The Gift of Fear - by Gavin de Becker

Forced Teaming: Forced teaming is an effective way to establish premature trust because a we're-in-the-same-boat attitude is hard to rebuff without feeling rude. The simple defense for forced teaming, which is to make a clear refusal to accept the concept of partnership: "I did not ask for your help and I do not want it." Like many of the best defenses, this one has the cost of appearing rude.

Charm and Niceness: Niceness does not equal goodness. Niceness is a decision, a strategy of social interaction; it is not a character trait. People seeking to control others almost always present the image of a nice person in the beginning. Like rapport-building, charm and the deceptive smile, unsolicited niceness often has a discoverable motive.

Too Many Details: When people are telling the truth, they don't feel doubted, so they don't feel the need for additional support in the form of details. When people lie, however, even if what they say sounds credible to you, it doesn't sound credible to them, so they keep talking. The defense for too many details is simple: bring the context into conscious thought. A good exercise is to occasionally remind yourself of where you are and what your relationship is to the people around you.

Typecasting: Typecasting always involves a slight insult, and usually one that is easy to refute. But since it is the response itself that the typecaster seeks, the defense is silence, acting as if the words weren't even spoken.

Loan Sharking: The predatory criminal generously offers assistance but is always calculating the debt. The defense is to bring two rarely remembered facts into consciousness: He approached me, and I didn't ask for any help.

The Unsolicited Promise: The unsolicited promise is one of the most reliable signals because it is nearly always of questionable motive. The reason a person promises something, the reason he needs to convince you, is that he can see that you are not convinced. You have doubt (which is a messenger of intuition), likely because there is reason to doubt. The great gift of the unsolicited promise is that the speaker tells you so himself! Here's the defense: When someone says "I promise," you say (at least in your head) "You're right, I am hesitant about trusting you, and maybe with good reason. Thank you for pointing it out."

Discounting the Word "No": "No" is a word that must never be negotiated, because the person who chooses not to hear it is trying to control you. Declining to hear "no" is a signal that someone is either seeking control or refusing to relinquish it. With strangers, even those with the best intentions, never, ever relent on the issue of "no," because it sets the stage for more efforts to control. If you let someone talk you out of the word "no," you might as well wear a sign that reads, "You are in charge."

At core, men are afraid women will laugh at them, while at core, women are afraid men will kill them.

Trust that what causes alarm probably should, because when it comes to danger, intuition is always right in at least two important ways: 1. It is always in response to something. 2. It always has your best interest at heart.

Intuition might send any of several messengers to get your attention, and because they differ according to urgency, it is good to know the ranking. The intuitive signal of the highest order, the one with the greatest urgency, is fear; accordingly, it should always be listened to. The next level is apprehension, then suspicion, then hesitation, doubt, gut feelings, hunches and curiosity. There are also nagging feelings, persistent thoughts, physical sensations, wonder, and anxiety. Generally speaking, these are less urgent. By thinking about these signals with an open mind when they occur, you will learn how you communicate with yourself. There is another signal people rarely recognize, and that is dark humor. Humor, particularly dark humor, is a common way to communicate true concern without the risk of feeling silly afterwards, and without overtly showing fear.

When any type of threat includes indirect or veiled references to things they might do, such as "You'll be sorry," or "Don't mess with me," it is best to ask directly, "What do you mean by that?" Ask exactly what the person is threatening to do. His elaboration will almost always be weaker than his implied threat. If, on the other hand, his explanation of the comment is actually an explicit threat, better to learn it now than to be uncertain later.

Rule #1. The very fact that you fear something is solid evidence that it is not happening.

Rule #2. What you fear is rarely what you think you fear--it is what you link to fear.

Worry, wariness, anxiety and concern all have a purpose, but they are not fear. So any time your dreaded outcome cannot be reasonably linked to pain or death and it isn't a signal in the presence of danger, then it really shouldn't be confused with fear. It may well be something worth trying to understand and manage, but worry will not bring solutions. It will more likely distract you from finding solutions. The relationship between real fear and worry is analogous to the relationship between pain and suffering. Pain and fear are necessary and valuable components of life. Suffering and worry are destructive and unnecessary components of life.

To be freer of fear and yet still get its gift, there are three goals to strive for. They aren't easy to reach, but it's worth trying:

  1. When you feel fear, listen.

  2. When you don't feel fear, don't manufacture it.

  3. If you find yourself creating worry, explore and discover why.