By John Boch
A person’s body language communicates messages in everything they do.  Some messages are subtle, while others are so obvious that even the clueless can pick them up.

Body language can suggest that a person is tired, upset, distracted confused or intoxicated.  They can announce self-confidence and power, or just the opposite – fear and helplessness.

Those skilled in reading body language can discern much more subtle clues as well.

Criminals watch body language as part of their victim selection process.  Bad guys typically look for anyone who they believe would make an easy victim, be it for theft or other property crimes, or violent physical attacks, or both.

Ask yourself:  What message do you send with your body language?

Are you bold and confident, with your head on a swivel looking around and fearlessly looking others in the eyes?

Or are you like the majority of pedestrians in downtown Chicago, nervously avoiding eye contact and casting their gaze downward?

Do you act tired, distracted, nervous or otherwise unsure of yourself?  Are you inappropriately engrossed in your smart-phone while in public, oblivious to your surroundings?

Bad guys look for would-be victims displaying these sorts of body language indicators.

Sit down in a public place sometime – a mall, large store, or downtown area – and watch the people carefully.  Think from the perspective of someone selecting a potential victim.  Who would you choose and why?  Who would you avoid?

Sometimes we nickname potential victims “sheeple” in our personal protection classes because they are sheepish in their behaviors.

The moral of the story:  Don’t be a sheeple!

Stand tall when you walk.  Make eye contact with others, and be aware of your surroundings.

Do this and anyone watching will notice you are not an easy, “sheep-like” victim, but rather a hard target and potentially a predator of sorts.
Predators come in both good and bad flavors.  Criminal predators are primarily watching for potential victims, though they will often notice a fellow criminal.  Good guys, like sheepdogs, watch out for bad predators and often notice fellow sheep dogs as well.

Be aware of your surroundings.  Look for other people exhibiting predatory characteristics, good or bad.  Do a quick assessment for potential threats and exude confidence while doing so.

After you practice this sort of awareness in public for a few weeks, you will begin to do it without even thinking.  You will notice those potential problems and predators and can give them a wide berth.

Remember to put distance between yourself and potential threats.  That reactionary gap gives you time to react.  Time means options and options mean safety.

Most importantly, you’ll be safer as any criminal worth his salt will generally avoid folks with a confident demeanor.

Even when you are tired or distracted, make it a point to be alert and aware when in public, watching for anyone or anything out of place.  Look people in the eye and don’t be afraid to say, “hi there”.

Also, part of awareness, you must recognize when you are in a victim-rich environment.  

Hungry sharks seldom swim where there are no fish to eat.   Certain locations provide  more opportune targets than others for bad guys to ply their trade – specifically locations where they can find those carrying cash and/or those intoxicated.

ATMs are criminal magnets, because, well, that’s where the money is and those leaving an ATM are probably carrying some!  Parking lots of bars, strip clubs, casinos or parimutuel facilities all provide nice victim pools of those with cash and / or those who have had a little too much to drink.

Public intoxication is trouble.  Don’t be drunk in public, even if your name is Ron White, and doubly so if you are alone.

Any “No Gun” zones you encountered should be considered potential high-risk locations, as criminals prefer to select their victims from unarmed pools of candidates.  After all, when was the last time armed robbers trolled for victims outside of a police station or shooting range?

While patronizing higher-risk establishments, be particularly aware of your surroundings while coming and going.

Remember, no matter where you are at, someone may be watching you, assessing your demeanor and body language as part of their victim selection process.

Be confident and aware and you’ll help to keep yourself safe.

4 thoughts on “BOCH: Body language: Use it to your advantage”
  1. Excellent article !!! GSL always has great stuff but this is very good safety info. In addition to this I from time to time while in various places that daily life sends me like to play the ” what if ” game. right in the middle of some normal thing, checking out at the store, walking to the car, standing is a line someplace, eating lunch at work, etc. I ask myself ” what if ” some nut came in shooting, a robbery went down, etc. where would I go ? what would I do first ?, stuff like that. I also tell those I care about to do the same.

    With CCW right around the corner we should all be doing this even more only add ” should I / would I shoot now ? ” or ” would I get involved ? “, etc. give it a try.

  2. Good article, but I would suggest more detail, e.g., on sizing people up. It’s good to have a sort of list in your head, things to size everyone up for. Like: socioeconomic status, general mental state, what he’s doing with his hands, chance that he’s armed, etc.

  3. The 16 hour class you teach really helped me understand the states of awareness, well worth the admission price.
    Korem and Associates have developed some detailed profiling information. Not casual reading but very informative. They have trained a lot of law enforcement agencies. Website is Korem and Associates. The two best books are “The Art of PRofiling” and “Rage of the Random Actor”

Comments are closed.