What Are the Dark Triad Traits and How to Spot Them in Someone You Know

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dark triad

The term Dark Triad may seem like words out of a crime novel.

However, they refer to personality traits that make people magnets for conflict and disagreement.

These negative qualities are a concern because they destroy relationships and compromise overall well-being.

The good news is that there are saving graces. If people in your life have such traits, help them boost their strengths and play down their weaknesses. It is worth the effort because your relationships with them will improve.

What are Dark Triad characteristics? Most importantly, how would you cope if someone you know has them?

What is the Dark Triad?

The Dark Triad refers to three negative personality traits that are different, yet related. These are Narcissism, Machiavellianism, and Psychopathy. Having them makes a person difficult to manage.

1. Narcissism

First of all is Narcissism. This term came about because of the Greek myth of Narcissus, a young man who fell in love with his reflection after looking at himself in a pond of water. He became so engrossed in it that he fell into the water and drowned.

Consequently, narcissism has become synonymous with unhealthy self-love. Narcissists are prideful, lack empathy for others and have a low tolerance for criticism. Narcissists have no qualms about manipulating others for their gain. They also put others down. What is noteworthy is that people are narcissistic to different degrees.

2. Machiavellianism

16th-century Italian diplomat, Niccolo Machiavelli gets the credit for the term ‘Machiavellianism.’ It came about because critics felt that his book ‘The Prince,’ condoned cunning, deceit, and self-interest. The book said that these qualities were necessary for political gain.

Therefore, people with such traits take lying to new heights. They have no morals or feelings for others.

3. Psychopathy

Those with psychopathic traits have no feelings for others. Because they have no remorse, they show anti-social behaviors. Many of them are explosive and controlling.

Note that having these qualities does not make a person a psychopath. Psychopaths are criminals. Though those with psychopathic qualities are unpredictable, they are not necessarily criminals.

A study shows that Dark Triad traits are not hereditary but due to environmental factors.

Those who have the Dark Triad tend to show behaviors that blend the worst of the three worlds. They have many relationships, often behind their partners’ backs. They are also aggressive.

How Would You Know That Someone Has the Dark Triad?

The first step to coping with someone who has the Dark Triad is to recognize its signs. Because they are complex, psychologists are still trying to understand them.

They used to measure each quality separately, but there is now an easier way to spot them. The Dirty Dozen Scale, created by psychology professors Dr. Peter Jonason and Gregory Webster, shows if a person has the Dark Triad.

  1. I manipulate others.
  2. I lie to others.
  3. I flatter others.
  4. I use others for my gain.
  5. I lack remorse.
  6. I am not concerned about the morality of my actions.
  7. I am mean and insensitive.
  8. I am a cynical person.
  9. I need the admiration of others.
  10. I crave attention.
  11. I want favors from others.
  12. I seek status and prestige.

After answering the questions, psychologists would rate a person with a score of 12 to 84. Therefore, the higher the score, the greater the possibility of having the Dark Triad.

How to Deal with People with Dark Triad Traits

How would you escape the clutches of a person with the Dark Triad? There is no easy way to go about it. However, there are steps you can take to reduce their negativity.

First of all, people with these qualities have difficulty managing their anger. Those with psychopathic traits, for example, are bad-tempered. At work, their anger may show in passive-aggressive behaviors like ignoring people or sulking. It is important not to take the behavior personally because it is often not about you.

Also, take some time to listen to their concerns and counsel them about their behavior. Stand your ground. If they are bullies, confront them and hold them responsible.

Another way you can cope with such characters is to avoid contact whenever possible. Use emails if you need to get in touch with them. People with the Dark Triad are often charming. Experts suggest that they rely on their looks to get their way.

For one study, researchers told 200 Canadian University students to negotiate for concert tickets, with the aim of earning as much money as possible. Those who had Dark Triad traits were more successful at face-to-face negotiations.

The Dark Triad, in conclusion, can ruin relationships. You can cope with it if you recognize it. Being assertive and savvy also helps.

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Michelle L.

Michelle is a freelance writer who loves all things about life. She has a broad range of interests that include literature, history, philosophy, human relationships, and psychology. When she is not busy writing her heart out, you will find her tinkering jazz tunes on her piano. She loves anything that helps her to grow as a person, including her pet terriers, Misty and Cloudy.




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What Are the Dark Triad Traits and How to Spot Them in Someone You Know