One of my favorite books on personal safety is “The Gift of Fear.” All of my friends own a copy of “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin DeBecker (Little, Brown & Company, 1997). It’s my gift of choice instead of a bottle of wine or flowers, or whatever else people usually give to friends or acquaintances. Sometimes I pair it with a set of grip strengtheners or some other fun gadget that might actually improve their safety.
Gavin DeBecker does an excellent job in describing the tactics that predators use to get physically and emotionally close to their targets.
A human predator uses his target as a resource. Predatory violence is planned. The predator is goal oriented and purposeful. He acts intentionally. Usually, the only emotion that he feels is exhilaration and “contemptuous delight.” See Helfgott B. Jacqueline, Criminal Behavior (Sage Publications, Inc. 2008)
Generally, human predators use two distinct methods to get close to their targets. The first one, a blitz attack, is the sudden, brutal ambush on a target that is unaware of the predator’s physical closeness or intentions.
The second tactic is the use of charm and persuasion to approach, isolate, and then attack the target. Becker lists seven strategies, often employed in combination, that should raise your red flags:
(1) He uses “forced teaming.” He uses the term “we”” when you really have nothing in common with him, no shared history, no past, no basis for being a team.
(2) He gives you “too many details” in an initial or early conversation – details that may distract you so that you forget that he’s a stranger and that you have no basis for trusting him.
(3) He uses “loan sharking.” He does something for you that you did not ask for and maybe didn’t want. But now you may feel that you “owe him” for his “kindness.”
(4) He uses “charm.” Whenever you feel that someone is charming, rephrase and tell yourself, “Charm is a verb. He is charming me. What does he want from me?” The verb “charm” also means to captivate, hypnotize, mesmerize, or enchant, but with black magic. Think about what snakes do to mice. Or what crocodiles do with their tears.
(5) He uses “type casting.” He type-casts you, challenging you to do something that you don’t want to do. By complying, you can avoid being the unappealing “type.” For example, you are probably “too stuck up” to have a beer in my camper with me.
(6) He gives you “unsolicited promises.” I promise we’ll have one beer and then we’ll go right back to the party. Think of these promises as your alerts.
(7) Refusing to take “no” for an answer. He disregards your “no’s. ” Does he not understand two-letter words? Or does he want to control you?
DeBecker’s stories and examples explain why you should think of fear as a gift. The book affirms the importance of situational awareness and the value of trusting your gut reactions. Re-empower your instincts and, always, think of “charm” as a verb.