Fisher Mediation
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The Dark Triad

A narcissist, a psychopath and a Machiavellian walk into a bar. The bartender asks, “Who has the darkest personality out of the three? The Narcissist says ‘me’, the Psychopath says, ‘I don’t care’ and the Mach says ‘it’s whoever I want it to be’.”1

The Dark Triad represents the most prominent, socially aversive personalities, psychopathy, narcissism and Machiavellianism, characterized by a common underlying deficit in empathy and their reaction to threats. All three are highly adaptive in interpersonal relationships in order to avoid detection. Having multiple tactics reduces detectability.2

Narcissists are characterized by

  • Extreme preoccupation with themselves and need constant attention and admiration
  • Complete disregard for the needs of others and lack empathy
  • Sense of entitlement
  • Portray themselves as victims and do not accept responsibility
  • Responds, at times aggressively, to threats to their ego and grandiose self image, i.e. a personal insult

Psychopaths are characterized by

  • Exploitation and intimidation of people and may be violent
  • NO compassion. NO remorse
  • Failure to take responsibility for their actions
  • Pathological lying and conning
  • Responds, at times violently, to physical provocation with aggression, does not care about inflicting pain. May be aggressive even when not provoked

Machiavellians are characterized by

  • Money and power are more important than relationships
  • Exploits and manipulates others to achieve their own agenda
  • Lie and deceive when necessary
  • Avoidance of commitment and emotional attachments
  • Capacity to harm others to achieve their own goals

Psychopaths react aggressively to physical threat. Narcissists react to ego threat.3 Machs are deliberate and cautious as to how they react and respond since they don’t give into temptation as easily.4

When your client or opposing counsel is an aggressive bully you might be dealing with a psychopath. When the client or opposing attorney is extremely arrogant you might be dealing with a narcissist. When you are out maneuvered by opposing counsel you may be dealing with a Mach’s manipulations.5

Be alert, and perhaps on guard, to who you might be dealing with. Understand and manage them and yourself.

  1. Raj Chopra, (2013) “A Narcissist, a Psychopath and a Machiavellian Walk into a Bar…” Psychometrics Forum Blog.
  2. Jonason and Webster, (2012) “A protean approach to social influence: Dark Triad personalities and social influence tactics”, Personality and Individual Differences
  3. Jones & Palhaus, 2010, “Different provocations trigger aggression in narcissists and psychopaths”. Social Psychological and Personality Science.
  4. Williams, Nathanson & Paulhus, 2010, “Identifying and profiling scholastic cheaters…” Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied.
  5. Raj Chopra, (2013) “A Narcissist, a Psychopath and a Machiavellian Walk into a Bar…” Psychometrics Forum Blog.