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Security Investigations Archive

Identifying Weakness in Personality Strengths

Monday, May 8th, 2017
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Everyone’s personality strengths and weaknesses are unique and sometimes personality strengths can become detriments.

Under pressure, facades melt away and the true personality traits emerge; sometimes it takes months or even years to get to know an individual’s real flaws.

Since there isn’t a shortage of miscreants in this world, it’s perfectly acceptable to get to the heart of another person’s character; it’s wise to decrease your vulnerability and exposure to excessive risk by any ethical means possible.

You can’t control the actions of a potential business partner, romantic partner, associate, friend, or adversary, but you can get to know them well enough to minimize your risk.

Below I list five personality strengths and the frequently embedded personality challenges in those strengths.

  1. You can be confident an associate with a high degree of discretion won’t disclose confidential information. However, excessive secretiveness and a lack of transparency can derail even the most successful partnerships.
  2. It’s best if a commission-based salesperson, for example, is motivated mainly by money, but excessive acquisitiveness can be a heavy liability for any organization. Clearly, it can be a big problem in marriages or other partnerships too. It’s a fascinating dynamic of the human mind—people regularly give you pretend reasons for their actions, and even believe those reasons, while the actual motivations are hidden in their subconscious mind. Few things in a person’s core behavior are controlled by conscious motives.
  3. Strong attention to detail is praiseworthy in many professions, but excessive perfectionism makes one miss the bigger picture and impedes success.
  4. People who are easy-going and non-judgmental are usually well-liked. However, a lack of objectivity, and a deficient sense of discernment and critical thinking skills yields poor problem solving ability, thus hinders goal-attainment.
  5. Those with a strong sense of responsibility are appreciated, but in the extreme, a savior complex makes one act to his or her detriment.

Nobody is perfect, though it can save you a lot of time and money to look beyond personas to authentic personality, which can be discerned through various methods, including my unorthodox security investigations.

 Copyright © 2017 Scott Petullo

Secrecy—How to Know if You Can Trust Someone

Sunday, January 29th, 2017
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“If you wish another to keep your secret, first keep it to yourself.” Seneca

Everyone has secrets, ranging from inconsequential to momentous.

Secrecy is an integral part of the human experience, largely having to do with the mostly harmless natural defense mechanism to maintain your peace of mind and save face.

For example, you don’t announce to your Facebook friends the graphic details of your most recent red-hot fling to save yourself the embarrassment, even though such posts would be exceedingly entertaining and could make you a social media star.

Sometimes you’re required to share your secrets, such as within a business or investment partnership.

Secrecy is desirable in matters of confidentiality; discretion is necessary to protect proprietary information.

Although it’s feasible extreme secrecy can be a serious liability in partnerships, keeping one’s mouth shut is generally considered advantageous. As long as the intent isn’t to deceive, and extreme withholding doesn’t infringe on trust between associates, it won’t cause problems. 

Of all the personality traits I consider in my character analyses, secrecy is one of the most fascinating for me to examine. It’s very easy for some to keep secrets, but impossible for others.

Extremes are easy to discern, particularly involving people who can’t keep it zipped even if their life depended on it.

Other than my or another professional’s analyses to warn you ahead of time, a way to know if you can trust someone is to spend a lot of time with them. Unfortunately, you open yourself up to a lot of risk in doing so.

It’s okay to keep secrets. In fact, it’s necessary in many cases, such as guarding exclusive information or protecting someone’s safety.

Make sure you avoid trusting the wrong person, but also avoid unnecessary, extreme withholding.

Copyright © 2017 Scott Petullo

Handwriting Analysis—Variability in Script and Flexibility

Monday, October 17th, 2016
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Variability in script as discerned through handwriting analysis suggests a flexible personality.

I’ve been asked before if it’s possible to change your handwriting, and what it means if your handwriting varies a lot.

To the untrained eye, several handwriting samples by an adaptable individual, someone who prides herself on multiple writing styles for example, may appear to be written by several different people.

But due to the fact that everyone’s handwriting is unique as their personality and fingerprints, and many handwriting analysis factors don’t vary much no matter how changeable the person is, the well-trained analyst will recognize the samples as having been written by one person.

It’s extremely difficult to fake variations in pressure, movement, organization, rhythm, contraction and expansiveness, zonal balance, and more; the sample would have signs of affectation. It’s also impossible to replicate someone’s handwriting.

As with any handwriting analysis trait, excess variability, or the opposite, can be a red flag. Moderate variability in middle zone size, slant, connectivity, originality, speed, pressure, angularity, and letter spacing, for instance, can suggest a versatile individual. In the extreme it can equate to an erratic and inconsistent personality. Very little can represent stubbornness.

An evaluation consists of over 300 handwriting analysis factors and the symbolism of any single factor, such as slant, is supported or mitigated by the collective force of the other factors. The handwriting sample is deconstructed in the analysis and then put back together to symbolize a subject’s strengths, weaknesses, fears, and defenses.

While variability throughout a handwriting sample is a good sign, too much or too little isn’t.

