The Economist explains that sociopathic tendencies offer opportunity for advancement in contemporary society, and disturbingly points out that economists view sociopathy as the “correct” way to behave. Here’s the self-help guide with tips from M.E. Thomas, a law professor and sociopath:
Assess costs and benefits. Sociopaths, says Ms. Thomas, “are incredibly sensitive to incentive structures and actively consider both actual costs and opportunity costs in their decision-making” (unlike the rest of us, to the disappointment of most economists). “I have always lived in the worst neighborhoods,” Ms Thomas writes. “Rent is cheap and I figure there’s no need for me to pay a safety premium if I have health insurance.”
Disregard unspoken rules. After being hired at an elite law firm, Ms. Thomas exploited her company’s “non-existent” vacation policy by taking long weekends and lengthy vacations abroad. “People were implicitly expected not to take vacations, but I had my own lifelong policy of following only explicit rules, and then only because they’re easiest to prove against me,” she explains. How to apply to your own life: Ignore “suggested donation” pleas at museums, always help yourself to more food and drinks at dinner parties and recline your seat all the way back when flying.
Be prepared. Ms. Thomas’s opportunism applies to the social as much as the professional realm. “I have learned that it is important always to have a catalogue of at least five personal stories of varying length in order to avoid the impulse to shoehorn unrelated titbits into existing conversations,” she writes. “Social-event management feels very much like classroom or jury management to me; it’s all about allowing me to present myself to my own best advantage.”
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