1. Excessive nervousness, attempts to get close to you, and excessive eye contact
Often I’m asked by students what’re important indicators you can notice to predict if someone will attack you. Upon first hearing this question you might believe it’s silly as nobody is a mind-reader. While this is true, there actually are behaviors that criminals will do when selecting a potential target. Therefore, understand multiple “pre-incident indicators” so your awareness will pick them up and act accordingly.
Allow me to also say these behaviors on their own or even together don’t necessarily mean you’re being targeted. People often exhibit these behaviors throughout the day for various reasons. So, you must understand the context of the situation and make the best possible decision. The cues I want to discuss today are excessive nervousness combined with an inability for someone to remain still, aggressive attempts to get in close proximity to you and excessive eye contact.
2. Excessive Nervousness
A person continuously moving around, aggressively moving their hands can be a good indicator someone will become violent. Nervous gestures and restlessness are an indication a person’s fight or flight function is kicking in. Humans generally need to move a lot when experiencing a flood of adrenaline. Notice professional fighter’s as they’re about to make their walk or while having their name called before a fight. They can’t stop moving, pacing, jumping, etc. That’s the adrenaline that’s making them want to MOVE as it prepares their bodies for a fight.
Generally, a person who’s about to commit a crime is incredibly anxious as they’re body prepares them for violent action. Certainly, there are people who can remain calm depending on their level of experience and mental state. However, generally, this isn’t the case and people’s behavior will coincide with the anxiousness they’re internally feeling. So, don’t ignore these signs and be prepared to leave the area if the person becomes increasingly agitated.
2. Aggressive attempts to get close to you
Pay close attention to people who go out their way to be in a close proximity to you. Generally, we tend to give others an appropriate comfortable space when in a public setting. We’ll actually go out of our way to NOT sit next to one another when on buses and subways. We like our space around strangers in order to feel comfortable. People that get close to you, walk out their way to be on the same sidewalk as you should be noticed quickly.
Next time you’re in a crowded downtown area watch people who sell things or ask for change on the street. Many of them hone in on someone and stand in front of them to engage in conversation. This is why we can tell them “no thank you” before they speak because we intuitively know what they want. Also, the sellers know to communicate with you they need to get close to you to make it “personal”. People that want nothing from you don’t care how close they stand to you or not. But those that want to “interview” and assess you must get close to you do so.
Pay attention to people who change their seats to sit by you, frantically get on the elevator with you, etc. This could be innocent or could be the beginning of the “interview” prelude to an attack. A few nights ago I was heading home on the train and a woman was sitting down. A guy was sitting on the opposite side of the train reading. He walked all the way to the other side to talk to the young lady while still pretending to “read”. When he finally decided to say hello she said you scared me I didn’t even see you there.
3. Excessive eye contact
Criminals go out of their way to make eye contact and stare at the people they plan to victimize. This behavior is very frequent in robbery scenarios. Criminals often attempting “size” up their targets and want to take in as much information as possible about them. Furthermore, the effects of adrenaline can lead to “tunnel vision” where the person is staring at you uncomfortably. When I got robbed when I was younger I recall the two robbers staring intently on me and my friends. I could literally see their eyes in the dark as they watched our every move.
4. Final Thoughts
It’s my hope that these tips will do you some good. Keep in mind that these behaviors don’t necessarily mean the person is trying to harm you. But they definitely mean SOMETHING even if it’s something silly. Best to notice there signs and take precautions and they mean nothing than to ignore them and they mean something important