’ James Caan CBE
Soft skills are becoming critical determinants of survival in the face of current challenges. They are the skills we need to adapt successfully to a globalised, rapidly changing, unpredictable environment.
However, there’s a massive soft skills gap, particularly affecting young people.
While soft skills are essential to workplace success and personal wellbeing, their value extends even further.
Do we want an education system that develops the individual, encourages questioning, reflection, and a curious mind, creating a lust for lifelong learning and bringing about social mobility and equality? If so, then education policy needs to recognise and prioritise soft skills fully.
Soft skills open our eyes to reality. They give us the strength to change things for the better, and they provide us with the resilience that making change demands.
There is evidence that this new kind of education would have dramatic benefits, not only for the young people concerned but also for society.
Graham Allen’s report, Early Intervention: The Next Steps, detailed “the immense penalties to society and to the individual of failing to provide a strong foundation of social and emotional capabilities early in life.”
If we care about equality, we must support all young people by putting soft skills at the heart of education.
Education is still relentlessly focused on preparing young people to pass exams. But this approach ignores the skills employers are now looking for, the skills that allow young people to navigate rapid, constant change effectively, the skills that encourage imagination, creativity, and innovation, and the skills that will develop an individual’s wellbeing and success.
Back in 2015, Dr Anthony Seldon spoke out about his belief that state schools have much to learn from the private sector, which is far better at preparing students not just with good grades but with “a grounding in soft skills.”
He recognised that state schools are “the victim of forces that compel them to focus on a narrow range of exam teaching.”
We’ve worked in soft skills development for almost 20 years, from when businesses saw them as nice-to-have, fluffy add-ons – and were consequently they were never addressed. Things have changed! But while awareness has grown, the problems produced by a lack of soft skills are becoming ever more apparent and pressing.
Is enough being done at a government policy level?
Not in our opinion.
Young people are setting off into the world of work without the necessary skills.
And they may not even be aware of this – not until they try to find a job!