If you’re a follower of true crime, you may have heard the words “the dark triad” uttered in the past when characters or a narrator is describing the crime’s suspect. This mysterious phrase gives you that feeling that something sinister is about to pop out from the shadows like Voldemort or Darth Vader, the phrase itself a slick-sounding sum up of all things evil and scary.
In truth, the Dark Triad is a psychological term for a combination of three negative and sometimes overlapping personality traits: narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism. Let’s step away from any attachment to criminal behavior and talk about what those three traits are.
Narcissism – We’ve talked about Narcissism before on the blog. In brief, it describes someone with a high self-regard or a tendency to arrogance. Though in most people this personality trait is irritating at best, at worst it can lead the person to become emotionally abusive.
Psychopathy – Psychopaths lack empathy and remorse for their actions. While it’s not a true mental disorder, as one might think, psychopathy falls under the umbrella of antisocial personality disorder. These people tend to be charming but incapable of real emotion.
Machiavellianism – Another interestingly named trait, this one is named for 16th century Italian writer Niccolò Machiavelli whose book, The Prince, is considered an early primer on modern politics. This dark trait is characterized by manipulation and usually signifies a person who will do whatever it takes to achieve their goals, even if that means hurting others. Machiavellianism is usually tied to high intelligence and those with this trait tend to excel professionally.
Psychology Today sums it up well saying, “People with these traits tend to be callous and manipulative, willing to do or say practically anything to get their way. They have an inflated view of themselves and are often shameless about self-promotion. These individuals are likely to be impulsive and may engage in dangerous behavior—in some cases, even committing crimes—without any regard for how their actions affect others.”
How do you know if someone in your life (ahem, your boss, ahem) is susceptible to the Dark Triad? It’s difficult to truly know without a psychological evaluation and to top it off, people with these traits can be good at hiding their true nature.
Nevertheless, there is some hope to be had after all. (Because for every Voldemort, there’s a Harry Potter, right?) In direct contrast to the Dark Triad, there also exists what’s known as the Light Triad, a similar set of three – much nicer – personality traits. Those who fall under the Light Triad have a tendency towards humanism, faith in humanity, and Kantianism (never treating others as a means to your own end).