Thursday, March 01, 2007

Survival Signals

Per our short discussion in comments, there are a lot of creepy people out there, so how do you know what to look for in case of really creepy people? Well, The Gift of Fear has a few signals to look for:

  • Forced teaming: ...an effective way to establish premature trust because a we're-in-the-same-boat attitude is hard to rebuff without feeling rude. The detectable signal of forced teaming is the projection of a shared purpose or experience where none exists: "Both of us"; "We're some team"; "How are we going to handle this?"
  • Suggested defense: ...make a clear refusal to accept the concept of Partnership. "I did not ask for your help and I do not want it."
  • Charm and niceness: Charm is almost always a directed instrument, which, like rapport building, has a motive. Think of charm as a verb, not a train. If you consciously tell yourself, "This person is trying to charm me," as opposed to "This person is charming," you'll be able to see around it.
  • Suggested defense:I encourage women to explicitly rebuff unwanted approaches, but I know it is difficult to do. [Discussion about women in our culture expected to be "available" to men] ...it serves the man who has sinister intent by providing much of the information he will need to evaluate and then control his prospective victim.
  • Too many details: People who want to deceive you...will often use a simple technique that has a simple name: too many details....When people are telling the truth, they don't feel doubted, so they don't feel the need for additional support in the form of details. When people life, however, even if what they say sounds credible to you, it doesn't sound credible to them, so they keep talking.
  • Suggested defense: When approached by a stranger...no matter how engaging he might be, you must never lose sight of the context: He is a stranger who approached you. A good exercise is to occasionally remind yourself of where you are and what your relationship is to the people around you. With a date who stays beyond his welcome, for example, no matter how jokey or charming he may be, a woman can keep herself focused on context simply by thinking, "I have asked him to leave twice."
  • Typecasting: A man labels a woman in some slightly critical way, hoping she'll feel compelled to prove his opinion is not accurate. "You're probably too snobbish to talk to the likes of me,"... a woman will cast off the mantle of "snob" by talking to him. Typecasting always involves a slight insult, and usually one that is easy to refute.
  • Suggested defense: Silence. [Remember this is a stranger, what do you care what they think of you?]
  • Loansharking: ...the predatory criminal generously offers assistance but is always calculating the debt.
  • Suggested defense: ...is to bring two rarely remembered facts into consciousness: He approached me, and I didn't ask for any help. Then, though a person may turn out to be just a kindly stranger, watch out for other signals. [The author then goes on to make a lovely little analogy] There is no spiritually minded movement dedicated to lightening the burden of American women by carrying their groceries.
  • The unsolicited promise: ...is one of the most reliable signals because it is nearly always of questionable motive. Promises are used to convince us of an intention, but they are not guarantees.... The reason a person promises something, there reason he needs to convince you, is that he can see that you are not convinced.
  • Suggested defense: [Bring to your conscious mind that thought that] "You're right, I am hesitant about trusting you, and maybe with good reason. Thank you for pointing it out."
  • Discounting the word "No": Declining to hear "no" is a signal that someone is either seeking control or refusing to relinquish it. With strangers, even those with the best intentions, never, ever relent on the issue of "no", because it sets the stage for more efforts to control. If you let someone talk you out of the word "no", you might as well wear a sign that reads, "You are in charge."
  • Suggested defense: [Unambiguously say NO about whatever the issue at hand is. Don't use waffle words "I think,"; "I suppose".] When someone ignores that word, ask yourself: Why is this person seeking to control me? What does he want? ...the response that serves safety is to dramatically raise your insistence, skipping several levels of politeness. "I said NO!"
--From The Gift of Fear, by Gavin De Becker

Think on those signals for awhile. There is so much more to this book, I clearly can't go into it online. Get it, read it, think about it. Teach it to your children, friends and family. Yes, a lot of these are the same signals that men use when "just" picking women up, but remember that it's all about context. Are you somewhere safe? Alone? Afraid?

Don't be afraid to be rude. Ever.

Read it and hone those instincts.

1 comment:

tylorael said...

Once, a married man (I was friends with him and his wife) and I made plans to go hiking. I thought the plans were with him and his wife. The day dawned yucky and gross, so we altered those plans to hang out at my house. He showed up, alone.

Zucca growled at him. Tail tucked, head down, ears back.

I asked him to leave, 2 or 3 times, and finally, after ordering dinner for us, and sidetracking him from trying to kiss him by talking about how gross my throat was after having my tonsils out, I told him I had to leave my house, which meant he had to go.

I haven't said more than two words to him since. A lot of what is here reminds me very much of what he did. I found out later that he and his wife were on the verge of separating and are now divorced.

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