The Creepy Speech Patterns That Can Help You Identify A Psychopath

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handsome man looking sinisterly at the camera

Can you learn how to spot a psychopath before you become a victim?

The term "psychopath" is often used to describe an individual who lacks empathy and is deceitful, manipulative, unemotional (not including uncharacteristic bouts of rage), morally depraved, and presents a blunted or shallow affect.

Psychopaths — or people who exhibit psychopathic tendencies — typically want to manipulate others, are very adept at identifying vulnerabilities, and superficially provide others with the things they may be lacking (like acceptance, flattery, and love).

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You can learn how to spot a potential psychopath by watching for these speech patters.

There are also some body language cues exhibited by psychopaths usually consists of exaggerated hand gestures and contoured facial expressions. They use these to try and convince the listener that what they're saying is true when it's not.

If you are perceptive enough, you may be able to watch for the body language cues and speech patterns that identify a potential psychopath.

Of course, there are other people who have unique speech patterns, a flat affect and unexpected facial expressions who are not psychopaths, so you will need more that these clues, but these are a great place to start when combined with certain dangerous personality traits. 

Psychopaths rarely show emotions — at least not genuine ones.

Studies show psychopaths usually speak in a controlled manner. They don't emphasize emotional words as other people do. Their tone remains fairly neutral throughout the conversation.

Although their affect is typically flat and their voice monotone, they will adjust the pitch to emphasize or convince someone else that they are being "genuine."

Hence, the interest displayed for others is superficial — it's a means to an end designed to gain the trust of another person.

The psychopath may appear cold and unemotional much of the time. However, when they determine that emotion is needed to persuade, trick, or deceive someone else, they can put on the superficial charm and act it out masterfully.

Emotions that are manufactured are often short-lived and quite shallow.

For example, a psychopath may show sadness when learning about the trials and tribulations of others, because they recognize that this is the response that's expected.

They may also show anger if they can intimidate someone or perceive a loss of control over the other person.

Notably, they don't really experience these emotions, they create them.

Most psychopaths lead a parasitic lifestyle and need to charm you to make that happen.

Like a parasite, a psychopath maintains sustained contact with their prey to the detriment of the host organism. They take full advantage of the kindness of others by depending on them to fulfill their needs.

The needs of a psychopath may include using another person to inflate or maintain their ego, financial gains, or gain access to other vulnerable people.

They use people to get whatever they can with no regard for how a person may feel.

Psychopaths lie to make themselves look good or appear superior to others.

Adult psychopaths usually display early psychopathic traits and behaviors in childhood that are usually not recognized or acknowledged until adulthood. They spend most of their life watching and mimicking the emotional responses and reactiveness of others.

This behavior is an attempt to convey something not felt or experienced. The non-verbal behavior of a psychopath is often so convincing — and distracting — that people don't recognize they are being deceived.

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Serial killers and known psychopaths such as Richard Ramirez, Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy, Charles Manson, and Dennis Rader have a lot of other things in common, not just the crimes they committed.

Upon watching several filmed interviews, it was clear to me that they all appeared like the guy next door, the person you were least likely to be afraid of.

They were all very intelligent, articulate, persuasive, and superficially charming.

All of the interviews included extended moments of piercing stares, periods of boredom, jerky head movements when they assumed they were not being believed, pitch changes in voice to punctuate a point, and distracting hand gestures.

The hand gestures, I believe, are performed to distract the listener from the things that are really being said and encourage them to pay attention to the action, not the words.

Every word spoken by the psychopath is spoken slowly, quietly, and deliberately.

Researchers and other mental health experts, such as myself, suspect that psychopaths craft a calm demeanor intentionally because it helps them gain more control over their personal interactions.

By remaining "calm," they are more likely to stay in control of any emotional reactiveness, like rage.

Psychopaths do not select their victims randomly; victims are selected deliberately.

Psychopaths, unlike most people, appear to have an ingrained "victim detector," which allows them to exploit those who appear more vulnerable. They often study a potential prey as one would study for an exam.

They will research the victim’s social information to manipulate those around them and have accurate insight into the other’s emotions. They are also able to accurately identify vulnerability and submissiveness using facial and body language cues.

For example, in a 1985 interview with the infamous serial killer, Ted Bundy, he claimed "that he could tell a victim by the way she walked down the street, the tilt of her head, the manner in which she carried herself."

Psychopathic murderers also differ in other ways of speaking.

Their verbal language is filled with disfluencies. Psychopaths may use phrases like "uh" or "umm" and have multiple breaks in communication or speech.

Compared with non-psychopaths, they make fewer references to social needs relating to family members as well as friends. The needs of others are not recognized or accepted by the psychopath, therefore they are distanced from this emotional landscape.

They also use more past-tense verbs in their narrative, suggesting a greater psychological and emotional detachment from the person or event.

For most people, attachments start to form during infancy, where they become attached to "objects" — often, these are parents and caregivers.

Psychopaths don't form attachments.

Therefore, it's unrealistic to believe that they can recognize or understand the social needs of others.

Individuals that don't recognize, understand, or respect the needs and emotions of others are incapable of tapping into an emotion they cannot experience, they can only mimic its outward appearance.

So, does this mean that someone who lacks empathy, is superficially charming, and has a disfluent way of speaking is immediately a psychopath?

Not always, but it's important to pay attention nonetheless because whether they're a psychopath or not, you need to protect yourself before you become a victim of their behavior.

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Dr. Tarra Bates-Duford is a psychologist who has engaged in extensive work and research on familial relationships, family trauma, and dysfunctions. To know more, visit Family Matters Counseling Group.