Review of Red Flags How to Spot Frenemies, Underminers, and Toxic People in Your Life by Wendy L Patrick

I wrote my first blog on corporate psychopaths in early 2012: How do you recognise a corporate psychopath? Part 1. My ability to recognise corporate psychopaths stems from my knowledge of the 7MTF/Humm model of people profiling which is one of the few systems that incorporates psychopathic behaviour. My experience with psychopaths is limited having worked for several and fired by one.

This book takes the opposite approach. The author, Wendy Patrick, uses her decades of personal expertise as a district attorney and public defender in the sex crimes division of San Diego County to provide an amazing range of case studies of how psychopaths work and play in all walks of life.

The sub-title of the book is misleading. You do not learn how to spot Frenemies, Underminers, and Toxic People in Your Life. The book is a series of multiple story sessions where you discover just how people with a lot of the Dark Triad in their personality actually work. The author has identified four criteria: Focus, Lifestyle, Associations, and Goals (FLAGs) to help you separate good intentioned people from those who have ulterior and self-serving motives. While FLAGs is a helpful acronym you would have to spend some time with a psychopath before you would discover any Dark Triad tendencies. In the meantime, she or he would be using their charm and guile to spin you into their web.

What I did find interesting was how the book analyses ten sources of attraction that draw people together like magnets. Patrick, who has a PhD in human psychology, shows how these sources can be used by good people to bond together and deepen relationships, or by bad people to manipulate, seduce, and harm their would-be victims.

The attraction source that really resonated with me was number 6: The Seduction of Similarity. One of my core messages in my training courses on Emotional Intelligence is that we like those who are like ourselves. What we must do work out what are the dominant EQ components in a person’s temperament and that adapt our behaviour to appeal to these components. This chapter in the book describes this technique to a T. Even more impressive is that she uses extensive psychological research to demonstrate how effectively similarity breeds connection. She describes how “Cyberspace Chameleons” use these techniques on the Internet and then in personal interactions. As I read this chapter I thought she was talking about me.

However after the author has run through the ten sources of attraction and how they are can be misused, she then in final chapter Green Light describes how a positive relationship can develop. It was very heart-warming but I could not help but notice how Clare used the techniques in Chapter 6 to attract Ben.

This is a useful book to read because of the very wide range of case studies. On the other hand the author is to be congratulated on the extensive use of endnotes and a full bibliography. Unlike most self-help books her case studies are generally backed by academic research.

This blog was first published on LinkedIn on 20 May 2020.



Add Your Comment

Chris Golis - Author


"Put in a sales perspective, I loved your presentation! I got a lot from what you talked about and I will read your book."

Peter Morris, Executive Officer, Lomax Financial Group

Your presentation on 'Lifting your Level of Emotional Intelligence" to 10 CEOs scored an average 8.9 out of 10 for the topic and 8.5 for the presentation which is great. A couple of the attendees gave you a 10 out of 10, and the comments were:

- Great presentation. Very informative.

- Excellent presentation.

- made me think.

Christi Spring CEO Institute. - web