Gavin de Becker, author and expert on the prediction and management of violence, offers what he’s termed survivals signals in his number one bestselling book The Gift of Fear. These techniques are what many face-to-face criminals use to keep their victims from recognizing that they are in trouble. Understanding these methods can help you to recognize if you’re ever in a potentially dangerous situation.
1. Forced Teaming
Forced teaming occurs when someone pretends to be in a similar situation or have something in common with another. It often involves the use of the word “we” or “us” as in “What are we going to do about this?” or “We both know…” Forced teaming is used to create unearned trust — people are more likely to open up to someone they think is like them, or is in the same situation they are.
Charm is consciously used by potential attackers to control by alluring. People respond more positively to those that captivate them. Rather than think that a person is charming, think that they are trying to charm you. This will keep you from being swayed.
Niceness is not goodness. If a person wishes to control, presenting the image of a nice person is an effective way to make the other person more comfortable with them.
3. Too Many Details
When a person is being truthful and straightforward, they don’t feel the need to add details (i.e. support) to what they are talking about. But if a person is lying, even if you believe what they are saying, they might not. What they say might not sound believable to them so they keep talking, adding more and more details.
These details, like other techniques, are used to keep the other person distracted and oblivious to the context of the situation.
Typecasting is when a person labels another in a way that the other feels compelled to disprove the labeling, and in a way that makes the other person feel insecure. It is always a slight insult, and usually one that the other person can easily disprove.
The typecaster wants the other person to prove him wrong — once they do so, control is handed over and the person is made more responsive to their advances. The best defense is to act as if you didn’t even hear what they said.
Loan sharking occurs when a person gives help that wasn’t asked for, expecting a favor in return. They know that people will feel indebted to them for helping out, and they exploit this sense of obligation and fairness. Offering to carry a woman’s groceries, for example, may allow a man to encourage a woman to talk to him who otherwise wouldn’t.
To avoid loan sharking, decline their help, politely (or impolitely, if necessary).
6. The Unsolicited Promise
Promises that come for no reason are used to convince others that a person will or will not take a certain action. Why? Because the promiser can tell that the other person is not convinced.
If you are unconvinced of the sincerity of someone, that is a sign that something might be wrong. Pay attention to this doubt.
6. Discounting the Word “No”
Refusing to acknowledge the word “no” is a signal that someone is seeking to control or doesn’t want to let go of control.With a stranger or someone you know only casually, refusing to accept no can be dangerous.
Don’t give in or negotiate if someone continues what they are doing after you tell them “no”. It is best to get away completely, but if you can’t, simply repeat firmly, “No”.
Note: Many of these techniques are used by people who don’t have sinister intentions — a person can be charming or nice and not mean you any harm. But they are used consciously by people who have less than positive aims and if several of the signs are present, you should be aware.
In addition, these techniques are used by people wishing to manipulate, but not cause physical harm. For example, typecasting is used by PUAs and is also known as “negging”.
Do you recognize any of these methods? Have you ever had them used on you?