Author Topic: body language, and situational awareness  (Read 3447 times)

Offline womule

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body language, and situational awareness
« on: April 03, 2011, 05:47:00 PM »
Im pretty good at reading someones body language, if they are uncomfortable, upset, happy etc

My real question is about reading an attackers body language. What are the signs that a stranger is about to attack?   I often have strangers walk up and ask for a buck, time, a lift and I hate to turn people away but don't want to give a crook an opening to attack.  I want to be able to be kind while maintaining situational awareness

Does anyone have any experience/knowledge about criminal body language?  Are there any LEO who could help me with this

Offline Pathfinder

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Re: body language, and situational awareness
« Reply #1 on: April 03, 2011, 07:27:46 PM »
There are a number of things to look for:
1. people who do not appear to belong where they are
2. people who are looking at you without trying to look at you
3. in a mob or crowd, the ones who are open faced, yelling or whatnot tend not to be the source of trouble; look for the ones with an intense look, a focused face, who are quiet.
4. liquor in public places like on a street is involved.
5. nervousness or fidgeting when there is no apparent reason to be.

None of these is perfect, which is why you have to weigh all factors. If it doesn't feel right, change the situation by going back the way you came, crossing the street, etc. Be alert so when you are approached "for a buck" or a smoke, you are already aware of the person's presence and have already made a decision about what to do.

Offline NWBowhunter

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Re: body language, and situational awareness
« Reply #2 on: April 03, 2011, 07:50:25 PM »
I think you see a disconnect from the words and actions. The pleading for help with a posture of dominance doesn't fit. People that are in need tend to be subservient. They are playing on your good will.  Even if they are just scamming they know that someone will give them assistance.

People that are looking to perpatrate a crime are desperately trying to hide that face. Most are not sucessful, thats why the hair stands up the back of your neck. But it does require vigilance of your surroundings and the people near you.

Offline mootz

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Re: body language, and situational awareness
« Reply #3 on: April 04, 2011, 07:40:03 PM »
The most common verbal request I hear about, just prior to getting hit, then robbed is:  "Hey, you got a cigarette?"  The next response from you will dictate whether or not the hay maker is coming.  Situational awareness is the most important aspect of staying out of that predicament.  When cops are covering each other, assuming they're doing it correctly, anytime anyone is approaching the other from behind, the covering cop will let the other know ( like saying "Behind you.") 

Now I'm not pointing fingers because I've screwed up more than a few times before.  The most memorable was when I was fastening the seat belt on my kid (in a child seat) and this "homeless" type walked up right behind me and asked for change.  Yes, I was armed but that absolutely scared the crap out of me.  I kept saying to myself, "He had me...he had me.."  Never again.

On the flip side, your body language says a lot too.  One time I was fueling up when another "homeless" type started toward me.  Code yellow to red in a fraction of a second.  I said nothing to him on his approach, but I squared up, not in a defiant manner, but just enough to let him know that if it was on, I was ready.  You should have seen the subtle reaction in this guy, and it was subtle.  He asked me for money, I said sorry.  A few small talk sentences were exchanged.  During this time, I was breathing differently to calm myself and at the same time preparing.  I know he saw this.  He said, "I know who you is" and walked away.

Sometimes you have to think like a criminal to reason out how to react.  Of course having the preparations (hand to hand, weapon, good bluffing skill, etc.) is of some comfort.  But avoiding it in the first place is the best, if that's not possible, strong and confident body language is a good start.

Offline excaliber

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Re: body language, and situational awareness
« Reply #4 on: April 04, 2011, 08:40:02 PM »
I learned from being in Iraq for 2 tours, the best way to avoid a confrontation is to look like the last person in the world they want to mess with.
look confident, agile, and ready, dont look like a easy target. predators always go for the weakest first,  dont appear to be the weakest,
  be respectful but not friendly.

the biggest thing is to maintain situational awareness, be aware of your surrounding, dont put yourself in bad situations or bad places.

bad people looking to do bad things will want you alone, they will also be displaying situational awareness to see if the time and place is right for them to
attempt to get at you. watch for people looking around, and repositioning themselves for a better advance on you. or waiting in a good location for an attack, with limited visibility to others.

just basic stuff I guess, use good judgment and common sense, and they will wait on the person who does not.

