Not many of us outside Hollywood have met the actual Harvey Weinstein, or those on the growing list of alleged harassers - but most of us have met someone like them. Perhaps we've been a target, who escaped (or not)... or we thought it was a 'relationship', albeit an illusion. Or are we one of their valued ‘witnesses’, reeling off a list of good-works that this charming, decent man or woman has done, vital for the preservation and elevation of their reputation?
For the Weinsteins around us, reputation is all-important. There’s huge variety, all down to their personal preference as to how they’ll come across. Is he the cuddly family guy, the cruel managing director, the intimidating gang-member?
Here are five warning signs that someone in your life might be a narcissistic predator:
1) Changing behaviour depending on the audience
Perception management is his greatest tool, vital to feed his supply in these dangerous, sometimes lethal games of power and control. In company, does he exaggerate or bend the truth to make himself look better? Do facts get fudged? He will do whatever it takes to further his own interest at others' expense. He loves getting one over on someone. If he elicits sympathy from you he’s setting you up for further down the line. If he says his ex spent all his money, you may become supremely conscious of paying your way or being extra generous while he spends nothing. Predator, one – you, zero.
2) A lack of empathy or conscience
He doesn’t mind or even gets a buzz from bad things happening to others. Nothing is ever his fault. Now we know, it’s easy to spot, right? Nope - these people hide in plain sight and can display differently to each person. One problem if we have a conscience is that we assume the same of others. Assume nothing and keep safe.
3) They are the perfect partner or boss - at first
Did he listen with ‘genuine’ concern, even say he’s a feminist? Was he invaluable, a shoulder to cry on or put up much-needed shelves? This sets you up to feel indebted, beholden. The perp is reading you and deciding which ‘group’ you fit into. If you’re useful as an enabler to boost his image he may decide to always seem ‘perfect’. Alleged perpetrator Kevin Spacey, who played a fantastic psychopath in the film Seven, also helped numerous charities. Being seen doing ‘good works’ is reputationally essential. For the Weinstein next-door, maybe he’ll help an elderly man across the road or appear great with children or animals. For someone with no compassion he’s an expert at manipulating yours.
4) You might justify this person's behaviour
Do you make excuses? “He’s stressed, had a long day, been hurt in the past.” Seriously, who hasn’t? Rewind. Just before you search for an excuse, an important thing happens. Your gut instinct spots trouble and tries to help you, but I’ve learned we sometimes discount that, instead prioritising the perpetrators interests. Security specialist Gavin de Becker’s book The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence teaches us to rely more on that instinct.
5) Lies, lies, and more lies
To a predatory narcissist, everyone is prey. Their relationships are an illusion and don’t involve true connection as they’re profoundly detached. Depending which category he puts you in, he’ll use a particular strategy, display different traits and choose which lies to use. You may notice him say something ‘out of character,’ which jars with who you’ve believed he is. Or perhaps there’s a sinister laugh or grin, so tiny you nearly miss it, when something bad happens to someone. It’s heart-breaking to depend on predators for careers or to put food on the table - it’s all about power and control, and needs dependency for it to ‘work’.
Unfortunately most research has been on prison inmates. It’s said that one percent of us are sociopaths - but it could be much higher. You probably know at least one. To their target-victims they eventually stop apologising, knowing they’ll still get away with it, their secrets kept.
The power of manipulation by perception management cannot be underestimated - this toxic system works by deception. To give insight into how a target gets caught up, I show in the book Toxic No More how they might see things at the time, having the precise view-point the perp wants them to have. For the Weinstein next door, their downfall comes when people speak out – do please join the conversation here. The truth will set you free.
For a list of resources http://www.sorecs.org