A psychopaths guide to conversation

If you live in the UK, or most places in the world for that matter, we have been in lockdown for what seems like forever. Finally things are looking up and restrictions seem to be easing. This means we are meeting people again. I went to my first party of the summer and I realised how difficult people were finding conversation (before the alcohol kicked in) so here are my top tips for conversation. If you are an introvert these tips will certainly help!. Remember; conversations = connection, connections lead to strong relationships and we (as much as we might like to pretend we aren’t) are social creatures and gain benefit from positive interactions. 

The basic premise is to say something, if you are faced with the choice of being quiet or starting that conversation, go for it, just say something. 

Obviously you are thinking “I don’t know what to say” and that my dear reader is rubbish. 

Have you ever had the following thoughts? 

Should I say “Thanks, have a great day” to the café staff as I’m walking out? Or should I just say nothing?

Should I say “Hi, how are you?” to the person who is next to me? Or should I stare at my feet?

Should I ask the taxi driver how his day has been? Or should I scroll through my social media feed?

How often do you choose to say nothing in situations like that?

Even if these interactions last just a few seconds before going back to silence, deciding to initiate them is psychologically better for you. Your brain will go, “Oh, maybe I should focus externally a bit more,” and your negative thoughts will decrease.

Take the leap and just say something!

If you’re introverted, expect to fail at this to start with. It’s totally fine, you will get better. Start slow and mess it up until you consistently get it right, then tackle the part. Improving conversation skills is a process.

You’ll notice your confidence increase with every step. You’ll genuinely feel more comfortable around people, more motivated to talk, and more willing to take bigger risks if you just open your mouth and do this, step by step.

Step 1: Make eye contact and smile. (difficult with masks at the moment)

Keep doing this with new people, and try new ways of doing it until you consistently get smiles back. Their smiles will make you feel more confident and will prepare you for the next step.

Step 2: Go out of your way to greet service staff.

Things like “Hi, how’s your day so far?” or “Thanks, that coffee was delicious,” etc.

Keep trying this in different ways until you consistently get friendly responses back. Their friendly responses will make you feel more comfortable with the next step.

Step 3: Improve conversation skills by saying “Hi” when walking past strangers in public.

Keep trying this until you’re comfortable doing it. Without worrying about whether or not you get a response.

Step 4: Make quick observations and verbalise them, to get out of the introvert mindset.

Like “Oh what a cute dog,” or “Cool shirt.”

You can end the conversation there. Keep trying this in different ways until the fear tapers off.

Step 5: Make a real effort to continue the initial conversation.

Just say anything at all after the initial introduction. Like “Where are you from?” or “What’s your dog’s name?” or “You look like you’re on your way to something important.”

You can end the conversation there. Keep trying this until you can consistently continue conversations beyond the initial introduction and get positive reactions.

If this sounds difficult to you, it means you probably haven’t worked your way to step 5 yet. Getting through steps 1-4 makes step 5 easier, and so on. Remember: improving conversation skills is a gradual process.

Step 6: Add something personal about yourself.

Like, “I want to get a dog one day. It’d be nice to have something to take care of.” Or “You know I usually avoid taking risks but I’m starting to wonder if I should change that.” Or “I love ‘x’ . I could talk about it for hours.”

Rather than trying to impress people, just show them who you really are, what you think and how you feel.

Step 7: Ask something that makes the other person think.

For example, “What made you decide to get into that?” or “Are you usually lucky or unlucky?”, or “What’s something your friends would say you’re great at?” Anything that they have to reflect on before answering.

Now you’re having a legitimate conversation. You’ve improved your conversation skills enough to genuinely connect with people.

Often the only thing you need to do is get the conversation started with a curious question, like lighting a fire, and they’ll keep it going for you. Keep trying this until people consistently open up to you.

Step 8: Improve conversation skills by listening.

Now that you’re less introverted and more skilled at conversation, you might want to talk more.

Just make sure you also give the other person space to talk. Focus on them and really try to understand who they are and what they’re talking about.

Step 9: Start a group conversation.

For example, “Where are you guys from?” on a walking tour, or “Did anyone see that thing in the news today?” with your co-workers, or “Does anyone know if Wonder Woman is a good movie?” on a plane.

Keep trying this until you can comfortably start a conversation with multiple people.

