Q.  I perceive I’m being taken advantage of by a CEO and part-time romantic relationship who travels a lot. Recently I identified an untruth in one of our conversations. What type of a brain tells a bare-faced lie and expects to get away with it? And how do I deal with this? I really love this person.

A. For starters, hone your Emotional Intelligence, or EQ. Pay attention to what others actually do rather than just to what they tell you they will do. They may mean well but not care enough to follow through or they may say almost anything in an attempt to manipulate you to their ends or they may have some antisocial characteristics. Brains that are antisocial, sociopathic, or psychopathic (terms tend to be confusing and can overlap) often exhibit low to non-existent levels of empathy and conscience. It can be tricky to identify these types of brains because they are often quite charismatic and will tell you almost anything, promise almost anything, to get their way and keep you in their clutches. Repeated excuses, frequent forgetting, and rationalizations are major clues.

Some estimate that twenty percent of prisoners fall into these categories. Outside of jail, estimates range from one to five percent of the general population. Interestingly, the profession said to have the most psychopaths is that of CEO. According to Eric Barker (Barking Up the Wrong Tree), some psychopathic traits are more common in CEO’s than in mentally disturbed criminals.Martha Stout PhD (The Sociopath Next Door) suggests that using the “Rule of Three” can help you identify honest human mistakes from manipulative behaviors. One lie, one broken promise, or one neglected responsibility may be a genuine mistake or misunderstanding. Two of these is a signal to pay closer attention. When you identify three of these instances, especially lies, there is a high likelihood that you are dealing with conscienceless and non-empathetic behavior.

My own personal boundaries prompt me to run the other direction from these types of behaviors. Any brain who thinks so little of me as to lie, break promises, manipulate, and fail to follow through with responsibilities or promises is a brain I choose to avoid and one I monitor very carefully when some interaction is required.