You might be feeling a little foolish that I guessed the shapes you chose or maybe thinking I can’t be THAT predictable can I? Don’t worry, it’s not your fault. I set it up that way. I’ll get to that later in the post, but first we need to establish why this is important and how it applies to your safety.
The model that I use to categorize predators comes from Rory Miller. As I wrote in my Intro to Violence post, there are two categories: Resource and Process. Check out Rory’s book, Facing Violence, for more details on both. For this post, I’m going to discuss how they use social dynamics to manipulate us.
If a predator is trying to manipulate you, that individual has already chosen you as a target and has moved into the attack phase. There are two ways that this can go down. The predator will either charm or blitz you. If there are plenty of potential witnesses, the predator will most likely attempt to charm you into a more isolated location. Generally speaking, once the predator believes that the likelihood of being interrupted or caught has dwindled, a blitz will occur. For more information on this phase of the attack see part one and part two.
Think of a predator as a salesman. A salesman is trying to sell you either a product or service. The difference being, predators are trying to sell you their act. They want you to believe in their facade. This facade could be anything from a mugger pretending to ask for directions to a pedophile who dresses as a clown and performs at charitable events.
In part one, I discuss Gavin de Becker’s survival signals (this isn’t an exhaustive list, but it shows how we can be influenced by simple words). Also, check out this video on persuasion and think about how predators would be able to use these techniques to persuade you into believing in their masquerade.
These signals are only one part of the equation. The other parts to this are how the predator uses his body and his environment to influence you. It’s important to note that these influences may not work on everyone.
Let’s examine the exercise from my video to see how I was able to influence you to choose those two shapes. First, I manipulated the environment. I made sure that the only shape in the video was a square (table), which I told you not to choose. The next step was to create an influence for a triangle. I created a triangle with my arms and the table. After I asked you to choose a shape, I moved on quickly so you didn’t have time to think about different shapes.
Lastly, I told you to choose another shape and put it “around” the first, while moving my hand in a circular motion (it’s possible you may have thought of square or rectangle because of my hand motions prior to the circle). I manipulated the environment, my body, and chose my verbiage carefully in order to influence you into choosing a triangle inside of a circle. This exercise may not seem like a big deal, but think about how this type of manipulation could be used to separate you from your group of friends or move you into a secluded low traffic area. We don’t want to find ourselves in either of these scenarios with a predator.
Here is the bad news about predators, they are harder to spot than social violence. This is mainly due to the fact that they are using social dynamics to blend in and lure their victims into isolation. There is no fool proof way to spot a predator prior to their escalation. Although, if you’re paying attention it is possible to pick up on some of these signs and question why that person is trying to “charm” you.
The goal of this post isn’t meant to make you believe that everyone who approaches you and is nice, is a predator. I want you to be deliberate in how you assess people’s intentions. Having a fundamental understanding of body language and semantics[*] will help you identify when people are trying to manipulate you to their advantage.
* Joe Navarro’s book, What Every Body is Saying, and Dr. George J. Thompson’s book, Verbal Judo, are both good introductions to these topics, respectively.