the gift of fear


This is from an excellent book called “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin DeBecker, read it. Mr. DeBecker is a security expert who used to do threat assessment work for the US Government. His book deals with realistic assessment of your self-defense necessities and the statistical likelihood of being attacked. The book does not deal with unarmed combat or weapons as much as it does with assessing people and determining their intentions towards you.

Here are some of the “threat indicators” listed in Mr. DeBeckers book , they are primarily techniques used by predator type criminals to “set-up” their victims and/or gain compliance…good stuff.  

Forced Teaming

Forced teaming is an effective way to establish premature trust because a we’re-in-the-same-boat attitude is hard to rebuff without feeling rude. Sharing a predicament, like being stuck in a stalled elevator or arriving simultaneously at a just-closed store, will understandably move people around social boundaries. But forced teaming is not about coincidence; it is intentional and directed, and it is one of the most sophisticated manipulations. The detectable signal of forced teaming is the projection of a shared purpose or experience where none exists: “Both of us”; “We’re some team”; “How are we going to handle this?”; “Now we’ve done it, ” etc.

(for example, ive heard of an abduction-murder case where the victim came out to her car and it wouldnt start…the BG came up to help and after tinkering around under the hood “teamed up” with her under the “car fixing” guise…he then offered a ride to a garage and the rest I wont mention….the kicker is the BG disabled the car while she was in the store before hand)

Charm and Niceness

Charm is another overrated ability. Note that I called it an ability, not an inherent feature of one’s personality. charm is almost always a directed instrument, which, like rapport building, has motive. To charm as a verb, not a trait.

Too Many Details

When people are telling the truth, they don’t feel doubted, so they don’t feel the need for additional support in the form of details. When people lie, however, even if that they say sounds credible to you, it doesn’t sound credible to them, so they keep talking.

(see this a lot…BG’s run off at the mouth constantly when they are trying to get out of trouble…or get you into it.)  


Typecasting always involves a slight insult, and usually one that is easy to refute.

A man labels a woman in some slightly critical way, hoping she’ll feel compelled to prove that his opinion is not accurate. “You’re probably too snobbish to talk to the likes of me,” a man might say, and the woman will cast off the mantle of “snob” by talking to him. A man tells a woman, “You don’t look like someone who reads the newspaper,” and she sets out to prove that she is intelligent and well-informed.

Loan Sharking

The more traditional loan shark gladly lends one amount but cruelly collects much more. Likewise, the predatory criminal generously offers assistance but is always calculating the debt.

(“after all Ive gone through, the least you could do is, let me into your apartment…give me a hug…etc”)

The unsolicited promise

The unsolicited promise is one of the most reliable signals because it is nearly always of questionable motive. Promises are used to convince us of an intention, but they are not guarantees. A guarantee is a promise that offers some compensation if the speaker fails to deliver; he commits to make it all right again if things don’t go as he says they would. But promises offer no such collateral. They are the very hollowest instruments of speech, showing nothing more than the speaker’s desire to convince you of something.

(big one here…”Dont worry, Im not going to kill you or anything!”, “Let me in, Ill make a phone call and I promise Ill leave right away…Im not a criminal.” If it sounds like a strange thing to say, your radar should be going off.)

Discounting the word “No”

“No” is a word that must never be negotiated, because the person who chooses not to hear it is trying to control you.

In situations in which unsolicited offers of assistance are appropriate, such as approaches by a salesman or flight attendant, it is simply annoying if you have to decline three times. With a stranger, however, refusal to hear no can be an important survival signal, as with a suitor, a friend, a boyfriend, even a husband.

Declining to hear “no” is a signal that someone is either seeking control or refusing to relinquish it.

Now the important thing to keep in mind here, is context. Most of these strategies are used every day by people who make a living in sales… They are also used by guys trying to pick up girls. The context in which one or more of these strategies are used is what you should look for. Your intuition will usually discard some of these strategies if it expects them (sales clerks, politicians, etc.). It’s when they are used at inappropriate times that it will send a warning. The defense for all of these strategies boils down to a basic awareness of the situation (there is a thorough examination of the strategies and defenses in ‘The Gift of Fear’)… Here’s a couple of questions to ask yourself:

  • Do I need assistance
  • Do I feel comfortable with the situation
  • Is the approach (or offer) appropriate

These three questions are essentially you asking your intuition whether or not it thinks this is a safe situation.

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