Discussion – "The Gift of Fear," Chapter 4

“Survival Signals”

In this chapter Gavin de Becker outlines survival signals. Here is a list of “signs” or “signals” that perpetrators use to con victims.
Forced Teaming
This is done by the use of the word, “we.” Examples: “It looks like we’re in a predicament,” “We’ve got a hungry cat to feed.” It’s when a stranger uses the we’re-in-the-same-boat attitude. De Becker says, “forced teaming is done in many contexts for many reasons, but when applied by a stranger to a woman in a vulnerable situation, it is always inappropriate.” I love how he says that rapport building has a far better reputation than it deserves. Just because someone approaches you and offers you help and acts like you’re in it together, doesn’t mean you really are in it together. This is where listening to your instincts is crucial.
Charm and Niceness
How many times have we heard in the news about how charming and nice certain perpetrators seemed? This is exactly how Ted Bundy was described. I love how de Becker states that charm is not a quality but a verb. It literally means, to charm someone. Perpetrators use charm to charm you into doing what they want.
Too Many Details
People who are lying always give too many details. This is because they’re trying to distract you from the truth. De Becker state, “every type of con relies upon distracting us from the obvious.” “Don’t get distracted by the details,” is really good advice in any part of life, but is critical when dealing with those who might harm you. De Becker states, “when approached by a stranger while walking on some city street at night, no matter how engaging he might be, you must never lose sight of the context: He is a stranger who approached you.”
Typecasting
This is when you start to rebuff the advances of a perpetrator and they try to cast you in some negative light so that you’ll prove to them it’s not accurate. For example, “you’re probably too snobbish to talk to the likes of me.” Say, “yes, I am” and walk away. I love how de Becker points out that it doesn’t matter what some stranger thinks because the typecaster doesn’t even believe what he is saying is true, he just hope it works.
Loan Sharking
This is when perpetrators want to be allowed to help you so that you’ll owe them something. A traditional loan shark usually demands a lot more than was borrowed, as will perpetrators. This could be helping you with your bags, opening a door for you, etc.
The Unsolicited Promise
De Becker states that, “promises are used to convince us of an intention, but they are not guarantees.” Someone may say, “I’ll just put your groceries in your trunk and then leave. I promise.” De Becker reminds us that if someone is promising something its usually because you don’t trust them (they can sense this) and maybe you should sense this too and listen to your instincts.
Discounting the word “NO”
No means no means no means no. One of the most powerful statements de Becker makes is that in our society when men say “no” it means “no.” When women say “no” that means it’s the start of negotiations. He reminds us to be strong in our “nos” and to not let them be negotiated.
After discussing survival signals, de Becker goes on to talk about intuition and prediction. He says that Intuition is always right in two important ways:
1) It is always in response to something.
2) It always has your best interests at heart.
De Becker is sure to point out that just because intuition is always right doesn’t mean our interpretation of intuition is always right. He points out that not everything we predict will come to pass, but intuition is a response to something and rather than discounting it we are better off trying to figure out why the alarm bells are going off in our heads and identifying what the dangers are.
De Becker ends the chapter by addressing the messengers of intuition. Intuition is always learning and everything it communicates to you is meaningful. De Becker states, “Intuition might send any of several messengers to get your attention, and because they differ according to urgency, it is good to know the ranking.”
The Messengers of Intuition
Nagging feelings
Persistent Thoughts
Humor (especially dark humor)
Wonder
Anxiety
Curiosity
Hunches
Gut Feelings
Doubt
Hesitation
Suspicion
Apprehension
Fear
I love what de Becker says in the last paragraph. To summarize he says that every relationship in our lives begins with a prediction. Those predictions determine the quality and course of our lives. He says that we should make we look at the quality of our predictions. Have you ever met someone and instantly knew you were going to be friends? Have you ever met someone and they instantly creeped you out? These are the predictions de Becker is talking about.
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2 thoughts on “Discussion – "The Gift of Fear," Chapter 4

  1. Thank you for discussing this book. I think it's helpful to remember that the feelings he's talking about using as a gift are the ones we have about other people. Sometimes fear is not a gift – it's an anxious depressing stew. I get some of these anxious feelings when I'm all alone – and I'm learning to recognize when those feelings are a "generalized fear response" and not a horrid premonition. This takes a lot of thought and just being still.Anyway, thank you for writing about this book!

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