Monday, December 25, 2006

Snakes in Suits

Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work (Hardcover)
by Paul Babiak, Robert D. Hare

Psychopaths, sociopath, asocial, antisocial - these are all the terms, many times used interchangeably and many times irresponsibly to brand people. Many time even a small displeasure may prompt us to brand someone as a psychopath. But, who exactly qualifies to be a psychopath, what are their characteristics, what are they trying to achieve etc. etc. are burning questions. This book attempts to answer many of them.

Full thumbs-up to authors for being successful at presenting dry psychology in a very interesting and captivating manner so as to appeal even to a common reader with some interest in understanding interesting terms such as psychopath. Very well woven with day-to-day examples and a case study which runs parallel to the main theme of the book. That case study makes this more like corporate thriller than a book on psychology. What a page-turner? Simply an excellent book.

Authors, quite rightly, caution users not to jump into conclusion and brand someone as a psychopath. No untrained person can determine with certainty if someone is a psychopath merely based on observing some behaviors and some characteristics which seem to resemble the characteristics of psychopath. Authors use a very good analogy to drive home the point. All of us have blood pressure. Without which humans do not survive. But, just because we have blood pressure does not mean we have high or low blood pressure and related diseases. Similarly many characteristics, such as deceit, cold bloodedness, treachery, back stabbing etc. etc. are present in everybody in different amounts. What makes psychopath is the presence of these negative qualities in abnormally high levels. We can not determine the levels by mere observation of certain behaviors. Even if these qualities show up in an individual at some point in time, they may not be lasting to make him or her a psychopath.

After reading this book, the risk of identifying oneself or others with psychopath and related symptoms are very high. Especially in these paranoid times of ours and world full of paranoia. That's the big risk if readers selectively absorb the material in this books and do not take into account of the cautionary message that authors are trying to drive home. That's really bothersome. If people in key areas of responsibility read the book with paranoia, they might start branding everyone as a psychopath at the slightest display of negative tendencies.

It is good to know about the theory behind psychopath and that psychopaths exists and they many times come to work along with us. However, let that not make us become paranoid and start viewing every other human being with suspicion. Trust, as such, is very hard to come by and cultivate. But, trust is the bedrock of successful career or for that matter any relationship or endeavor requiring team work.

Psychopath has become more of curse word in the hands of untrained mind. This book attempts to set that straight with its honest plea to understanding the term and giving up its usage in common sense as it not meant to be used in common vocabulary because of the rigorous discipline that is required to understand and use it professionally.

Excellent book.

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