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An Ounce of Prevention (Part 2 – Be a Hard Target!)

Updated: Mar 13, 2023

Let’s begin by reviewing some key points from ‘An Ounce of Prevention (part 1 – Situational Awareness).’

  • It is much easier to prevent a problem than it is to resolve it after it has happened. This is especially true of our personal safety!

  • When it comes to individual security, criminals are looking for people who lack two important attributes:

    • a situational awareness of the environment around them, and

    • confidence as they move through it.

In ‘An Ounce of Prevention (part 1),’ we focused on five (5) ways to build situational awareness. Today we’ll highlight five (5) ways to project a mental and physical self-assurance that makes it clear you are a ‘hard target.’ Whether you're on the job, at the mall, or in a parking lot, everything you do sends a message. Make sure you send the right one!

1. DO make eye contact:

It may be your first instinct to lower your gaze as you approach a stranger but when you're able to maintain eye contact, you're communicating to others that you're strong and confident. Potential attackers know you are someone who is aware of their surroundings and can probably identify them!

In North American culture, eye contact shows that you are honest and approachable. When eye contact is too direct or too much, it can become aggressive or challenging to others.

  • You should be making eye contact about 60% of the time you are speaking with another person.

2. DO show a pleasant, neutral expression:

A pleasant expression activates neural messaging in your brain that benefits your health and happiness. You are viewed as more attractive, reliable, relaxed, and sincere, and the other person's brain coaxes them to respond in the same way.

Know how your face rests naturally. A person’s outside look often doesn’t match the way they feel inside, so take a picture of yourself with a ‘neutral’ expression and look at it as a stranger would. Do you look:

  • aggressive,

  • nervous, or

  • relaxed and alert?

You don’t want to be seen as a challenge or as a victim! In a business environment, it is important to smile and be approachable. Letting customers know that you are ready and willing to help them makes it harder for them to remain anonymous and discourages disruptive behaviour.

3. DO introduce yourself, when possible:

With a pleasant expression, nod to acknowledge the people you pass, but don’t engage strangers.

In social settings, introducing yourself shows people you are competent and confident and have nothing to hide. It matches a name to your face and makes it more difficult for people to behave inappropriately! To present yourself positively and be a powerful influence on others, speak with conviction.

  • Always expect that someone is watching you and assessing your confidence!

4. DO communicate your confidence non-verbally:

Walking with authority through your environment can absolutely affect the cooperation level of others and improve your safety! Stand tall, with spine straight and your shoulders back; take longer strides and have your hands hanging loosely at your sides. Fidgeting shows nervousness, so don’t tap, chew your nails, or fiddle with your ID badge! Your head should be up at all times, while constantly observing your surroundings.

Walk like you know where you are, but don’t rush through your environment; fast movements make you appear more anxious. Remember, criminals take advantage of opportunities and target people who appear vulnerable. They will likely choose not to engage with someone who projects an air of strength and seems to know exactly where they are going.

  • Use your body language to clearly communicate that you are not an easy target!

5. DO use positive ‘self-talk:’

‘Self-talk’ is the conversation you have in your head about yourself and the world around you. It is critical to tell yourself you have all the skills and abilities you need to stay safe, or handle a difficult situation well, even when you don’t really feel that way. It can actually help shift your perspective and will ultimately change the neuro pathways in your brain! The messages you tell yourself become reality and, positive or negative, are a habit you have developed over time.

  • Positive self-talk starts with awareness and will take practice, especially if it’s not a natural instinct for you!

Situational awareness involves training yourself to scan your surroundings and sense challenges and opportunities, even danger, in your environment. Doing that, while maintaining the ability to confidently conduct your normal activities will help prevent issues, reduce escalation of incidents, and keep you safer wherever you go!

Using new tools can be challenging and practice helps us apply the information. Sharing our experiences help us learn from each other, so commit to trying a couple of these tips today and let us know how they work for you!

For more in-depth information on Situational Awareness principles, and to learn what SWAT learned on this concept, take our Situational Awareness Specialist course!


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