There’s one in every crowd. They are the difficult people who have no idea that they are annoying. They may be unaware that others want to avoid them, or make excuses to get away from them. No one is perfect, but some people are less perfect than others. Let’s sort out quirks, flaws and fatal flaws.
My brother, who is a really great guy, has a quirk. He has been going to Subway Restaurant and ordering the same exact sandwich for eleven years. Since 2006 he has ordered a 6″ ham and turkey sandwich on wheat bread with pepper jack cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickle, onion, jalapeno, light mayonnaise, mustard, oil, vinegar, seasoned with salt, pepper and oregano. Being quirky is “weird” in an endearing way. My brother is just weird enough to be interesting and intriguing but not weird enough to repel. We all have quirks. You can ask him what mine are.
Flaws on the other hand are deficiencies in a person that are perceived as negative. Examples of a flaw may be frequently interrupting someone, chronic tardiness, or having a hot temper. Some people are flawed with personality disorders. A personality disorder is a “deeply ingrained and maladaptive pattern of behavior of a specified kind, typically manifest by the time one reaches adolescence and causing long-term difficulties in personal relationships or functioning in society.” Many people with personality disorders seek and benefit from treatment.
According to Stuart C. Yudofsky, MD, fatal flaws come from people who are unwilling to acknowledge their personality problems or are unable to change their damaging behaviors. These people may have other attractive qualities and may be in our lives. They may even hold positions of power and influence.
Yudofsky addresses personality disorders in his book Fatal Flaws. He says fatal flaws are brain-based dysfunctions of thinking and impulse that lead to persistent patterns of personality and behavior that betray trust and destroy relationships. His book examines eight personality disorders that often lead to violated trust, broken commitments, dangerous behaviors, and destructive relationships. These disorders are histrionic, narcissistic, antisocial, obsessive-compulsive, paranoid, borderline, schizotypal, and addictive personality disorders. These traits can leave a trail of wreckage. Some of these flaws, like narcissism and antisocial types, will never respond to treatment. They don’t perceive themselves as having flaws.
He states that what makes a flaw “fatal” is if one or more of the following is true (taken from Yudofsky’s book):
1. The person with the flaw does not perceive that he or she has a problem.
2. The person with the flaw does not want to change.
3. The nature of the flaw is such that it is not amenable to correction.
4. The nature of the flaw is such that there is the probability of future physical harm occurring to you, to your child, or to others.
5. The nature of the flaw is such that there is the probability of violations of the law by the individual with the flaw.
6. The nature of the flaw is such that there is the probability that the person with the flaw will involve you in the breaking of the law.
It is important to understand the difference between quirks, flaws and fatal flaws. If you notice someone has a quirk, enjoy it. If you notice someone’s flaws, be forgiving. If there is a threat of serious injury from someone with a fatal flaw, protect yourself.