People Who Seem “Kind” But Are Actually Psychopaths Display These 4 Subtle Behaviors

Full-fledged psychopathy is rare, but some level of psychopathic traits is estimated to be present in 30% of the adult population by researchers. Here are four subtle signs someone may have psychopathic traits that you may mistake as just “kindness,” according to an expert and researcher specializing in narcissism and psychopathy.

They are superficially charming and glib, yet you catch them in many lies and opposing behaviors that contradict their seeming charm.

One of the most arresting traits of a psychopathic person is just how charming they are! People who’ve been swindled by psychopathic con artists or even violent predators note that this charm seems almost supernatural, and they feel overtaken by the psychopath’s magnetism. In reality, the reason psychopaths are so charming is that they lack affective empathy for others, and if they fall into the less impulsive subtype of psychopathy (known as primary psychopathy), they also have diminished fear and a lack of a startle response to dangerous situations. For example, for the average joe, it can be nerve-wracking to approach a stranger and flirt with them ostensibly in a way that draws the person’s attention. For a psychopath, it’s second nature. Unfortunately, such charm is often contradicted by the lies these types tell, which can be uncovered as you begin to note the discrepancies between what they say, the false promises they make, and their actual pattern of behaviors. You must resist the psychopath’s charm to stay grounded in the reality of these discrepancies. When dating someone new, become a “fact-checker” and investigator. Pause before taking anything anyone says at face value.  For example, if a date tells you they are looking to get married and have children but seems to be sexually forward in a way that doesn’t align with the organic pace of someone wanting to get to know you, or a friend tells you they support your success but seems to go out of their way to sabotage you out of envy, take it as a red flag that their behavior contradicts their word. It can be tempting to take people at their word, especially if you are an honest, empathic, and transparent person yourself projecting these qualities onto others around you, but let the behavior of others speak for itself.

In the beginning, they love-bomb you and make generous grand gestures to hook you. Once you’re sufficiently invested or they fulfill a hidden agenda, they may mistreat you and become emotionally stingy or backtrack on their promises.

The psychopathic person is a parasitic individual, leeching off the resources of others, and they target you for a purpose: to gain access to whatever it is you have that they covet or want. This could be money, consistent sex, material resources, talents or skill sets, connections, emotional labor, “eye candy” on their arm, domestic labor, a way to continue their “legacy” through childbearing or even a house to live in. Some dupe their targets into romantic relationships solely so they can give off the image of normalcy. Whatever their hidden motives and agendas may be, they have to love bomb you first with generous gestures and future-faking promises to ensure you are willing to invest in them and center them. They have to present themselves as a kind, thoughtful person who wants the best for you, when in reality, they plan to do whatever is best for them. Once you’re sufficiently hooked however, you may find that this person starts backtracking on promises they once made and becoming stingy and even rageful should you try to get them to fulfill their “half” of the implicit “agreements” you both have made in the relationship.

They show you great empathy and sympathy when necessary to maintain your relationship, but when there’s nothing in it for them, they couldn’t care less.

Psychopathic and narcissistic individuals possess cognitive empathy, which means they know to identify what others may be feeling and thinking. But they lack affective empathy and the remorse to genuinely care about the feelings of others unless it benefits them in some way. You may notice that this person appears incredibly generous and kind at first and seems to sympathize with your plights and problems in the beginning, and even go out of their way to shower you with solutions to all your problems, especially if this maintains your relationship and your relationship benefits them in some way. For example, a psychopath who is looking for a place to live may go out of their way to lure you into a relationship and fast-forward intimacy so you can live together. They may praise you 24/7, go out of their way to give you gifts, take you out on romantic dates, pick up groceries or run errands for you, and maintain excessive contact with you during the time they’re “seducing” you into this scam. However, once they’ve fulfilled their hidden agenda or have gotten you invested in the relationship, they begin to drop any act of affection and attention and show a cold callousness that seems to be an abrupt departure from the kind and generous person you thought you knew.

They engage in behavior that seems harmful and inappropriate but are filled with pity ploys.

You may notice a psychopathic person engaging in activities that seem harmful to others on a regular basis, yet they seem to come up with numerous excuses when called out, while creating an image of themselves as a kind and generous person. For example, perhaps you notice them relying on the labor of others and stealing ideas from their friends to become successful, but when you mention this, they begin staging a Shakespearean monologue about how stressful it is to work so hard, thus depicting themselves as an overwhelmed person who had no other resort but to exploit others. Or maybe they’ve asked you for a loan they promised they would give back, but whenever you ask about being paid back, they start telling a sob story about how difficult the economy is, and how they appreciate “true friends” like you who don’t expect anything back. Perhaps a dating partner talks about how their exes had numerous restraining orders against them, but that’s only because their exes were “crazy,” and they were forced to endure numerous relationships with such “unstable” people, painting themselves as the kind, gentle partner who is always targeted. Be wary. Remember: Ted Bundy first lured his victims into “helping” him by pretending to be injured. If pity ploys and excuses always seem to follow this person wherever they go as they play the smallest violin at their one-man or one-woman show, this is likely a person allergic to accountability. Whether they are psychopathic or not, they are not someone who is emotionally mature enough to own up to behavior that is harmful or toxic, and this likely won’t end up being a compatible relationship or friendship.

About the author

Shahida Arabi

Shahida is a graduate of Harvard University and Columbia University. She is a published researcher and author of Power: Surviving and Thriving After Narcissistic Abuse and Breaking Trauma Bonds with Narcissists and Psychopaths. Her books have been translated into 16+ languages all over the world. Her work has been featured on Salon, HuffPost, Inc., Bustle, Psychology Today, Healthline, VICE, NYDaily News and more. For more inspiration and insight on manipulation and red flags, follow her on Instagram here.