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Several recent sources have reported that incivility is on the rise. A JAP study found bullying occurs in part because people don’t care. This lackadaisical attitude can escalate into more threatening aspects of uncivil behavior, such as verbal and physical aggression.  

So commonplace has rudeness become that we are now witness to individuals being arrested for shoutingAnger management has been prescribed as an antidote to verbal violence.

If harasser explosiveness is symptomatic of more ingrained personality traits, then perhaps something more drastic than coursework is necessary. An extreme on the lack of empathy is sociopathy, described by the following actions: 

According to The New York Times, “Americans either envy their neighbor” [The Millionaire Next Door] “or fear them” [The Sociopath Next Door]. Sociopaths have been suggested to comprise approximately four percent of the adult population. They are conscienceless souls who (1) care little for their impact on other people; (2) believe they have divine right to do as they please, and (3) become hostile to anyone who dares stand in their way.

They do not consider other people’s wishes, welfare, or rights,” and have “little regard for the feelings and welfare of others.” Konzier suggests we should “never engage this person in verbal combat, as he is not a rational human being.”

One of the reasons we are seeing a rise in sociopathic behavior is that people simply don’t wish to tangle with the explosive, dishonest, and accusatory. Sociopaths conduct themselves in a manner that is mystifying to other people, seeming to not know any better; they possess a juvenile, adolescent approach to life that places them at center stage. People who wear blinders are unaware of how they’re coming across.

Although you may not know a dyed in the wool sociopath, you may be familiar with people who display some of their tendencies. Unless we as a society take steps to combat incivility (and to enact laws which thwart outright aggression), we’ll see more of the same – a rise in narcissistic behavior that tramples other people.

Action will enlighten sociopaths by force, and create a kinder, gentler populace. Bullying education is a type of “political jujitsu,” an attempt to use bullies’ strengths against them. In their attempt to be the prima donna, sociopaths simply don’t see things that are obvious to other people. The misfortune is that they only back down when they see you are willing to retaliate.

Start where you are. What can you do to participate in the fight against incivility, and to aid those who are in the trenches?

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All viewpoints expressed by Jackie Gilbert are her own, and not of her employer.

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One Response
  1. Dr. Gilbert,
    Thank you for sharing this information. I have to question the four percent adult sociopath figure in our population. I personally feel that number to be much higher but don’t see a way for accurately measuring this. Regardless, the fact remains that sociopaths are real, and they do present problems in our society. Innocent or unsuspecting victims often fall prey to a sociopath or their actions without realizing until it’s too late. It would pay for everyone to become familiar with the aspects of sociopathic behavior to learn what they can do to help themselves and to help others in dealing with it when confronted.

  2. Charles Barnett on April 29th, 2012 at 11:48 am