Keeping yourself safe requires more than the skills and techniques you can learn and practice. Understanding, at least a little, the mindset and thinking patterns of those who prey on others can help prevent making risky decisions. The key to application of such understanding is awareness. Awareness is a topic often brought up in these articles, though usually in the context of physical surroundings. Two of the patterns listed below fall into that context. The other two patterns introduce a new arena of awareness: social.

1. Stacking the Deck. A predator preys on others for a gain of some kind. The pressure behind that need is usually such that failure to attain, even a partial failure, would cause a major detriment to his existence. A successful predator is intelligent. He will give himself as many advantages as he can, and give the victim as many disadvantages as possible. To that end, he will use weapons, surprise, deceit, confederates–whatever it takeds to get the upper ground.

2. Controlling the Environment. Controlling the environment is part of stacking the deck. It is when a predator determines location and time, even placing obstacles to prevent escape or aid. They decide on, and alter as necessary, the environment to minimize their risk. By controlling the environment a predator greatly reduces the variables he needs to worry about.

3. Qualifying the Target. Just as a salesperson or marketer qualifies potential customers, predators qualify their targets. There are several methods used by predators ranging in intrusiveness and aggressiveness. The two extremes, observation and yelling-in-your-face, are the two most frightening. To victimes of a predator using the first, it feels like an assault out of the blue. Victims of the latter tend to freeze as previously unknown levels of adrenaline hit their system. Most qualification techniques fall somewhere in between. Whatever the method, the purpose is the same: to determine susceptibility. Most qualifications also determine how willing the target is to abandon social norms. This where social awareness comes into play. Predators often rely on people’s reluctance to break social norms. If you feel yourself being trapped by social norms, it may be time to get rude by walking away.

4. Forced Teaming. Forced teaming is a term I learned from The Gift of Fear. It is a particularly insidious form of qualifying, and requires an acute sense of social awareness to spot. Forced teaming refers to the use of language to create a sense of commonality and trust between predator and victim. Words suc as “let’s” and “we” are prime examples of forced teaming language. So how do you tell the difference between forced teaming and someone who is just being friendly? Forced teaming is often accompanied by a refusal to accept “no” as an answer.

Each of these categories could easily be expanded into an article, or even an article series, on its own. There are other pattern categories and sub-categories used by predators. I invite anyone interested in more information to do research on their own. Two excellent places to start are The Gift of Fear by Gavin deBaker and Meditations on Violence by Sgt. Rory Miller. I’ll also answer what questions I can.

Stay safe.

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