The Emotional and Interpersonal Aspect of “Glibness and Superficial Charm”


The Emotional and Interpersonal Aspect of “Glibness and Superficial Charm”

When it comes to understanding psychopathy, I think it is important for any therapist or victim to understand the key symptoms found in Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist (PCL-R). Hare lists twenty items to describe his model of psychopathy; however, this article looks at one of the emotional and interpersonal aspects (i.e. the narcissists glibness and superficial charm). According to Cleckley, psychopaths come across as having a superficial charm and good intelligence, both of which makes them quite likable.  When you think about it, these are quite lethal combinations. Unfortunately, when their charming approach does not work for them, they are likely to utilise both covert and overt intimidation.


When we speak of psychopaths as being glib or superficial, we are referring to the insincere and superficial charm they use to acquire a victim’s trust to con them.  Where they appear to be charming, in reality they are covertly hostile and domineering, and see their victims as a means of personal gain.

Their charm makes them appear to be great listeners. They do this to simulate empathy while zeroing in on their targets’ dreams and vulnerabilities in order to be able to manipulate them later. These high end pathological narcissists are masters of seduction, both figuratively and literally, and that makes them seem more charming and more interesting than most normal people (Stout). These traits render them to appear smooth, engaging, talkative, loquacious, charming and slick to the onlooker (Hare).  Of course, some of these individuals may lay on the charm far too thickly, making their delivery somewhat unconvincing.

However, for the most part, the slicker psychopaths have refined their charm down to an art form, and they pride themselves on their talent of the deception of others.   Psychopaths use their glib and superficial charm with the intention of being evasive, deflect emotion, or conceal their lack of emotional depth from others.

This psychopathic charm is not in the least shy or self-conscious, which results in the psychopath being unafraid to say anything if it helps their cause. They are articulate conversationalists with the “gift of the gab”, and therefore capable of spinning outrageously witty, convincing stories. They are very amusing, entertaining and believable, not to mention very likable.  They go on the “charm offensive” by emphasizing their charisma or trustworthiness and turn on their superficial smile for totally disarming and seducing victims.  It is often said that they can beguile even the wariest individuals and trap them in their web of deception Furthermore, pathological narcissists use their charm for getting information. Information is power to the psychopath, so the more they know about you, the more potential they have for gaining power over you.

Psychopaths have an extremely low self-consciousness, and it is this “lacking” that sets them free from the normal restraints of social and emotional impediments experienced by the general population. This means that they are more likely to present themselves well; they come across readily comfortable and relaxed when talking with other people, giving them a natural flair for putting others at ease. They typically like to present themselves as experts on many subjects in order to appear very interesting and knowledgeable.  However, they are generally not able to take any subject very far, but it does not seem to matter to them if they are found out as a fraud. They deliver compliments and flattery with confidence, which manages to seduce and win most people over. Even though their tall stories should be unbelievable, somehow, they have a knack of pulling the wool over the eyes of intelligent people who seem to fall for their stories.

Another striking feature of psychopaths is that they have low-level feelings of vulnerability, which leads to them becoming somewhat fearless.  It is this fearlessness that makes them prone to engage in high risk activities that are a part of Hare’s checklist, such as conning, crime, drugs, robbing, rape, etc. The effectiveness of these behaviours has to do with the skills of the psychopath, as well as the ability of the person perceiving the behaviour to recognise deception. But the vast majority of victims fall for the con after they have fallen for the psychopath’s superficial smile. Unfortunately, the psychopath’s charm reflects a devious demeanour that is slick and insincere, giving them an animal magnetism.   This is why it is so important for everybody to understand how these individuals operate in public so that we can mount our own defence against their charm, seduction and manipulations.

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Christine is a Psychotherapist, Educator, Author and Supervisor of mental health professionals for over 28 years. She was part of a team in the Trauma Unit of St. Brendan’s Psychiatric Hospital, Dublin, and has worked specifically with victims of pathological narcissistic abuse in her private practice for many years.
Her books, “The Three Faces of Evil: Unmasking the Full Spectrum of Narcissistic Abuse” and “When Shame Begets Shame: How Narcissists hurt and shame their victims” set out to to help those who have been affected by a narcissist and also to address the shortfalls in a therapist’s education, so that they become better equipped to work with survivors of narcissistic abuse.Much of her knowledge has come from her post-grad studies in Criminology and Forensic Psychology, and it is through these disciplines that she has gained her understanding of “The Dark Triad”, (Narcissism, Machiavellianism and Psychopathy).
These three faces of evil are vital information for understanding the full spectrum of narcissistic abuse and the dire effects on the victims.It is her vision that narcissistic abuse becomes part of the curriculum of all Mental Health clinicians.
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