A big part of NOT being a victim of violence is to know at least some of the ways a criminal picks their targets. Criminals are looking for an easy, unaware target that won’t cause them any trouble! They want things to go smoothly with their bad guy plan. The more difficult we can make that for them from the very beginning, the less likely we will be chosen as a target. There are many things you can do so a criminal will likely skip you as a target and move on to something else. (We cover a lot of these in our classes.)
As I was thinking about one of these techniques, I realized I had a habit that could send out a message to “pick me as a target.” As soon as I realized it, I started changing my behavior. The behavior I changed (and now practice) was how to use eye contact effectively.
The purpose of using eye contact is to tell potential criminals that you see them. Remember this – criminals don’t want to stand out or be remembered. So when approaching people as you are out and about, you want to look them in the eye. Now don’t go all freaky on the eye contact (see picture).
The point isn’t to intimidate. So no Clint Eastwood stare downs. (yes, I know neither of those are Clint!)
You just want to quickly scan their clothes enough to get an idea of what they are wearing and then look them in the eye to let them know you SEE them. This practice will raise your awareness level of the people around you. If you can be aware enough to see what they are wearing and what they look like, you are sending the message that you are fully aware of them, and that they should just keep on moving on.
So, this brings me to what I noticed that was “bad” about my “eye-contact” behavior. When I look people in the eye, I noticed that I quickly drop my eyes and look down. The way I dropped my eyes could send the message of submission and even fear or weakness. What I had to practice was how to move my eyes off of theirs, how to break my eye contact.
What I do now as I approach, I start at their feet and take a quick note of the clothing they are wearing and any distinguishing features (tattoos, facial hair, hat, etc.). Of course I try to do this without looking like I’m sizing them up for a date! Then I look them in the eye, and when I move my eyes off of theirs, I move them horizontally, moving my gaze to the right or left rather than down. This helps me stay alert while still having my peripheral vision engaged. Plus, it doesn’t look submissive. As I pass them, I mentally review what I noticed about them, and then, after I pass them, I glance back to see how accurate my description/memory is. If they see me doing this, it just reinforces that I’m aware of them and therefore a bad target (as long as I’m NOT smiling or winking!)
When I first started this, my memory of their description was horrible because I was so nervous about looking them in the eye. Now, as I have practiced more and more, I find my accuracy increasing. With this new practice, I am carrying myself more confidently. Not only that, I am not as nervous anymore, and I find that it is easier to hold my personal boundary without feeling like I am being rude.
So there you have it. Now that we see “eye to eye” (I couldn’t help it…this topic was begging for me to use that phrase), hopefully you feel a bit more prepared. Now you have another tool to use to be safe.
Until next time…I’ll be seein’ ya!
– Penny, Quirky LaBCaF Queen