If you’ve ever been tempted to do an online personality quiz you’ll know that when it comes to our psychology, we love a buzzword or two. Although we may not identify with the words ourselves, we constantly throw around labels like ‘narcissist’ and ‘psychopath’ in vain attempts to rationalise the behaviour of others around us.
But many of us don’t know that these labels – along with Machiavellianism – form three related personality traits, known as the dark triad.
These personality sub-types are present throughout popular culture: think Joe Goldberg in You; Don Draper in Mad Men; Villanelle in Killing Eve; Lucifer in Lucifer; Jonathon in The Undoing; and so many more. All these characters’ personalities have some aspect of narcissism, psychopathy, or Machiavellianism. But what do these words really mean?
Dr. Nilufar Ahmed, a Psychotherapist and Psychologist at the University of Bristol, explains that these traits are associated with the ‘darker’ side of our personalities: “Narcissism often exhibits as a sense of entitlement or gross self importance; psychopathology presents as being callous towards others and cynical about people; and Machiavellianism is associated with deception and exploitation.”
Here’s everything you need to know about the dark triad personality:
How do you know if you’ve got a dark triad personality?
According to Dr. Nilufar, we all have elements of these negative characteristics, whether it’s being selfish or deceptive (who hasn’t pulled a cheeky sickie once in a while?). However, for those with a dark triad personality type, these characteristics are usually expressed in more serious ways:
“Crucially there is a lack of guilt or remorse about behaviours and consequences, and a lack of empathy for others. The only person that matters to someone with a dark triad personality is themselves.”
“At first meeting they can come across as high achievers who are exceptionally flattering and charming, and this is how they see themselves. So are you someone who will always use others to ensure you get ahead? Do you feel guilt or remorse when someone fares badly because of something you did? If you don’t, perhaps you have something of this personality.”
What should you do if you’ve got a dark triad personality?
“It is unlikely someone with a dark triad personality will recognise they have this personality. If you have this type of personality, the traits work together to convince you that you are charming and clever and there is nothing wrong with you – the problem is with people, and they need to see things from your perspective.
“If you are concerned that you have some of these traits and they are affecting your relationships with others, or your performance at work or study, it might be helpful to keep a journal and document your day to day activities.”
Dr. Nilufar recommends asking yourself the following questions:
- Was someone upset after an interaction with you?
- Are you frustrated by others – what is it specifically that that bothers you?
- What is your preferred outcome for situations – are you always favouring yourself or do you want mutually positive outcomes?