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Some of the authors listed in the other column also write fiction. In many ways it's easier to learn application of this information in that context.
Awareness without knowledge
Normal, Abnormal, or Dangerous?
Normal, Abnormal, Dangerous is a multi-use tool not only for personal safety, but also useful for quality of life and reduction of anxiety and fear.
The following is an except from our book "What
You Don't Know Can Kill You." The Normal, Abnormal, Dangerous
model (NAD) will also be part of our upcoming book on awareness.
This is a prescriptive model (it tells you what to look for) and a foundation on which to build actual situational awareness. Not only is it a critical tool for you to assess a situation, it's a shield against the way a prosecutor attacks you.
Remember the attorney pinging for weakness? Normal, abnormal and dangerous is your firewall against the most common pings. For example, when you say you saw your attacker "do a witness check," (1) the attorney will ask, "How do you know he wasn't looking for his friend?"
Can you explain the difference? Being able to can spell the difference between conviction and acquittal.(2)
Normal, everyday behavior, what is it? How do things ordinarily work? You’ll find many of these answers in social scripts. If you look into body language, communication, and etiquette, you’ll find you do know all kinds of ‘normal.’ The catch is it’s subconscious. You need to bring it to the conscious level to understand how much you know.
For example, answer these questions:
If you answer these questions in detail, you have a firm grasp of normal– safe behavior. People who go about their daily businesses in ways so common you don’t typically register them. That’s not the same as not seeing it; it’s so routine you mentally filter it out of things you do notice. We all have massive encyclopedias inside our heads of what is normal behavior for different environments and situations. You use this unconscious reference guide to affect your behavior thousands of times a day. With a little effort, you can bring it up from your subconscious (where this information usually is used). An example of normal behavior is to take a step– back or to the side– when someone enters an elevator you are in. Giving that person space is a social script you follow without a thought.
Understanding normal is the baseline from which you operate in your daily life. This may sound woo-woo, but once you know what is normal for an environment something out of place will just ‘feel’ wrong and immediately attract your attention.
The key is to recognize when something isn’t within normal parameters and pay attention. This buys you time to evaluate, allows for more options, and if necessary increase your safety. After you check out what feels “off” and find what’s happening is something that has a simple and innocent explanation you go back to your business.
If what’s happening can’t be safely explained, you need to shift mental gears and prepare to act. This is especially true if the next thing he does moves into your threat model (like his attempt to develop attack range).
Dangerous comes in two basic flavors conscious (jeopardy) and unconscious. Basically, does the person deliberately act in a way to cause you jeopardy or is he just doing the dumb? Either will kill you, but the way you handle it is different. Someone about to attack you is different from the idiot smoking a cigarette while pumping gas.
The trick is to recognize dangerous behavior before things go sideways. Dangerous (jeopardy) behavior is commonly wrapped up in abnormal (think Tyler story two where he is approached in a parking lot by three robbers pretending to be innocent).
That’s why you must consciously know normal and dangerous. This knowledge allows you to relax around abnormal behavior and spot dangerous behavior designed to appear abnormal (as it sets you up for an attack).
For articulation purposes dangerous jeopardy isn’t just generalized
abnormal behavior, it’s conscious behavior specifically targeting you.
Dangerous behaviors are deliberate actions
Danger has specific behaviors that stand out and make them neither normal nor abnormal. For example, a robber will enter a convenience store and pretend to be a customer. Customers are so normal they’re boring. While there are a wide range of body movements– some of which are definitely abnormal– they aren’t dangerous. But we’ve told you some dangerous behavior: his putting his hoodie up before entering, twisting his body to avoid cameras– now add putting his hands in his pockets and hunching down as he moves past the height scale by the door. That is unique behavior that only means one thing– no matter how much he pretends otherwise.
Let’s play with these ideas some more. Normally there aren’t people
in your driveway. But when you see someone walk up it, pay attention.
While that is abnormal what are the
Then it’s a UPS person. There is no danger, and it’s not even abnormal once you recognize the context. This is what Marc calls “normal-abnormal.” (It’s a known safe situation, and you can move on with your day.)
Another example: While bicycles may be a normal part of the environment, that guy on a unicycle wearing a kilt and playing the bagpipes isn’t. In fact, that’s pretty abnormal. But it’s not dangerous. If you live in Portland, Oregon, it’s not even abnormal. It’s a localized normal. That entertainer is just part of the city’s color. It’s all part of the “keep Portland weird” movement. (As if Portland needs to work on that… sheesh!) Odds are you have your own localized strangeness that’s part of your neighborhood. If you think about it you have probably explained it to a newcomer.
How can you tell when things shade into dangerous? Before you can recognize this, you need to know a few violence scripts and have a threat assessment model in place.
Say you have to run to the twenty-four-hour drugstore late at night. You notice three customers’ who pay a lot of attention to you. A fast look is normal, extended watching is abnormal. As you buy what you need, you see them slowly meander toward the door. (This timing is abnormal shading to dangerous.) As you leave they follow you out. Of all the directions they could go, they ‘by sheer chance’ head toward you and your car. When you change course, they too change to guarantee intercept.
These ‘coincidences’ have crossed into a robbery script– especially
if they ham handedly and covertly watch you in the store. They get
closer and will arrive at the same time you reach your car door. Given
the totality of the circumstances, this is clearly a dangerous
situation. It’s too loaded with unrealistic coincidences, timing,
and ‘known behavior.’ (Each behavior is a brick, it’s the whole pattern
that makes the wall.) Remember Tyler getting robbed and beaten in story
two? Now you know all the things he didn’t spot earlier.
Expansion of Abnormal
You can't really understand the expansion until you have the
overall model. So now that you have that let's look at the
expansion because they are the shading towards dangerous.
What isn't normal is standing in parking lots. But it's how someone is standing there that tells you if it's normal-abnormal or dangerous. Is the person loading or unloading a car? Is the person standing near a car talking on the phone? Are two or more people standing in a circle near a vehicle talking/ (Do they completely ignore you or one looks up and returns to the conversation?) These are normal-abnormal subroutines. As long as the person keeps doing that or moves off in another direction, there is no danger.
Localized normal: Yes the bagpipe playing unicyclist. But what
about a woman in a bikini? Are you near a pool or the ocean? That dress
is common to that sort of location. What areas do you not routinely see
semi and five ton trucks and where do you see them all the time? What
areas are deserted at night and what areas are crowded (and until what
time)? Look up and see writing in languages and alphabets you don't
recognize? You're in an ethnic neighborhood.
Abnormal-abnormal: That smelly homeless guy wandering down the
street yelling at his reflection in the window? Yeah, that's
abnormal-abnormal. But is he dangerous? Well not if he keeps yelling at
the window when you walk by (and please, walk wide). If he keeps on
going then he's busy with the demons in his head and not your problem.
Oh and as well as following you to your car, another form of
dangerous behavior in parking lots is three guys spaced out along the
wall, not talking but instead, watching people. When they 'peg you' as a
victim, then they start to move towards you all at once. While the one
in the middle distracts you the other two flank you and close the
distance. All of that screams danger. (Kinda obvious now you know
what normal and abnormal parking lot behavior isn't it?)
1) A Witness check is fast head swivel common among muggers, robbers and those intent on assault to 'check' there are no witnesses in the area or someone close enough to intefere with what they're about to do. Return to Text
2) The answer is in the speed and timing of the 'look.' A check's head swivel is only checking for proximity. Looking for a friend is slower and your eyes rest on people longer as you seek to idenitify your friend and dismiss those who aren't who you're looking for. That's the kind of answer you'll need to produce when a lawyer is gunning for you. Return to Text