And of course do it without being the loud and obnoxious person who doesn’t know when to stop talking. Be aware of other people’s reactions and drop the conversation if no one seems interested. They’ll appreciate your social awareness.

Also make a habit of involving the quieter members of the group. Ask them for their thoughts and give them some attention, because they might just be waiting for an invitation to share.

Step 10: Organise events and invite people.

Get friends to bring other friends that you haven’t met yet.

Now you’re leading the social circle. Keep trying this in different ways until you get over your irrational fears.

You can’t improve conversation skills just by thinking. You have to talk to someone.

The only way to improve conversation skills is by DOING.

At this point the world is your oyster. You’re taking much bigger risks than you were when you started this whole thing because you’ve built a consistent habit of getting out of your head and saying SOMETHING.

Am I my trauma?

This post will be me at my most vulnerable, I will be exploring the possible reasons I am what I am. Some may find it difficult reading so please take care of yourselves and if it gets too much stop reading or get in touch if you want to talk. 

Regarding human behaviour there has always been a debate over nature vs nature. In my case; Are psychopaths born or created?  The research and evidence point towards early trauma has a major impact but there are some genetic predispositions. Let us start with the genetics:

From my father’s side, my father and his two sisters are ordinary, they possess no psychopathic or andesitic tendencies and have actually been very fortunate to have never suffered any form of ill mental health. However, this is a stark difference to my grandfather on my father’s side. Both my grandfather and his brother (my grand uncle) have psychopathic and narcissistic tendencies. They are self-absorbed, hateful and hurtful. They have both left pain and destruction in their wakes and at times I wonder what obligates my family to keep connections with them. It would be much healthier to cut them out. However, the fact that they are still part of the family gives me hope that whatever I may do I will not be abandoned or left out on my own. 

On my mother’s side it is a little more complicated, that branch of the family is littered with mental health conditions although none of them are problematic like psychopathy or narcissism. A sister has committed suicide, a sister suffers from psychotic breaks and other members have bipolar and schizophrenia. Depression affects most of them at some point. What does this mean? That I probably have a disposition towards bad mental health from both sets of parents and that means I was ripe material to have some sort of mental health issue regardless. This is where the environment comes in and trauma took the steering wheel and made me all that I am. 

The trauma starts from very early on. I was born at death’s door and very premature. Nearly three months early, which meant I was not properly developed (most likely including my brain). Being born early and very ill I was incubated. I was prodded with needles and attached to medical devices and my parents were not allowed to physically touch me, which we know is very important for babies and their early development.  I went without any physical touch for nearly four months and only had pain and discomfort as I was being kept alive. 

One would have hoped that is where the trauma ended and then maybe there was hope for redemption, to work past those early months and to heal into a healthy adult, however, unfortunately that was only the beginning. At age two we moved from home with people that I had bonded with in my early life to another country where we were pretty much alone without a wider support structure. This displacement was probably also traumatic to young me but if this move had never happened life may have been much easier. 

Wanting only the best for me a nanny was hired, I don’t think background checks were a thing back then – And I do blame my parents for what came next as it should have been their sole responsibility to keep me safe and they failed. From ages two to five (before we moved back to the UK) I was sexually abused by said nanny. Something no one should have to suffer or go through, especially a child. The fact that this happened probably imprinted in my young mind that no one could be trusted, and that people are dangerous, hurtful and of no use. That I would be better off without them. And maybe even got the message that hurting others is okay. 

Now physical/sexual abuse was not the only abuse I endured. Like I said my parents weren’t evil, but they had a warped sense of punishment. I will give you two interactions which highlight this. I was four and accused of breaking a cassette (showing my age). Despite my protests of innocence, that I still maintain to this day, I was punished but in an extreme way, I was made to strip naked, tied to a chair outside of the house and made to stay the night outside. Cruel and unusual punishment that no child should have to suffer regardless of guilt or innocence.