Copyright © 2016 Scott Petullo

Digital Lie Detector Detects Dishonesty On-line

Monday, July 25th, 2016
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A group of four academics claims to have developed a digital lie detector that is 70% accurate. Evidently, it can be used to scan social media, e-mail and text communications, and more.

The group developed a text analytic algorithm that involves word usage, in part, to detect fraud and dishonesty: “We found that individuals who lie generally use fewer personal pronouns, such as I, you, and he/she, and more adjectives, such as brilliant, fearless, and sublime. They also use fewer first-person singular pronouns, such as I, me, mine, with discrepancy words, such as could, should, would, as well as more second-person pronouns (you, your) with achievement words (earn, hero, win).”

Several types of dishonesty exist, ranging from innocuous white lies to intentional fraud. Everyone fibs a little, but extreme dishonesty is a serious red flag personality trait.

Testing the lie detector technology on dating apps could be entertaining–ask the person what they think of already-involved people secretly using dating apps (42% of people using the most popular dating app already have a partner).

Although a 30% error rate doesn’t sound great, I’d expect the group to recommend the lie detector technology as a supplement to existing systems rather than a stand-alone mode of detecting dishonesty.

Various forms of assessment comprise my systems of analysis and I recommend clients use a range of evaluations. As I say on my handwriting sample forms, “Decisions will not be made based only on the results of the graphological analysis, but in conjunction with the interview process, decision-maker observations, and other information.”

Copyright © 2016 Scott Petullo

Face Analyzing Technology Possibly Identifies Terrorists

Monday, July 11th, 2016
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A facial personality profiling technology company claims to be able to evaluate specific personality traits with 80% accuracy, including those that help to identify terrorists.

They allegedly identified nine of the eleven Paris (11-13-2015 attack) terrorists “after the fact as potential terrorists with no prior knowledge,” while only three of the eleven terrorists had a previous record.

The science behind face analysis involves genetic predisposition, the face being a reflection of DNA.

Behavioral geneticists contend that DNA predetermines a person’s physical, emotional, and psychological nature to a great extent.

I agree that key elements of a person’s character are predetermined, despite it being a politically incorrect view. Though I believe it ultimately has to do with personal fate, and DNA is merely a reflection of that.

It seems logical to me that select personality traits can be identified through face analysis, considering a thorough enough analysis involving extensive empirical research.

Physiognomy, including astrological physiognomy, has existed for over 2000 years (only superficial forms of it have been “discredited”). I regularly witness how extreme patterns represent distinct characteristics, such as saturnine temperament and, or appearance, symbolized by Saturn playing a key role in the person’s comprehensive astrology charts.

Instead of saying facial analysis can be used to “…predict a person’s personality and behavior,” I’d say it identifies personality traits.

By itself, at 80% accuracy (which is good for any single form of analysis), means twenty percent of travelers could be falsely identified as terrorists. But security experts (at least those whose hands aren’t tied by political correctness) use body language, high-tech anxiety measuring devices, sophisticated data tracking systems, and a host of other means to ferret out terrorists. Thus, people shouldn’t be concerned about being falsely labeled a criminal through facial analysis.

Copyright © 2016 Scott Petullo

Revealed: Handwriting Analysis Measures Perfectionism

Monday, June 20th, 2016
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Perfectionism, or the need to be perfect, can be an immobilizing personality trait in excess and handwriting analysis effectively measures it.

A modest amount of this trait won’t hurt your productivity and keep you from reaching success, but according to this article, “The all-or-nothing, impossibly high standards perfectionists set for themselves often mean that they’re not happy even when they’ve achieved success. And research has suggested that anxiety over making mistakes may ultimately be holding some perfectionists back from ever achieving success in the first place…”

“If you look for perfection, you’ll never be content.”
Leo Tolstoy

Although it’s easy to tell someone to stop trying to be perfect, perfectionism can reflect a serious anxiety disorder; it’s just not possible for some to relax and turn off the compulsion to get it exactly right all the time.

Extreme perfectionists are never happy, and this personality trait severely limits their ability to deal with pressure and stress.

A higher than average amount of perfectionism may assist a watchmaker’s success, for example, but it only hinders the average person.

A slight tendency for perfectionism has helped many very successful people rise to the top of their field, but in excess it can be debilitating and handwriting analysis readily gauges it.

Copyright © 2016 Scott Petullo

Personality Analysis Secret: How to Quickly Read Someone

Monday, June 6th, 2016
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Quickly identifying someone’s core personality traits isn’t easy, even for the shrewdest judge of character. But there’s a way to quickly get an idea of a person’s character.

According to a study referred to in this article, asking someone’s opinion about other people exposes a lot about their own personality. “The more positively they judged those people, the more happy, enthusiastic, capable and emotionally stable they turned out to be themselves…those who judged others more negatively had higher levels of narcissism and antisocial behaviour.”

You may have witnessed this phenomenon yourself; people, particularly those who lack self-awareness, tend to project their personality traits onto others.

As the old saying goes, you don’t see the world as it is, you see it as you are.

Next time you meet someone and you want to get to know the person better, ask his or her opinion of someone. A polarizing figure such as a troubled celebrity would make for a good topic of focus.

