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Dark Triad: Everything You Need To Know

There are a plethora of personality traits that any one of us can exhibit. In order to keep track of all of them, psychologists have found clever ways to group similar character traits. One of such group is known as the Dark Triad.

The Dark Triad, as the name implies, is a subset of three personality traits. They are narcissism, machiavellianism and psychopathy. They are referred to as dark because they all exhibit, to some degree, malevolance and ability to harm others.

Individuals who exhibit these behavioural traits are often manipulative and selfish. Typically they have no problem harming other people to get what they want, and often have a self inflated ego. They tend to negatively affect their surroundings, and so are seen as less desirable people to have around you.

That being said, there are still many differences between individuals belonging to the Dark Triad personality group. Let’s explore what each personality trait entails, and then see how we can identify and deal with these people in a positive way!

Types Of Dark Triad Personality Traits


Narcissism of the most famous and well known personality traits out of the dark triad. Narcissistic personality disorder is defined as an individual who has a sense of superiority over others. They are often selfish individuals who see themselves as better than those around them. They lack empathy, and need to be the center of attention most of the time.

In the modern world, these individuals are finding success on many social media platforms, such as instagram. Narcissists are more concerned with how they appear to the world, than how their actual lives are going. Instagram influencers who are more worried about making sure that people know that they are helping the less fortunate, than actually caring about helping those in need are a perfect example of a modern day narcissist.

It is a common misconception that narcissist never make it far in life due to their anti social tendencies. This however is very far from the truth. Narcisssists can be found in any walk of life. They can be successful entrepreneurs, or criminals serving a life sentence in prison.

Often times a narcissist is motivationally driven to prove they are better than anyone else. This allows them to relentlessly pursue their goals, by whatever means necessary.

Narcissism is not a personality trait that comes and go. It can be found in every aspect of a persons life.

The biggest issue with narcissism lies in the difficulty to treat it. Since narcissists are so full of themselves, they very rarely will believe that anything going wrong in their life is a fault of their own. They are quick to shift the blame elsewhere, so it is hard to make them realize that it is in fact they who need to make a change.

Just like any other personality trait, we can exhibit varying degrees of “severity”. There is an entire spectrum in which someone could be. In turn there are several kinds of narcissism.

Let’s go over them in a little bit of detail.

1. Grandiose Narcissism

A grandiose narcissist is what everyone thinks of when they hear that someone is a narcissist. They are the kinds of people that will make sure that everyone knows that they are better anyone else. They are not shy at hiding this fact.

Unlike the other types of narcissism, a grandiose narcissist is 100% convinced they are superior to most. They are blind to their own weaknesses and shortcomings, and are quick to shift blame to anything but themselves when something in their lives goes wrong.

They are in constant need of admiration from others. Their exaggerated sense of self confidence can come with aggressive tendencies should they be confronted about their behavior. Some more tips on how to deal with a narcissist will be discussed a little bit further down in the article!

As I mentioned before, these individuals can be found anywhere in society. They can be some of the most successful people in life, or they can be struggling in life.

2. Malignant Narcissism

The malignant narcissist is the worst kind of narcissist you can run into. As the name suggests, they are closely associated with malevolance and harm. They lack empathy and morals to a greater extent that the other types of narcissism.

It is for this reason that they are more likely to inflict harm on other people, especially if that is required for a malignant narcissist to reach his or her goals. Not only that, but these individuals can get pleasure and satisfaction from hurting others. Hence they can be quite abusive in relationships, and should be dealt with quickly.

A classic example of a mailgnant narcissist can be found in a friend in university. Imagine you have a friend that hangs out with you a lot during exam periods. They are always asking you for help, to share your notes with them. Then once you have graduated, this “supposed” friend never talks to you again.

Of course you feel hurt becuase you realized they used you for their own gain. This shows a lack of empathy and ability to use someone for their own personal gain. A trademark narcissist!

3. Covert Narcissism

As the name implies, a covert narcissist can be incredibly hard to spot. They are adept at keeping a low profile, since they do not put an emphasis on being the center of attention. For a covert narcissist, the idea of superiority is much more of a belief than an outward behaviour.

For them it is irrelevant if other people know that they are superior to them, as long as they know it themselves. They are often times rather shy people, and are not what we think of when the word narcissist is used. Despite this, they still have a strong sense of superiority over others.

A typical thought or belief that they might have is that they are extremely talented at something. But their lack of success is because society and the people surrounding them simply do not recognize the narcissists brilliance.

This low self esteem paired with a pessimestic view of society can make it difficult to distinguish covert narcissism from depression. However there is a trick that allows you to spot the difference. When you talk about their issues, a covert narcissist will never put the blame with themselves. It is always somebody elses fault, never their own.

This is a character trait that a covert narcissist shares with all the other types, but it can help distinguish them from people suffering from depression.

4. Communal Narcissism

A communal narcissist puts specific emphasis on the validation part of a typical narcissist. Validation from other people, whether that be in real life or via social media, is their main goal in life. It is also this type of narcissism that is common amongst influencers on social media.

