Back in 1997, I read The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker. It was an amazing book by an incredible writer. The book is filled with information that can literally save one's life. I couldn't put it down. And while I have never been the victim of a crime, I know people who have. Recently, I started listening to the book again on Audible. It was just as good as I remembered, maybe even better, as I am now older and have a different perspective on life and its fragility. The fear De Becker talks about relates to listening to one's intuition and following its lead. Rarely is intuition ever wrong. But many people dismiss it in favor of logic. That logic has been responsible for many regrets and unthinkable crimes.
For those of you out there who aren't readers, that's OK. That's why I am here to give you some of the tips--survival signals--if you will, that De Becker discusses in his book. Taking a few minutes out of your day to read this, may save your life, or the life of someone you know.
Sadly, life is full of predators. They look just like you and me, undetectable in a crowd. They're not wearing a mask like Michael Myers in the movie series Halloween, or look like Wes Craven's "fright-masked knife maniac" wearing a Scream mask. Nope, they can be an ordinary-looking guy who happens to, in a lot of the cases, be really cute and charming. Because they seem so innocuous, it's easy to fall into their trap. Hopefully, after you've read about some of the signals for which to watch, you'll be better prepared to spot them.
1) Forced Teaming
According to De Becker, forced teaming is an excellent way to build rapport and premature trust. It's basically when two people happen to share a similar experience at the same time. You both get stuck in an elevator, miss the same flight, wait in the same line, etc. In cases like this, forced teaming would look like this, "Can you believe we missed this flight? Boy, I really needed to get to Dallas on time. I have a job interview. They won't appreciate me being late. They've bent over backwards to make time for me. I wonder how the airline is going to compensate us?" Notice the emphasis on the word "we" and "us". This can be very effective because the woman may be feeling just like him. She empathizes. It probably wouldn't be very difficult for him to continue and say, "How about I buy you a drink while they figure this mess out for us? One drink and we'll go do what we have to do. I promise." Beware of forced teaming. Just remember, this person is a stranger, even if they missed the flight too.
What you need to do in a case like this is say, "No, thank you. I'm fine." Be firm and don't fall for the bait. It doesn't matter if you feel you're being rude. Who cares? You don't know this person. He is a stranger who has approached you!
2) Charm & Niceness
De Becker explains this next one from a perspective I'd not considered before. He suggests to think of charm as a verb, not a trait. Just because someone is nice, doesn't mean they're good. Be careful about the smile. While everyone who smiles is not dangerous, smiling can disguise a lot of things, including malfeasance. It does very well at masking emotion. Just think of the clown who is crying on the inside, but wears a perpetual smile on his face.
Someone who wants to control you will always appear like a very nice person. In the beginning, that is. After all, he has to get you to trust him, right? If he starts off by being a jerk, how far would that get him? Ted Bundy was a handsome, nice, charming guy. He was also a violent killer. No one would think to look at him that he had committed such heinous crimes. But he did. Don't let yourself be fooled by someone's charm.
3) Too Many Details
Someone who is out to do harm, might try to engage you by giving too many details. Remember Airport Guy? He talked about his interview, his interviewers bending over backwards to schedule him in, and not appreciating him being late, etc. Too many details. It's a distraction technique. Those details can make you lose sight of the context: he is a stranger! You don't know this guy.
This next one is explained by De Becker as a label someone gives you that is subtly insulting. For example, let's go back to Airport Guy. If he were typecasting Airport Girl who also missed her flight, he may say something like, "You're probably too much of a feminist to have a man buy you a drink." What this does is put the other person in a position of trying to disprove the claim. "Of course, I'm not a feminist who won't accept a drink. I accept!" Best defense for this, according to The Gift of Fear, is to stay silent!
5) Loan Sharking
This was new to me, but I can relate to its effectiveness. Basically, with loan sharking, the "predator" may do something nice for his intended victim. Airport guy offered to buy Airport Girl a drink. He may even help her with her luggage, if she has any. This technique is to get the person to feel indebted. Maybe Airport Girl would think, He's so nice...buying me a drink, carrying my heavy carry-on, etc. Just remember: you did not ask for help or a drink. He offered! And he's still a stranger.
6) The Unsolicited Promise
Watch out for someone who makes unsolicited promises. "I'll just walk you to the bus stop, and we'll part ways, I promise." Or like Airport Guy above, "One drink and we'll go do what we have to do. I promise." Keep in mind that he's trying to convince you of something. Ask yourself, Why is this person trying to convince me? I don't even know him! De Becker says to be very suspicious if you're getting an unsolicited promise from a stranger who approaches you.
And last but not least...
7) Discounting the Word "No!"
This is very important. Women seem to forget this. If you are talked out of the word "No," you are, in essence, handing over control to the person who talked you out of it. Keep in mind that "No" is a complete sentence. That's it. No explanations needed.
So many violent crimes have happened because a person says no, but then is convinced to change her mind. Against her better judgment, she concedes. Don't allow this to happen. I'm not talking here about your friend talking you into seeing a movie you don't want to see, although, you still can say no and stick to it. But there's no danger there. I'm talking about a complete stranger offering his "services" and not taking no for an answer. Beware!
Not all people who say: we, are charming and nice, do nice things for you, make promises and try to convince of you something, are bad. But most predators have these techniques down. Just be aware. And listen to your intuition. It's on your side and it could save your life.
If you want to learn more about this topic, I suggest you read The Gift of Fear. It is truly an invaluable investment.