If you play poker, or have to deal with little kids, you might already be an expert in reading body language.
That skill can come in quite useful when it comes to personal safety and can show you how to avoid violence when you are out with the people you care for.
The key is to understand that most people, including potential assailants, have to psych themselves into an attack.
It is this process of working up to violence that will give you the warning signs, but only if you are paying attention and know how to read them.
Most people are hardwired to minimize risks. Most people except maybe psychopaths and sociopaths, that is.
Criminals are no different. Although they are willing to hurt and to kill, their safety is usually something they care about because a criminal is likely to be preyed upon by another criminal.
For them, choosing a safe victim can be a matter of life and death, so they are going to want to stack the odds in their favor.
They will “interview” their potential prey and pick someone who is not paying attention, or whom they feel will not resist.
If you can get into their minds, you have a much better chance of detecting and failing that interview.
Here are some ways to catch the warning signs.
Effects of adrenaline
When the human mind anticipates violence, it flushes the body full of adrenaline to get ready for it. These causes some changes that most people cannot control, such as:
- higher pitched voices
- faster speech cadence and breathing patterns
- redness in the face, followed by paleness (which is a deadly signal of impending violence)
- they break eye contact and seem to lose focus (they are trying to get better peripheral vision before the strike)
Where are their hands?
An important giveaway is what a potential attacker does with his hands. Things to look out for:
- Are the fists clenched?
- Is one hand raised to distract you (hey I don’t want any trouble) while the other disappears behind the back or inside a jacket?
- Is he subconsciously touching various places on his body where a weapon is stored?
What is their body doing?
A lot can be deciphered by what a person’s body is doing. Some things to scan for include:
- Is the person right walking towards you, but not actually looking at you.
- Does he have a strange gait or stilted motion? Is he bladed towards you with one shoulder leading his movement?
- Is he bobbing up and down as he walks or is talking to you?
- Is his body hunching and his head dropping? That’s the body getting ready for violence.
How are they approaching you?
Sometimes the interview is as simple as the other person closing in on you intently, and seeing if you even noticed or are too timid to react to it. Another danger sign is when two people are approaching you and one walks to the side, out of your peripheral vision.
Look, we get that none of these signs by themselves indicate that you are a candidate for an assault.
But the point is to look and see if multiple signs are coming together, and to trust your instincts.
Make eye contact, cross the street, and map out your escape, whatever you have decided how to avoid violence.
And if it comes down to it, give yourself the precious seconds you need to defend yourself and the ones you care for.