Flag System

The Flag System is all about looking at an individual’s actions, comparing them to their words, and from that, get an idea of whether this action and word combination is a Green Flag, that is Good Sign; an Amber Flag, that is Caution; or a Red Flag, that is Concerning.

TLDR – The Flag System helps us to quickly recognise if a person’s behaviour is a good sign, an indicator for caution, or concerning. In isolation, it is not a judgement of the person, but as you explore the other Traffic Light Systems, it is a useful tool when you do need to judge someone.

Actions, Words and Behaviour

Behaviour is “the way in which one acts or conducts oneself, especially towards others”. We can assign a coloured flag to how a person behaves towards ourselves or to others. It is important to look at both a person’s actions and their words, and then look at how well they match.

Actions speak louder than words. Actions are what a person does, and we can look at the the effect that action has on the world. Actions are verifiable, evidence based and can be independently confirmed.

Words are nice when they match people’s actions, but very concerning when they don’t. That is, if their words are nice words.

If a person’s words are threats or falling into some harmful rhetoric, then this is generally a warning sign. If the person’s language is an exception to their trend, or clearly marked as humour, then it may not be a Red Flag on its own. Beware of Schrödinger‘s Douchebag [Link]. More on that later.

It is important to recognise that there is a big difference between a person’s intent and their actions. While we can never truly tell what a person was intending, we can see if they recognise the consequences of their own actions. If those consequences inspire them to learn, grow and evolve their choices to avoid outcomes that harm others, then this is a good healthy indicator and we can assume the person had good intent. We all started from ignorance, and some things are quite difficult to predict without experience.

If a person does not learn from the consequences to their actions and doesn’t make changes to address that, this is quite concerning. This is explored more in the Toxic People Mind Toolset [Link], where we begin by assuming that people are good people and mean well, but sometimes they are ignorance or unskilled. As a person demonstrates through their actions that they either cannot comprehend how their actions are harmful, or are not concerned that their actions are harmful, they progress to us assuming that they are toxic people whom we should take their words as falsehoods until we can verify that they true.

Green Flags = Good

We assign Green Flags to behaviours that are collaborative, transparent, considerate and promote the general good.

A quick shortcut to working out what is likely a Green Flag is to consider what we would have done to help the situation given similar resources. This is a bit similar to the simple creed of “do to others’ as you would have them do to you”, but ads in a bit more consideration of context, culture, skill ability and the resources. Some of us have quite high standards or over do things due to People Pleasing [LINK], Anxiety [LINK] or Rejection Sensitivity [LINK], so it is fair to accept that others do things to a bit “lower” standard. Just don’t over do how “low” that standard is.

This is not an exhaustive list, but should give you a fair idea of the flavour of what Green Flag Behaviour looks like.

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Consistent and Reliable

Disagreements are Respectful Discussion


Respectful Boundaries

Respect your Feelings

The Spirit of the Message

Timely Communication

Willing to be Wrong

Amber Flags = Caution

Amber Flags are wake up calls. This behaviour is concerning or odd, but not clearly an indicator of harm. When you see an Amber Flag, this is a good time to be more alert and check out some other recent behaviours of the person, and then to continue to watch their next few. If the odd behaviour was just a quirk, that is, an anomaly from their past and future behaviour, then this might just be A Bad Day, and nothing to worry about. We cover having A Bad Day in the Three Pillars Method.

Sacrificing Self: There is an upper boundary to this, where a person is continuously sacrificing their own good for the good of others. Sacrifice is rarely needed, so a person who sacrifices their own good frequently should get your attention.

Catching them in a Lie

Being Stubbornly Wrong on a Topic

Unexpected Changes in Behaviours

Red Flags = Concern

When we see Red Flag Behaviours, this warns us that something is not right here. Generally these actions lead to harm, or try to excuse harmful actions, shifting the responsibility away from the person who did the actions. Red Flag Behaviours can also increase the confusion in communication, making this less certain rather than more certain.

While people who have a known learning or intellectual disability may do Red Flag Behaviours, we need to consider the context of their their behaviour within their diagnosis. A person needs to have insight, the ability to form new memories and a desire not to harm people for them

Double Standards

Gas Lighting

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