The second was when I was six. We had been invited to lunch by a family friend and I did not wish to attend. Being six I wanted to stay at home and do whatever I was doing, not go to some stuffy boring luncheon.  My father did not take the refusal kindly. Instead of doing whatever normal parents would do, he picked me up over his head and threw me onto a stone pit we have by our house repeatedly till I was black and blue and bleeding. It was so bad I completely shut down – I think it is dissociation? I know I said my parents were not bad or evil, but my barometer may be off, and they have gotten better with age and with my siblings. The other issue was that they were what you may describe as Victorian. Cold, no show of affection or talking about feelings and a strong importance on family structure and hierarchy. Not an overly loving household and where they simply provided you with the basics, food, shelter, clothes they had done their duty and demanded unflinching respect and dedication. Guilt tripping and emotional manipulation down to an art – No wonder I am so good at them. 

I am not writing this for sympathy or sorrow, I have dealt with my past and therapy has helped. I can tell this anecdote without a trace of emotion and normally with a smile on my face which people find odd given the trauma I have described. I am simply writing this so you can see how I may have become the way that I am, and you may avoid some of them if you ever have children. Looking back, it does seem I am my trauma, I am a psychopath forged in the flames of difficulty. No wonder my psychiatrist believes I developed it as a coping mechanism, a way to keep myself safe and pain free. However, it has come at a deep personal cost. There is always hope and a chance to be better and that is what I am striving towards!

Revealing my identity

I have been in talks with a TV producer regarding a program they want to create about psychopaths. Rarely are psychopaths diagnosed and most are incarcerated so I present a unique opportunity. An in-depth interview and exploration of my life. They also want me to have an on-screen conversation with a psychiatrist to talk about my diagnosis and what it really means. There are also ideas floating about of bringing on people who think they have met or been in relationships with possible psychopaths and for them to ask me questions and share their experiences. It comes across as a well thought out program and the producers and team that I have spoken to seem very understanding and open and I will have input in editing which is of paramount importance as I do not want what I say to be twisted and warped, to cast me as something that I am not. But there is one catch…

They want to unmask me, take away my cloak, expose me so to speak. They want me to be on camera as me; no anonymity, no sitting in a silhouette like a Hollywood villain, no voice changer. And that makes me uncomfortable. Very few people in the real world know of my diagnosis, my parents, my siblings, my psychiatrist and my therapist. Not even my best friend, who I have known forever. (Yes, I can have best friends – I have a previous post where I talk about friendships and how I view them).

In normal life, outside of this blog and my diagnosis, I am perfectly happy going on TV. A few years ago I was a current affairs consultant for several media organisations; BBC News UK, BBC International, Sky, Russian TV (RT Network) and Al-Jazeera to name a few. There was a point where I was either on TV, Radio or on a news website every other day and sometimes all in one day. I had ‘the being recognised in public’ and I much prefer the shadows. Admitting and exposing my diagnosis to the public would be detrimental to prospects. I am training to be a counsellor and my diagnosis would scare away clients. I have my own business and sit on several boards both charitable and business and this could bring them, wrongly, into disrepute, probably forcing me into resigning. And there is the fact that I advise some government departments and agencies. I can see the headlines already.  Then there are my family and friends, they would suffer because of proximity, even if they did not know. They may also be hurt that I never told them or asked their permission. Not that I would care, but by hurting them I would hurt myself and I do care about myself!

The alternative is this opportunity will present a platform to expose the myths surrounding people like me and my diagnosis. That we are people. That mental health conditions should not be categorised as “bad” or “good”. That there is hope of change, that therapy works in softening some of our edges. Like most things’ psychopathy is a spectrum and we all have some traits in varying degrees. It would harbour empathy and respect, provide information and increase knowledge and understanding. It may even bring closure to some. It would show I am not broken or unredeemable. There is hope, growth and fulfilment. 

As of yet I am undecided. Please share your thoughts, opinions and advice! 

Is loneliness liberating?

I met a friend for dinner recently, both of us being counselling students, the conversation turned to deep topics quickly. The topic of loneliness being one of them. Now, my friend on the surface, seems like an ideal candidate to have never experienced feelings of being alone. She is in a happy 10+ year relationship, has adoring children, a very supportive family and a wide circle of friends. 

She described herself as being trapped in a glass house, being able to view the world and the people in it but feeling trapped and not really part of it. There was an invisible transparent barrier that separated her from others. This led to feelings of disconnection and isolation. There was a void, an emptiness, an unfulfilled self. 

