“Dangerous Personalities” by Joe Navarro
In Chapter 3 of the Diplomatic Planner, we go through exercises to recognise difficult people that are in your life and how to manage toxic relationships. When it comes to creating harmony at work, sometimes we have no choice but to work with and for people who do not align with our personal ethics, way of doing things, or way of thinking. Under such circumstances, how do you operate in the best way possible knowing that your Ambassador, head of State, Head of Department, whatever the case may be, start to become dangerous and very difficult to work with? At Grassroot Diplomat, we believe that having a firm grasp of personalities and nonverbal communication are essential tools of diplomacy, one that may be undermined in formal training.
That is why we recommend the book “Dangerous Personalities” by Joe Navarro in support of Chapter 3 “Enhancing Emotional Intelligence” of the Diplomatic Planner. Navarro is described as a body language expert who has been studying non-verbal behaviour for the past 45 years and worked in the FBI catching spies. It is estimated that as much as 80% of our interaction with others is through non-verbal communication or body language, and such cues are driven by our subconscious mind. Nonverbal communication are important indications of what we are thinking and how we are feeling. Knowing these cues in ourselves and others can be a crucial skill in international relations, particularly when working closely with others from cultures different from ours.
Throughout his book, Navarro offers us a guide to the dark side of the human psyche and looks into the minds of some of the world’s most dangerous people. He does a fantastic job at exploring the kinds of personalities that have taken the lives of many and had the biggest toll on society. Here are some of the warning signs that Navarro offers as part of his nonverbal communications training.
Spotting dangerous people is rarely straightforward. There is no black and white evil versus good scenario like in Cinderella and various pop culture examples. However, being armed with knowledge to reduce your chance of being under threat can be lifesaving for you and others around you. The first example of a classic personality trait is narcissists. From the author’s point of view, narcissists believe that they are above the law, exempt from society’s laws and therefore can lie, cheat, and even kill to serve their best interests. Think of how diplomatic immunity may shield diplomats from narcissistic behaviour. Look out for certain signs of arrogance. Society often benefits from big ideas, but when they come from a narcissistic mind, only they will be benefiting from the end result. Do they want to spread good or keep good for themselves? Try to figure their underlying motives and intentions. There are two other narcissistic traits Navarro points out: superiority and lack of empathy. Narcissists only see a friend as someone to be exploited for further gains rather than anything that is mutual and wholesome.
Navarro also asks us to consider who fall under the ‘emotionally unstable’ category who tend to fear abandonment and therefore cause harm to seek attention. Such individuals are unpredictable and may swing hard between experiencing an ecstatic high to feeling victimised. They have a tremendous need to be loved but little ability to maintain a healthy relationship. The author has referenced them as “wound collectors” whereby they collect every opportunity where they have been mistreated which may be used as future ammunition. These personality traits are commonly found in cults so their neediness can be indulged and provided with a structure that normal society cannot. They also seek attention through impulsive and reckless behaviour, which sometimes can include sexual exploitation.
On the other hand, paranoid personalities see others as a threat which can sometimes lead to hatred and violence. We naturally have in-built warning systems designed to alert us of danger. However, anyone suffering from paranoia have this trigger system cranked up to the extreme, picking up threat from all sides. Navarro offers a few tips on how to spot people with paranoia disorder, including relentlessly monitoring the words and actions of others, finding signs of malicious intent, or irrational fears. A famous case of paranoia personalities was President Richard Nixon who was unable to confide in anyone and adding a list of people he considered enemies. They are very selective on what they believe to be true and strong together evidence from unconnected events to validate their actions. Accordingly, the author suggests that paranoia is what fueled Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf which strung together 2,000 years worth of grievances against the Jews. Paranoia can also convince people to join extremist hate groups that fear the ‘other’.
One final personality trait to cover in this short review is the predatory personality which is said to be the most dangerous. Anyone with this trait are noted to be troubles and will have no conscience when it comes to their actions. They are indifferent to the harm they cause and will appear to be cold and remorseless. The author references the famous case of Josef Fritzl, the Austrian father who imprisoned his daughter in his cellar for 24 years, siring seven of her children. When interviewed about his action, Fritzl seemed unaware that anything he was doing was wrong or immoral and was in his daughter’s best interest to save her from herself. Predatory personalities are cold and detached in their speech and mannerism, and are said to use words as a tool of manipulation and coercion.
As mentioned early on, it is not easy to categorise personalities and it may be even more dangerous to assign someone a dangerous personality based on assumptions, misconceptions, stereotypes or lack of information. For example, Joseph Stalin displayed multi traits of dangerous personalities from the narcissistic desire for validation to extreme paranoia of his military staff and their loyalties towards him, resulting in approximately 30 million people being killed.
As a final caveat, Navarro provides us with a practical guide on how we can best protect ourselves by being aware, strategic and understanding of people’s intent. Keep a sharp eye on the time and pay close attention to your location. As a former FBI agent, Navarro advises us that the highest rates of violence occur between 8pm and 2am, so if these times are unavoidable for you to be indoors, plan ahead. Predators seek to control your mind, body, feelings and money, but they need to be close in order to do so. In situations where you taking out money in a public safe, make sure no-one is trying to get too close to you. Also be awareness of anyone that is trying to be too nice as their intentions may not be honourable. Try to determine someone’s intentions before you let your guard down. Set strong boundaries, remain firm and keep your distance. Be open to share your concerns with someone and have people check in with you to verify where you are, particularly if it is a place that you are unfamiliar with. Be prepared and more informed than you were ten minutes ago and stay vigilant, not paranoid, to determine if something is a threat.
“Dangerous Personalities” is recommended for the purposes of the Diplomatic Planner. The Diplomatic Planner is a 12-month career development toolkit for diplomacy and internationals for professionals looking to explore or grow their expertise in the field. Both books are available for purchase via Amazon. For further recommendations, insights, case studies and practicable worksheets, please join the Grassroot Diplomat Online Academy via: www.grassrootdiplomat.org/register