A Review of Gavin De Beckers book The Gift of Fear

Written by Simon Schofield – Deputy Director of the Human Security Centre

I’ve been using lockdown as an opportunity to do some more reading, aiming to read at least a book a week for 2021.

This week I’m re-reading Gavin de Becker’s The Gift of Fear, which I think should be read by everybody. GdB set up a close protection agency that provided bodyguards for half of Hollywood and has an extensive background in everything security from dealing with ex-boyfriends who are stalking their exes, to preventing assassinations of public figures.

The key message of the book is that we all have well-developed intuitions about people, but that we often ignore or over-ride them for the sake of not being rude or not embarrassing ourselves.

Lockdown is a great time to be thinking about the theory of self defence. As Jim often says, you win 100% of fights you’re never in.

Chapter 4 in particular I think is important from a Krav perspective – deals with strangers approaching us and how to gauge their intents.

Survival Signals

Some important ‘survival signals’, or behaviours you should pay attention to, that might reveal less-than-friendly intentions:

Forced Teaming – using ‘we’ inappropriately to create false intimacy and familiarity

Charm – this is not something we are, it’s something we do, it’s a directed tool and whilst not always sinister is something to keep in mind

Niceness – this does not equal ‘goodness’, not all smiles are invitations to tea parties!

Too many details – people who are being truthful don’t tend to feel they are being doubted, and don’t need to bolster their stories with details you didn’t ask for

Type-casting – also sometimes called ‘negging’ – making an out-loud assumption about someone that is slightly insulting, aiming to get that person to disprove it. “You’re probably too snobby to talk to someone like me…” or “You don’t strike me as the kind of person that reads newspapers…”

Loan-sharking – also sometimes called ‘reciprocity’ – doing nice things for you that you hadn’t asked for so that you feel obliged to do nice things for them in return.

The unsolicited promise – if someone feels the need to promise something you never asked of them, it’s because they’re reading doubt on your face and want to convince you – bear this in mind!Can any of you remember times when you have encountered one or more of these?

It’s sad, but it’s better to offend somebody who had good intentions, than it is to indulge someone who had bad ones.

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