What was surprising about this confession was I had said the exact same thing, using pretty much the identical metaphor, to my therapist only a few weeks prior. I have always felt alone, different, unable to connect and have always put that down to the fact that I am a psychopath. But here was an “ordinary” person who felt exactly the same. And I think for the first time in my life I experienced natural empathy – something a psychopath has none of. (Maybe therapy is working!) 

Reflecting on this conversation, maybe every human experiences loneliness. I think there is a distinction in being alone and experiencing loneliness. Being alone, for me, suggests a comfort, a wholeness, that you are comfortable in your own company. Whereas being lonely is an isolation, a discomfort with your own thoughts and perceptions of self. One is healthy and the other is not. 

So why is loneliness liberating? Well, if we all experience it, regardless of background, it is universal. There is nothing “wrong” with us. It is a human condition, the price of being a person. And it may cause an existential crisis, but if we embrace our insignificance and accept at the end of the day we are, ourselves, is all that we have, we can find peace in that. For me it is the first time I feel “normal”,

As an endnote, I think the antithesis of loneliness is vulnerability. To be true and honest, to take a risk, with other people, and be truly, unapologetically you. This allows us to be ‘seen’ and ‘accepted’. But to be vulnerable is terrifying as it opens us to the possibility of hurt, betrayal and rejection. As I said it is a risk, but you will be better for taking the jump!

A blind man goes art shopping

 The idea seems quite preposterous, out there and even ridiculous. How can someone who cannot see enjoy a painting? And on that same train of thought even consider purchasing a piece? I admit it is an unusual endeavour, however, I have always wanted to buy and own an original artwork, to support an artist that I like and by buying from a local gallery supporting a small business. And as it goes up in my house, I will not be the only person to enjoy it, friends and visitors will also be able to admire the work. 

So how does a blin person pick the perfect piece? It happened in two stages, the first part consisted of voting five galleries and talking to the owners/staff about what I was looking for, the shape, size, style and price. They would then “show” me pieces that fit my criteria. This happened by mme standing in front of the paintings and the assistance describing to me what was on the canvas. I’m told art is a felt thing, so I also asked what emotions the paintings triggered. I have now compiled a list of paintings that I liked the sounds off and the ones that evoked the most passion and enthusiasm from the describer. 

The second step will be taking a sighted friend to view the paintings on my list. The friend I have in mind shares different tastes to myself so it will be an invaluable insight they provide, and I know I can trust them to be honest. And as it will be mostly visitors that “enjoy” the paintings it makes sense having a second opinion. 

I must say the service provided in each gallery I visited was excellent. They were not thrown off by the fact that I was blind and rather were quite enthused and did everything they could so the artwork was accessible. There was no hesitation in indulging me and describing and discussing each piece they thought met my criteria. 

Now my dear readers I am going to place below photos of some of the works are in the running to be brought, if you know anything about art or if you are like me and have no idea please feel free to let me know your thoughts and opinions – if any particularly catch your eye or if any even revolt you. After all, art is subjective!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Blogger Recognition Award

I think every week I consider giving up blogging as my life gets busier and busier From being a full time student, placements, running my own business full time, coping with losing my sight a few months ago and having an active social life I don’t know where to find the time and blogging seems the easiest thing to let go. However I was recently re-enthused by this nomination. A massive thank you to Valerie Rice from The Tiny Couch: Wellness for Al! Please go check out her awesome blog. I came across her first through her post on personality disorders, and as you my dear readers know I have been diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder, more commonly known as psychopathy. I was impressed by the non-judgemental tone and how well informed the article was. And that her blog in a nutshell, informative, non-judgmental and thought provoking. I would also recommend reading the mini-series on religious trauma – a topic rarely discussed.  

THE RULES

  • Thank the blogger that nominated you and give a link to their site
  • Do a post to show your award
  • Give a summary of how your blog started
  • Give two pieces of advice for any new bloggers
  • Select up to 15 other bloggers for this award
  • Let each nominee know you’ve nominated them and give a link to your post

How I Started?

My diagnosis is rare and unusual, filled with mystery and suspicion, I was also pursuing an intriguing and unusual career path for someone with my diagnosis. I am training to become a therapist. Given how different I am I decided to start a blog showing the world through my eyes. My hope is people will stop fearing us, and treat us people. Additionally, I know how manipulative we can be so I want people to be able to use my blog as a resource to ensure they are never trapped by people like me and if they are how they can be safe and disentangle themselves.

