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Personal Safety – Mindset, Part 2: Don’t Be a Victim

In this post we will continue the discussion of the Personal Safety Mindset and discuss how to be an unappealing target.  This is best done by avoidance, if that is impossible, blending in is the next best choice, finally if all else fails, posturing/preparation will be the solution.

The best way to avoid a fight is to not show up for it.  This simple bit of advice is easy to comprehend but can be a bit more complicated in actually doing it.  A legendary trainer, John Farnam, is credited with one of the most profoundly simple and accurate ideas about personal safety.  Although not word for word, it says:

Don’t go to stupid places with stupid people, doing stupid things. 

I call it the “S cubed principle”, S³ is a perfect way to remind ourselves that personal safety is based in avoidance.  If you don’t stand on train tracks its hard to get hit by a train.  S³ should be the guiding principle in personal safety.

At times it is impossible to avoid stupid places, people and things.  Our jobs, volunteer work or simply going on vacation may take us into or through these places.  Sometimes we will catch the iron bars on doors and windows, concertina wire on the parking lots of business and churches, people standing around on the street looking at traffic going by with no apparent place to go.  Sometimes we won’t.  So what do you do when you end up in this situation?  Be the gray man (or person).

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Although it can be taken to places beyond the scope of this post, the the idea of being gray is pretty simple.  You blend into your environment by dressing, acting, talking and just not standing out.  Actually, being gray is a bit more involved, but the basic premise is to be the person who is a part of the crowd.  Blend in, jeans and flannel work great in a grunge bar, not so well on a beach in Florida.  Learn about your environment by being aware and adjusting your appearance to blend in with those around you.

A major part of blending in is being seen as uninteresting to predators.  Smart predators don’t jump on top of porcupines or approach a northbound skunk from the south.  You too should look unappealing to predators.  Be careful when wearing flashy jewelry, expensive clothes and carrying your expensive electronics when out in public.  There are definitely places where this is the norm, just know where you should and shouldn’t do it.

A predator wants to get what they want with the least amount of time and energy.  Show them that you are not that target.   Keep your head up, eyes looking around and stand tall.  It’s OK to make brief eye contact with average people, when in a narrow place, such as a doorway or hall, it is OK to give someone a wide berth or insist they come through before you to avoid the close contact.  It is OK to go places that you don’t feel comfortable going, if the voice in your head tells you: Don’t go there, listen.

Poor posture, tunnel vision and avoiding interaction with your environment by staring at the ground 5 feet in front of you tells attackers that you nervous or weak.  Staring at a phone or book tells your attacker the your are unaware, worse than that, have earbuds or the headphones that cover the entire ear to completely shut down your senses and you will have totally shut down your defenses.

Think about these things, check out how your stand and walk in a mirror or look at your reflection in the glass of store fronts.  Do you look like you are aware, engaged and a person who will resist an attacker?  If so, good on you!  If not, get some help, its not hard to learn, it just takes a little instruction.

Sometimes, through no fault of your own, you end up in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Someone has decided that for whatever reason you are going to be their next victim.  To offer them a last chance to fix themselves and leave you alone, you need to clearly demonstrate your intent to vigorously defend yourself.  This can be done with words and posturing.

Posturing is nothing new, animals do it all the time to discourage predators.  Some fish can puff themselves up to be a larger, scarier version of themselves.  A Porcupines’ quills will bristle at the approach of an enemy.  Cats will arch their backs and their fur and tails will stick up.  Humans can provide the same kind of warnings by raising clenched fists into a fighting position and putting a scowl on their face.

Just remember, posturing is preparing for a fight.  The situation has deteriorated to the point that it appears that physical conflict is the only option left.  Stand firmly balanced so that you can immediately engage or disengage an attacker.  Look at your attacker with determination, confidence and, if it is there, anger.  Have your hands up and protect yourself while being able to make strikes that will have the attacker rethinking their choice of victims.


Be aware of where you are, if you are in a stupid place, leave.  Be aware of who is around you, if you are around people doing things that you wouldn’t do yourself, leave.  Be aware of what is going on around you, if shady characters are doing shady things, leave.

Blend in with your surroundings, be sure to stand up but not stand out.   Project confidence and strength by using good posture and show others that you are engaged in the world around you.

If all of the prevention fails, communicate to your attacker that you will defend yourself with ferocity and no matter what, you will make sure that that person will understand that thinking of you as prey was a bad decision.

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