They are more concerned with how their life looks, then actually having a positive influence on this world. They will always post about their community service, but it is more important that people know they are doing community serivce than actually helping those people in need.

Often times you will feel a sense that these people think they are above those they are trying to help. It comes over as ungenuine and selfish.

Narcissism Test

If you are willing to take an online test to see whether you have some narcissistic qualities, you can find a link for that here!

If you wish to read in greater detail about the personality disorder of narcissism, please check out my dedicated article here!


Machiavellianism is a personality trait that is chracterized by manipulability, cunningness, and sheer determination to take advantage of other people for personal gain. These individuals tend to lie and be decietful, simply because they want to achieve a specific goals.

A machiavellian is typically characterized by the saying; ” achive my goals through any means necessary”. In the worst case, when they also lack empathy, they can really harm people if that is required to meet their needs.

They tend to be very goal oriented people, but will use whatever method necessary to achieve those goals.

Caution is advised when dealing with these people on a personal level. They will not hesistate to sacrifice your well being for their own gain!

The Best Way To Recognize A Machiavellian

They are not the best at showing emotions. It is typically hard for a machiavellian to show their emotions. When other people are having a great time in a fun situation, a machiavellian often shows some sort of disinterest. That being said, they do show superfial emotions when it suits ther needs.

Unlike narcissist, a machiavellian does not need to be the center of attention. Machiavellianism is more a talent for being able to manipulate people for personal gain than anything else. They do not necessarily believe that they are better than other people and don’t generally have a need to be center of attention.

Machiavellians have a talent for manipulation. It is a natural skill for manipluation that makes them so difficult to deal with in a social setting. You will never know whether they are genuinly nice, or if they are scheming and using you to achieve one of their personal goals. Often times when you first meet one you’ll have no idea they are a machiavellian. They come over as nice, sweet and charming. But sooner or later they will try to take advantage of you!

Machiavellianism Test

If you are interested in knowing whether you have some machiavellian qualities, then you can do a quick test here.

If you wish to read more about machiavellianism in depth, then please check out my article here!


Psychopathy, considered to be the darkest of the dark traid group, is often related with a severe lack of empathy and morals. It is known to cause more harm to other people than either narcissists or machiavellians.

This lack of feeling for the well being of others allows psychopaths to be highly manipulative and deceitful people. They have no problem seriously harming someone else to get their way.

While it might seem like it is easy to spot someone like this, psychopathy is known to be an incredibly hard personality trait to recognize. Often times they seem completely normal, but deep down they are always plotting and scheming. Their lack of morals can often cause them to commit crimes, but this is not always the case.

As I mentioned before, the exact behavioural traits that manifest can variety widely from individual to individual. Some may be successful entrepreneurs, whilst others may have commited murder. There are many ways psychopathy can manifest itself in a person.

Common Psychopathic Traits

The most common psychopathic traits are antisocial behaviour. These are the actions that harm other people without any consideration for their feelings. Classic examples might be to play excessively loud music, vandalism, reckless driving and many other types of behaviours that are inconsiderate to the well being of others.

A total lack of guilt and empathy is another common trait. The severity of this trait is often times what allows psychopaths to do so much damage to society.

While a strange one, psychopaths can appear to be very charmful and nice people. But once you are in the way of a psychopath, you are in a dangerous spot.

How To Spot A Psychopath

If someone displays an absolute lack of empathy, you might be dealing with a psychopath. Note that this does not only apply to humans. Psychopaths will have no probelm harming animals as well. I am sure we are all familiar with the overused movie plot where the kid starts off by harming animals and turns into a serial killer later in the movie. But this is in fact very psychopathic behaviour!

Psychopaths will often times display fewer emotions that normal. Most of the time they will display very little emotions. They will be disinterested in activities that would generally be fun for most of us. That being said, when it suits their needs, they will superficially display the correct emotions. Remember that they are willing to do whatever they need to get what they want!

They are known for seeing rules and laws as mere suggestions. Often times these rules and laws are seen as holding them back. They will ignore rules if it suits their needs, as they think they are above the law. They will have no trouble breaking traffic laws if it suits their needs. Paired with their lack of empathy, this can often have disastrous consequences!

Is There A Psychopathy Test?

There are several clinical tests you can undergo that will determine what psychopathic traits you harbour in your personality. I have not made a test myself, as that should be left up to the experts that deal with these traits on a professional level.

That being said, if you are willing to test yourself, you can find a test via this link here!

Final Thoughts

The dark triad personality groups can be quite destruvtive if you are in an environment where indivduals exhibit those traits. Sometimes we can remove ourselves from those environments. We chose different friends, or break up with that toxic partner.

Sometimes however, we are stuck in those places. Our boss or work colleagues might be narcissists, machiavellians or even psychopaths. Not all of us are in a situation to simply leave. If you want to know how to deal with these dark personalities, then make sure you check out my most recent posts and archived articles for a dedicated guide to spotting and dealing with such individuals.

If you yourself suffer from these personalities, make sure you try your best to unlearn your most negative traits!

I hope you were able to learn something from reading this article, and I wish you all the best on your journey through life. Until next time!

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