Show 059: Learning How to Read People with Dr. Mary Ellen O’Toole (@MaryEllenOToole)

Photo courtesy of Marsmettnn Tallahassee under Flickr Creative Commons-licensed content

Mary O'TooleDr. Mary Ellen O’Toole is my guest for this episode. Dr. O’Toole has spent her career studying the criminal mind. One of the most senior profilers for the FBI until her retirement in 2009, Dr. O’Toole has helped capture, interview and understand some of the world’s most infamous people. To know more about Dr. O’Toole, check out her book Dangerous Minds, visit her website at, or follow her at Twitter.

Wow, what a powerful episode to listen to. It was totally interesting getting to learn from former retired FBI profiler Mary Ellen O’Toole around learning how to read people. This is definitely a show that is one you won’t want to miss. 

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Here are show’s highlights, however, I would encourage you to listen in if you get a chance. Remember our show is also available on iTunes and Stitcher.

  • Most victims she has worked with never saw violent crimes coming, thus the reason for writing her book, Dangerous Instincts.
  • Some of the most dangerous criminals can be people you would least expect to commit crimes. Many times they can be warm, engaging, and very sociable which makes them even more dangerous as it can be easy to let our guards down.
  • Most times, we will not feel any type of red flag type feelings when we meet dangerous type people and anyone of us can fall victim to trusting the wrong person without taking time to get to know someone.
  • A psychopath is an individual with a personality disorder; they are not mentally ill or out of touch with reality. They look just as normal as you and me. They can have any type of job and can have families. Some of the hallmark traits of a psychopath include:
      • They have no empathy – they have no worries about not bonding with people.
      • They have no conscious – they know there are no rules out there, but rules don’t apply to them.
      • They have no guilt for the things they have done.
      • They are manipulative.
      • They are very grandiose although can be very charming and glib.
      • They are impulsive and great risk takers.

Photo courtesy of Marsmettnn Tallahassee under Flickr Creative Commons-licensed content

Photo courtesy of Marsmett Tallahassee under Flickr Creative Commons

  • The stats on psychopaths are hard to nail down, however estimates indicate that:
    • 1% of the general population has psychopathic traits.
    • 10-15% of individuals in prison are psychopathic.
    • 40% of violent crimes are committed by individuals who have traits of a psychopath.
    •  95% of serial sexual killers are psychopaths.
  • Psychopaths see people as objects (Dr. O’Toole gave a powerful example of this in the interview that is worth listening to) and are all about themselves.
  • Here are some tips on how to read people:
    • Don’t assume that folks are okay based on their outward signs of “normalcy” (i.e. educated, well dressed, has a family, a good job, etc.).
    • Before letting people into your own comfort zone and your family’s comfort zone we need to “vet” them by spending time around them to see how they interact and what they are like behind closed doors.  Observing behavior and asking questions are important, however, we need to realize that just asking questions will not always reveal a psychopath because most of the times they are great liars. The key to questioning is to find out how they view other people and if other human beings are important to them. Examples include asking about prior relationships, what it was like before they moved here, etc.

Dr. O’Toole shared many examples of how to keep ourselves informed and empowered throughout the show. Because it was such a powerful show that can help many, we made it easy to share this episode with others by clicking HERE to tweet or just click on the “share” buttons on our website.

On a personal note, Dr. O’Toole’s book, Dangerous Instincts was a learning tool for not only myself, but also opened up an opportunity to use as a tool to open up conversations with our kids

Resources for Dr. O’Toole:

THANK YOU for taking time out of your day to read and/or listen to. A special thanks to those that continue to share our show with others.


Read Dr. O’Tooles guest post: Top 10 Reasons Not to Go With Your Gut

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