Gift of Fear

December 16, 2013 By Tysei L.

Publication Date:  October 1, 1995

The Gift of Fear is a provocative read that challenges the idea that violent behavior is random and unpredictable.  Using thriller-like narrations of actual violent incidents, the author shows that the brain subconsciously picks up on subtle cues that act as precursors to a violent encounter, creating a survival signal known as fear.  The Gift of Fear empowers us by validating our intuitions and de-shrouding the mystery of senseless violence.

The concepts discussed in the book make it an essential read for anyone with an interest in safety.

Especially in the context of private security, the ability to recognize credible threats that initially seem benign is an important skill.  Although specific cues in predicting various kinds of violent behavior are given (PINS, or pre-incident indicators), de Becker is careful to note that they must be applied within context.  The friendly stranger who offers to lend a hand does not always have a secret malicious intent.  The book administers a reality check – it is better to be rude than to compromise your own safety.  Plenty of anecdotes show how standing your ground and being assertive can stop violent behavior dead in its tracks: a particularly important concept for security personnel in the capacity of both customer service and client security.

Ultimately, I feel this book is not a step-by-step tutorial in managing violent behavior. De Becker emphasizes the point that he generally dislikes checklists, as they can often mislead people into thinking there are shortcuts in making predictions.  As much as the PINS look good on paper, they would not inform the intuition of the casual reader who goes on to lead a complacent life after putting down the book.  In-line with the Condor core value of Training, the PINS must be consistently recognized and practiced to be ingrained into the officer’s mind, eventually forming into intuition.

The greatest value the book offers is the philosophy that intuition is a powerful tool, an awesome gift of nature that must not be suppressed.  De Becker articulates this eloquently: “when you accept the survival signal as a welcome message and quickly evaluate the environment or situation, fear stops in an instant.”  The Gift of Fear serves as a rude awakening to the complacent and those who dismiss their intuitions as being irrational. I recommend this book to anybody who wishes to expand their arsenal of tools for officer survival, and to those who want a thrilling read that also comes with practical information.


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