The Gift of Fear

The Gift of Fear‘ (1997) is a nonfiction self-help book by security consultant Gavin de Becker. The book provides strategies to help readers avoid trauma and violence by teaching them various warning signs and precursors to violence.

De Becker’s book presents a paradox of genre: described as a ‘how-to book that reads like a thriller.’ By finding patterns in stories of violence and abuse, de Becker seeks to highlight the inherent predictability of violence.

The book explores various settings where violence may be found—the workplace, the home, the school, dating—and describes what de Becker calls pre-incident indicators (PINS). When properly identified these PINS can help violence be avoided; when violence is unavoidable, de Becker claims it can usually be predicted and better understood. ‘The Gift of Fear’ also describes de Becker’s MOSAIC Threat Assessment Systems, which have been employed by various celebrities and government agencies to predict and prevent violence.

PINS (Pre-Incident Indicators) include: Forced Teaming (when a person tries to pretend that he has something in common with a person and that they are in the same predicament when that isn’t really true); Charm and Niceness (being polite and friendly to a person in order to manipulate him or her); Too many details (if a person is lying they will add excessive details to make themselves sound more credible); Typecasting (an insult to get a person to talk, e.g. ‘Oh, I bet you’re too stuck-up to talk to a guy like me’); Loan Sharking (giving unsolicited help and expecting favors in return); The Unsolicited Promise (a promise to do, or not do, something when no such promise is asked for, e.g. an unsolicited ‘I promise I won’t hurt you’ usually means the person intends to hurt you); and Discounting the Word ‘No’ (refusing to accept rejection).

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