Gavin de Becker runs a firm of 250 very smart people who help people make better predictions about violence. His book The Gift of Fear is one of the most useful books I have ever read, if you can believe that its principles do work.
The gist of it can be found in the book’s subtitle:
It is a book about intuition. Specifically, becoming more attuned to intuitions that warn of danger. That give a “bad feeling” or just “seem wrong.”
The person who is watching you.
The person who seems completely out of place.
The person who reveals too many details.
The person who understands “forced teaming.”
The person that refuses to hear no.
The person that clings, online or off.
The person that sees relationships where there are none, and ignores protests to the contrary.
And so on.
Most of the book builds on cases that De Becker’s institute handled. Essentially, someone comes to them and says “Here is what has happened and we want to know how worried we should be.”
The evidence to that point could include unwanted emails, letters, propositions, comments on a blog, inappropriate gifts, threats, etc. They weight the evidence and, based on their prediction, they advise the client as to the appropriate actions to take, or not.
There are a few points I’d like to single out that I found very valuable.
Awareness is key
Most people just walk around with their heads either down or stuck into their smartphones. They have no idea what or who is around them. They forfeit their powers of obsevation, and therefore their “gift of fear.” Without awareness, intuition based on observation cannot exist.
The different between threats and intimidations
A fascinating chapter about when to be worried and when not to. The line is small, but it made sense to me. And now I’m a lot more aware of when I’m being threatened–which almost never happens. What I usually called threats, de Becker would call intimidations.
Being a poor target
A massive part of self-defense is simply making yourself look like a less productive option to potential predators. If you’re observant and prepared, you’re less likely to be singled out as easy prey.
I found the sections on cyber-stalking absolutely fascinating. What do most people do when they are trying to sever ties with someone? (Note, whether the relationship actually exists is not important. To the stalker it exists, and that’s all we concern ourselves with).
We usually “have a talk” with that person to tell them that we’re through. And by telling them that we don’t want to talk to them, we continue talking to them.
I could have saved myself a lot of heartache and headache in the past if I had had the guts to just ignore people, rather than telling them (again) that I wanted nothing to do with them and that there was nothing between us.
Rudeness is preferable to danger
If you’re a woman (or man, as they are not immune to stalkers) and you don’t want help with your groceries in a lonely parking lot, wouldn’t you rather have him be offended because you said “I don’t want your help!” than have him abduct or harm you?
Summary of The Gift of Fear
It all boils down to “trust your instincts.” But the book demonstrates how to do it. There are best practices that will make us better prepared to respond to our intuitions.
And if you like this one, I’d also recommend Deep Survival.