Dangerous Personalities: Summary & Review

dangerous personalities

In Dangerous Personalities, author and former FBI agent Joe Navarro describes four dangerous personality types, together with advice on what we can do to defend ourselves.

Bullet Summary

  • Be aware of your physical surrounding and who you get emotionally close to
  • Take any warning signs very seriously
  • Predators especially have no conscience, moral or ethical stops. Stay away

Full Summary

About the Author: Joe Navarro is an American author and former FBI agent. He is also the author of body language manual “What Every BODY Is Saying“.


The four dangerous personalities Navarro describes are:

  1. Narcissist
  2. Predator
  3. Paranoid
  4. Unstable

1. Narcissists

Narcissists believe they’re above the law and above society’s rules.
They will lie, cheat, or even kill if it’s in their best interest.

Joe Navarro says that an example of two narcissists are Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skillingare, the men behind the Enron scandal.
Lay and Skillingare cooked Enron’s books and encouraged their 20.000 employees to invest in Enron, resulting in thousands of people losing their life savings.
What makes them narcissist, says Navarro, is another typical narcissistic trait: entitlement. The two of them believed they were entitled to get every single (stolen) penny.

Barnie Madoff is another example of dangerous narcissism, highlighting a sense of superiority and a lack of empathy.


Let them know early on that you won’t tolerate disrespect

2. Emotionally Unstable Personalities

Emotionally unstable personalities are like victims searching for an oppressor.

They store and remember wounds, whether real or imagined, and use them as ammunition.
Emotionally unstable individuals have a huge need for love but little ability to maintain a healthy relationship. You can find a lot of them in cults because they offer unconditional acceptance without the need for building a solid relationship.

My Note: Is This BPD?
it feels to me here that Navarro is describing a borderline personality disorder.

Also read:


Don’t get dragged down into their emotional drama.
Be especially watchful they try to blame you for it. If you’re in a relationship with it and they continuously threaten suicide, harm, self-harm or hold the relationship hostage, consider moving on.

3. Paranoid Personalities

Paranoid personalities see threats everywhere and from anyone.

President Richard Nixon was paranoid.
Navarro says that we can see it by his growing list of enemies and in his claims that he couldn’t confide with anyone.

Hitler was also paranoid, as he managed to string together 2.000 years of unconnected events to build a case against jews.

Navarro says that paranoia was beyond Paul Jennings Hill’s homicide of Dr. John Britten. Hill, a right-wing Christian extremist, believed it was OK to murder doctors performing abortions in order to save unborn children.
And paranoia can lead people to join hate groups such as KKK and Aryan Nation.

My Note: I don’t think paranoia is the main reason to join hate groups
Sure paranoia can lead someone to join hate groups.
But so does ignorance, past wounds, a need for (toxic) bonding, personal failure and, as well, hatred.
I don’t see paranoia as a major reason to join hate groups.


Keep your distance if they try to recruit you into their false vision of reality. Do not try to change their minds as there is no changing these people’s minds.
If the solution to their false beliefs is violence distance yourself and consider alerting the police.

4. Predatory Personality

Predators have no conscience.

They are cold, remorseless, and completely indifferent to the harm they cause.
This is the kind of mind that makes serial killers.

It seems here like Navarro is describing low functioning psychopaths. Also read:


They will try to control you and coerce you. It might be physical, mental or both. Distance is the best solution.

Comorbidity and Traits Overlap

Sometimes the traits of dangerous personalities can overlap.
Navarro says that one trait has the tendency of heightening the others, and only make individuals more dangerous.

Ask yourself the following:

  • Do they negatively affect your emotions?
  • Do they behave antisocially, unethically, and erratically?
  • Are they manipulative?
  • Do they often act impulsively and out of control
  • Do they have a strong need for instant gratification?

Tips for Avoiding Dangerous Personalities

  • Establish boundaries and enforce your boundaries
  • Stay active in the day: highest rates of violence occur between 8:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m
  • Keep emotional distance before you get to know people very well
  • Always be aware of your physical surroundings

dangerous personalities

Real-Life Applications

Stay Watchful
As much as you look left and right before crossing the street, always take stock of your physical surroundings. And simply be aware there is some dangerous people out there.


Overall, I found Dangerous Personalities to be somewhat similar to Emotional Vampires in that it seeks to popularize the complex psychology of personality disorders.
But there were a few elements I didn’t like, including:

  • Stigmatizing & Fear Mongering

Navarro says that dangerous personality can be nice but not good because being good means having honorable intentions.

I find that’s a very broad brush with which to paint emotionally unstable people.
I have had relationships with emotionally unstable people, and while at the height of their emotions they could have been dangerous, that doesn’t make them mean or devoid of goodness.

  • You Can’t Diagnose People From Afar

In “Dangerous Personalities” Navarro diagnoses people without ever having met them.
How can it say for example that Enron’s  Jeff Skilling and Kenneth Lay were narcissists and not, say, sociopaths?
That really made the book seem more like an attempt at grabbing people’s attention than a book that sought to be accurate.

  • Sensationalism Makes It Poor Psychology

Dangerous Personalities to me is sensationalism-seeking.
I wouldn’t personally consider emotionally unstable people to be dangerous. I wouldn’t even consider people manipulating others with suicide threats to be highly dangerous since most of them do not really kill themselves. And of those who kill themselves, the vast majority don’t take any other lives with them.

  • How Did Were Dangerous Personalities Picked?

I gotta wonder how narcissists and emotionally unstable made the list of “dangerous” personalities.

  • Designed For Laymen, But Ends Up Only Being More Confusing

People who have been reading or know a thing or two about mental disorders will be put off by the label and category-lumping.

Predators, for example, are sociopaths, psychopaths and possibly malignant narcissists.
And emotionally unstable are histrionic and borderline.
But the author does not identify his categories by these names and I gotta wonder if that will help the layman or further confuse him.


Good Book to Make People More Alert
Dangerous Personalities can serve to raise alertness on the dangers that some personalities can pose to us and to the people we hold dear.


I loved Navarro’s previous book What Every BODY is Saying.

“Dangerous Personalities”, on the other hand, left me lukewarm.

Sure, a book that was going to analyze famous events and personalities looking for a diagnosis wasn’t going to be medically 100% accurate, we knew that.
But I fear that approach might only confuse people, who will go around making random diagnoses of the people in their lives and labeling “dangerous” people who aren’t really dangerous and who maybe actually need help.

Yes, it was an entertaining read, it taught me a few things and it strengthened a few concepts. But in my opinion, it’s a pop-psychology book looking for sensationalism, and as much as it can help someone, it can also harm some others.

What I did like, though, is that sensationalism in this area of life can be helpful.
“Dangerous Personalities” can help awareness of the dangers of this world, and that evil does exist.

Check the best psychology books or get the book on Amazon

Scroll to Top