ADVICE FOR NEW BLOGGERS

  1. Be consistent; Keep on posting and try to stick to some sort of schedule, this is for your benefit and for your readers. If you know when you are going to post, you have a deadline and that will spur you to write.  It will also help with time management and organization and stop things getting out of control. It also allows your readers to know when you will post and they can have that as something to look forward to. 
  1. SOmetimes you may lack inspiration and are unsure of what to write and post; My advice here is to just write. Put pen to par fingers to keyboard and write. Give yourself a time limit for example 10 minutes and just keep writing. If you are stuck for a word keep writing the same word till you unblock. What you write could be complete nonsense but it will stir ideas and give you a rough piece of work that you can edit and polish. 

MY NOMINEES ARE…

Libby and Ed – A raw and powerful insight into the world of eating disorders and it’s struggle. The highs and lows and everything in between.

Unruly Neurons – A great blog on normalizing the struggles of anxiety and depression. An advocate for ending the stigma.

Death by Shyness – Spectacular photography, Real magic! 

Zoewiezoe – A big time blogger, with lots of followers and I can see why. Witty, insightful and sometimes (well a lot of times) quite mad. Always a great read filled with humor. 

Living with Depression – A journey through depression, honest and true, no filter – a true self. 

I am certain there are many others that deserve an award but I wanted to highlight a few that all post with some regularity. Apologies to any that I have missed. I love and appreciate all your content!

A Psychopath’s Guide to Interviews

Last week I wrote about my recent interview experience. Having interviewed many times and also having been successfully interviewed here are my top tips: 

  • Before the interview (or even before the application process) see if you get in touch with somebody who will be holding the interview and ask questions about the role, this shows initiative and you will be on their mind.
  • Research the company, role and if a name is given the interview
  • On the day of the interview be presentable and early (on time is the same as being late) r
  • Do not rush to answer a question, take a breath, if you have water, take a sip and then start answering the question
  • Do not lie and if you don’t know the answer be honest and say you don’t know., However, if you can demonstrate a time where you learnt a new skill quickly to show a willingness to learn and adapt do so.
  • At the end of the interview make sure you have a few questions to ask them, remember an interview should feel more like a conversation than an interrogation. 
  • A subtle, manipulative trick is to ask the interviewer if they think you have any gaps or if off the top of their heads they can think of any areas you are lacking in. If they say no, unconsciously, they will think to themselves this candidate had nothing lacking and therefore should be a good hire. If they do point out any deficiencies you can help alleviate any concerns.
  • And obviously be polite and courteous to everyone at all times 

Remember if you get to an interview stage they already like you, you just need to affirm that.

Interview

It has been several years since I have had an interview. Having my own business, I’m normally the one interviewing. However, I had an interview on Saturday for a counselling agency. It was split into two parts: an interview with three members and then a competency-based role play scenario. 

When it comes to counselling interviews the questions are a lot more personal than that of a normal job interview. They want to hear about the difficulties you have faced and what draws you to such a profession. It is not an interview based on strengths and weaknesses or why you chose that specific agency. 

Now I hate talking about myself, I avoid it and always try to re-direct, deflect or turn back to you any questions asked. A psychopath who wants to avoid detection will do that so as not to get caught in lies and initially to use that focus on you as a form of charm. However, those tactics do not always work in interviews. I had guessed accurately what sort of questions they would ask and like any other situation I came prepared with neatly crafted answers and stories. 

The role play was much harder, it is difficult for me to invest in something if I know it is fake. To me it seems pointless and a waste of my energy. I need authenticity to make things believable which is ironic as I am at most times pretty inauthentic. The role play was based on a lonely old woman who had a disagreement with her friend. The person playing the role did not try very hard at the acting and kept making mistakes and apologizing which made it even harder to take seriously. Luckily, I am great at acting out empathy and my counselling skills are excellent (if I do say so myself). Nevertheless, this was the part I had most concern over and it was half the interview. 

Well, I must have been quite convincing in both parts (and I have always interviewed well) as I got a phone call later on in the day congratulating me and offering me a position within the agency, which I readily accepted. It will not be long before I have more clients and I will be well on my way to completing the necessary placement hours to pass and graduate from my course. 