Offline womule

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Re: body language, and situational awareness
« Reply #5 on: April 05, 2011, 06:48:35 PM »
So basically, I should stay alert and listen to my gut.  I guess its not as difficult as I was thinking

Offline ZenGunFighter

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Re: body language, and situational awareness
« Reply #6 on: April 05, 2011, 08:16:12 PM »
Body language...
80% of our communication is non-verbal. We 'read' body language all the time. You already are using it to be 'perceptive' and noting how people are feeling.

If there is a difference between what a person is saying verbally, and what they are saying non-verbally, trust the non-verbal.

One of my favorite ways to practice is to watch the TV with the sound off. Try to figure out what is going on just with body language.

If you ever get a chance to take it, the 'Management of Aggressive Behavior" class is Very Good at teaching you to understand and recognize the various levels of agression, and gives you tools and tactics to defuse or deal with the situtation.

Understanding body language lets you 'read' people, but you can also use it to 'tell' people what you want. A poster above talks about 'telling' the people around him that he wasn't to be messed with.

It's not that hard to send out predator 'vibes'. Other predators will pick up on it.

The hard part is learning how to not send out ANY vibes. To become 'invisible'.

I only know a couple of predators that can do this.

Another point is when someone approaches you and asks for the time/a dollar/cigarette/directions.  This is called 'Testing' and is used to see whether you are a 'victim' or not. Are you compliant? Can you be distracted? Talked into doing something?
Once you understand you are being 'tested', it is easy to deal with.

Offline ZenGunFighter

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Re: body language, and situational awareness
« Reply #7 on: April 05, 2011, 08:23:05 PM »
a fun part of body language is 'personal space' and 'proximics'
Lion tamers use the cat's personal space to move them around. You can do the same with people.
Notice that there is a normal distance that you stand away from someone when you talk to them. Next time you are talking to someone, notice this distance. move forward an inch or two. be subtle. They will make an unconcious nervous gesture, and move back an inch or two to put things back to where they are comfortable.

We tend to face each other when talking. When talking to someone, subtly shift an inch or two to your right or left. A few momements later do it again. The person will shift to keep facing you. You can literally turn them all the way around.

There is also some good research on 'Micro Expressions' which can be useful.

Offline Woody Borghini

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Re: body language, and situational awareness
« Reply #8 on: April 05, 2011, 08:53:10 PM »
In executive protection training, we study a lot of this. I am by no means an expert, but I have a few resources that may help. The main guy to read is Gavin De Becker.

Pick up a paperback copy of "Gift of Fear." This book is all about using your intuition (which shows up as fear, often) to guide you, and to not discount it. In this book he talks a lot about pre-incident indicators (PINs), which can tip a protector off to an assassin's moment of commitment. There is no definitive catalog of these actions, but with enough creative thought, you can develop your own mental catalog of likely actions that would be PINs: sudden reach for a pocket? change of facial expression or tone? forward/aggressive movement? You are already keen on body language, and ZenGunFighter talked about watching TV without sound. Now study up on micro expressions, and see how those mix with other actions: a flash of anger in response to something you said, combine with movement of the hand? You see?
I can only brush over it in this post, but definitely pick up this book.

Another from DeBecker is "Just 2 Seconds." This is a sort of a protector's bible. It is probably $40, but very worth it. It is more geared toward the professional protector, and relates more to constantly looking for attackers and using time and space to cut off their attack, but all the principles apply to self protection, too.

Study up on some of this stuff. Even though it may sound like a lot of "bodyguard" stuff, or too uptight, it's not really. The principles can be used across the board. You are your own protector (or your wife/kids' bodyguard.) It's okay to take it seriously. Just remember to walk around with a positive, confident attitude. You might never find yourself in a situation, but get some skills deep in your bones, so they're there when you need them. (I'm preaching to myself, too.)

I hope that helps a bit.
Really do check out the books. You can probably even find the first one at a library.

-Woody