Mr. de Becker is an expert in threat assessment [he designed the threat assessment system used by Supreme Court Judges, Congresspersons, and CIA officials] and a private-security specialist, and also had personal experience in a violent environment when he was growing up.
The quick and dirty synopsis of the book is: trust your gut
. Sounds simplistic, but de Becker shows how many people unwisely discount their intuition when something's wrong - whether through denial, rationalization, or social rules. He tells the harrowing, terrifying story of a young woman whose gut feelings helped her escape becoming the second murder victim of a serial rapist - even though denying her initial gut feelings are what put her in the dangerous situation to begin with:
...listening to one small survival signal saved her life, just as failing to follow so many others had put her at risk in the first place.
This goes along with the
we talk about here on FTF a lot. I know in my own personal situations, I have come to regret ignoring them, especially recently when I was assaulted in my own home by someone I did not know very well, after having ignored many many
red flags. I'm okay and it's been a good learning experience, but I wish I had instead read this book before
this happened, rather than after... But I am definitely much the wiser now, and this book was very informative (although the end part drags a bit).
Chapter 4: "Survival Signals" is very helpful, as it lays out manipulative strategies people who are trying to get your guard down use, usually for criminal purposes:
- 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", "How are we going to handle this?"
- Charm and Niceness: Charm is almost always a directed instrument...which has motive. To charm is to compel, to control by allure or attraction. Niceness does not equal goodness. Niceness is a decision, a strategy of social interaction; it is not a character trait.
- Too Many Details: every type of "con" relies upon distracting us from the obvious. The defense for too many details is simple: Bring the context into conscious thought (for example, "I have asked him to leave twice.")
- The Unsolicited Promise: They are the very hollowest instruments of speech, showing nothing more than the speaker's desire to convince you of something. It's useful to ask yourself: "Why does this person need to convince me?"
- DISCOUNTING THE WORD NO: this is perhaps the most universally significant one of all: a man's* ignoring or discounting the concept of no. Declining to hear "no" is a signal that someone is either seeking control or refusing to relinquish it.
*Here de Becker is referring to rapes, the majority of which are inarguably committed by men on women. However, for all other situations he acknowledges both sexes as perpetrators - as we are well aware of here at FTF that abuse/victimization crosses gender lines.