Asking for help

 I struggle to ask for help. I am big on independence and doing things yourself. It does not help that at times I am quite particular and if I ask for help people may do things in different ways and that bugs me. 

The other day I popped into a supermarket with the intention of buying one thing: Strawberries. Let me preface this by saying if I am offered help, I will accept it but I don’t like being the first person to ask. Now this supermarket is usually fantastic (shout out to M&S Foods for my British readers). You walk through the doors and there is a retail assistant to greet and help you. Being blind I make full use of this service. However, this time no one was at the entrance and so I decided to try shop by myself. I wandered around aimlessly for over ten minutes unable to see and locate the damn strawberries. I was getting increasingly annoyed and frustrated, yet I still could not ask for help. In my mind the issue became bigger than it was and I didn’t want to mistake a shopper for an assistant, which furthered my reluctance to ask for help. 

In the end I ended up using the app Be My Eyes, a brilliant app which connects blind people to sighted volunteers., to me it was asking for a different type of help as the volunteers have to sign up and so are there for me to use (it’s funny how our minds work and the warped logic we use). Something that should have taken me minutes took nearly half an hour and all the time and trouble I could have saved just by asking for help.

One of my biggest negatives of losing my sight is that I now have to ask for help and need to overcome my inhibitions of asking for it. Yet to me, asking for help, makes me weak and vulnerable. It highlights that I am now disabled, and I dislike that intensely. It is something I am going to have to get over very soon. Any tips on how to become more comfortable asking for help is much appreciated and most welcome! 

From prison to palace; A tale of Despots, CIA spies and Kidnaping

Rich people are eccentric and have strange hobbies and I fall under that category. Psychopaths love danger, have a need for adrenaline and are unafraid where normal people would be terrified. My unusual hobby is to visit dangerous countries, war zones and land where rights are barely a thought as most people are struggling just to survive. 

Libya around the time of the dictator Gadhafi’s final days., Tribal areas that were lawless and cities unsafe with battles between freedom fighters, government forces and militias trying to gain control. And the perfect opportunity for me to visit. A real civil war for me to witness first-hand! As I wanted my presence to remain unknown, I did illegally enter the country (Why would rules apply to someone like me?). 

A few days in where I was staying was raided by military forces and I was detained. Being a foreigner in such a turbulent time made me an easy target. I had only the month previously visited the states on business. My passport showed this visit via the visa stamp you get on arrival. I was accused of working for the CIA. I tried pointing out that it was a British passport they had found me with, but the sarcasm must have been lost in translation.  What followed next were several hours of interrogation, other than a barrage of questions and intimidation they treated me with respect and restraint. The language barriers did not help and me trying to explain my strange hobby fell on deaf ears. 

Finally, I was given access to a phone and I made a call. People like me are well connected and can be put in touch with pretty much anyone. Within the hour I was being made ready for release, that phone call however revealed who I was, how important and well connected I seemed, and they did joke (I hope) that they could keep me and demand money. Given the turbulent situation they could have taken real advantage of the opportunity I had presented them with. Interesting fact – I have, since the day I was born, kidnapping insurance; In the event I am kidnapped or taken hostage and a ransom demand is made the insurance company will playout. I am not sure if this dangerous situation I had placed myself would have constituted a release of funds.  

Luckily, I was released quickly into an awaiting car, which was unexpected. Being in a nice car chauffeured away from the holding place to an unknown destination. This is where you start to worry. A foreign country, in the middle of turmoil and you are being whisked away to an unknown place with no one explaining anything. Quite disorientating. Well, I did not have to wait long. Within a short space of time, I was passing military checkpoints and entering the royal residence. The Palace. 

I was made very welcome and was courted by government officials. This felt surreal as these were the same people that were currently giving orders to execute their own citizens so they could remain in power.  So why was I having tea with these people? Because they knew who I was. And wanted me to lobby the UK government into giving the support. I was way out of my depths; it is my grandfather and father that are tiled I am just an idiot looking for adventure. With many empty promises it was not long before I was given military escort to a private airport to an awaiting jet ready to take me home, to safety.

Have I learnt my lesson? Fuck no, since then I have continued my escapades and once this pandemic is over, I will continue onwards. After all these stories make great dinner party anecdotes and the pictures  make my Instagram look interesting – I am narcissistic after all.

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