But make sure to avoid projecting your own stuff onto your new acquaintance–remain detached and avoid judgment to get the most accurate insight. Also make sure to acknowledge that being objective and honest about a miscreant who wronged someone, for example, is different.

Single out specific personality traits too, particularly if you believe the person may possess that trait. Ask if she thinks someone is duplicitous, for instance. However, the risk is that she may be clever enough to realize what you’re doing and may smoothly manipulate you to make herself appear to your liking.

Also watch their body language, which can be a very effective form of personality analysis. Spotting non-verbal cues that contrast with what the person is telling you can be very amusing (and alarming).

Although it’s tough to get to know someone’s authentic personality in a brief span of time without various forms of security investigations, you may be able to get an idea through asking the right questions.

Copyright © 2016 Scott Petullo

Rationalization: Look Out For This Pernicious Trait to Limit Your Risk

Monday, May 23rd, 2016
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Rationalization is a universal human trait and most people don’t have it in excess.

Occasionally explaining away behavior such as, “…it’s okay to have extra helpings at dinner tonight because I’m going to the gym tomorrow…” or “…I’ll postpone that important task because it would be better completed tomorrow…” isn’t likely to doom anyone.

The problem is when rationalization takes on a life of its own.

Extreme cases are often a coping mechanism for the subject to deal with her early life trauma, for example.

It may be that she doesn’t intend to intentionally deceive you, but that can be the result with someone who distorts reality to the point where objective decisions are impossible.

It’s a weighty personality red flag and a serious risk to your livelihood, such as with a Wall Street dark prince who gives new meaning to the word leverage, denying the massive level of risk, and a politician who believes his own lies.

The fact is, people are not rational beings.

People do what they do in accordance with their emotional maturity and subconscious fears and defenses. They typically act emotionally and then justify their behavior by offering well-thought-out reasons that aren’t the real reasons.

Thus, occasional white lies and moderate secrecy can morph into stark hypocrisy, a complete lack of integrity, and even deviousness if a person has a serious problem with rationalization.

As suggested in this blog post, people continually act reflexively, unknowingly guided by their subconscious fears and defenses, erroneously thinking they are making conscious, objective choices.

It’s not easy to identify excessive rationalization upon first meeting someone. The out of bounds excuses and justifications aren’t likely to be immediately evident.

If you have a limited amount of time to make a decision about someone, it’s important to find out if the person is a potential risk to your business or personal life. Excessive rationalization is readily identifiable through my non-traditional security investigations.

Copyright © 2016 Scott Petullo

Warning About Decision-making: The Misconception of Choice

Monday, May 16th, 2016
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The power of choice is sometimes yours, and sometimes not. The erroneous belief that you’re in absolute conscious control of your fate is as outlandish as believing you will live forever.

I’m all for inspiration—I generate inspiration every day—but put aside the rhetoric spewed by motivational speakers for a moment and consider that there are two key forces that rule your life: the power of your subconscious mind, and your personal fate—the things in your life you can’t change.

Making the right decisions in life won’t give you everything you’ve ever dreamed of, unless it’s part of your fate, because that isn’t the way things go in the real world.

You don’t need me to prove my assertions about predestination to know that there are times in your life that your faith is unexpectedly tested, you can’t control what other people do or say, and rejection and other unavoidable happenings are completely beyond your control.

A fascinating study in Psychological Science suggests “..the conscious experience of choice may be constructed after we act — even when it feels like it is the cause of our behavior.” In other words, your subconscious mind may have a lot more influence on your decision-making that you may realize.

Your subconscious fears and defenses may not be a problem for you at all. Unfortunately, until you know someone well—whether in business or your personal life—his hidden red flag personality traits could pose a serious threat. Wise decision-making includes thoroughly vetting those you allow into your life and I recommend multiple forms of scrutiny, including my unorthodox security investigations.

Copyright © 2016 Scott Petullo

How to Negotiate with a Narcissist or Psychopath

Monday, May 9th, 2016
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Narcissists and psychopaths can be very charming and persuasive and there is no shortage of these types of undesirables in the world.

You’re likely to encounter such jerks regularly in business or your personal life and you need a concrete plan of action to limit your risk.

One of the easiest things you can do is limit your communication to e-mail and text. Avoid in-person negotiations as much as possible.

University of British Columbia’s Michael Woodworth, professor of psychology, says, “We can also conclude that it is very likely that the qualities that allow these people to successfully charm, manipulate, intimidate or exploit others appear to require a live, in-person audience.”

Also, “…the ability to smoke out narcissists and psychopaths becomes easier…” once you “…remove non-verbal cues such as body language from the equation.”

Those other tricks of the trade that exploiters use, such as indistinct put-downs or backhanded compliments, manipulative undercurrents, or invisible poison darts are a lot more difficult to do through e-mail and text. Plus, the scoundrels realize e-mails and texts offer digital proof of their game.

Aside from the tip above about using e-mail and text, there are other ways to identify narcissists. You can limit your risk by learning to deal with undesirables. The difference between reasonable people and jerks is measurable.

Copyright © 2016 Scott Petullo