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The Gift of Fear

4.18  ·  Rating Details  ·  15,383 Ratings  ·  1,896 Reviews
True fear is a gift.
Unwarranted fear is a curse.
Learn how to tell the difference.

A date won't take "no" for an answer. The new nanny gives a mother an uneasy feeling. A stranger in a deserted parking lot offers unsolicited help. The threat of violence surrounds us every day. But we can protect ourselves, by learning to trust—and act on—our gut instincts.

In this empowering
Paperback, 432 pages
Published May 11th 1998 by Dell (first published 1997)
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Uncover The Truth Within. . .A Proactive Guide To Handwriting... by Treyce MontoyaIn Another Life by W.D. JamesThe Gift of Fear by Gavin de BeckerThe Godfather by Mario PuzoDetective Piggott's Casebook Famous True Crime Cases by Kevin Morgan
Crime and crime prevention
1st out of 19 books — 5 voters
The Courage to Heal by Ellen BassBeaten Down by Thomas HodgeThe Courage to Heal Workbook by Laura   DavisAllies in Healing by Laura DavisGoodnight, and Thanks for the Vodka by Harpie
Resources for Survivors
87th out of 110 books — 65 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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May 04, 2008 Jennifer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a primer on how to keep yourself safe by listening to your own intuition and following your instincts. Violence is seldom random - we almost always have warning signals long before the boyfriend refuses to be broken up with or the employee with the gun climbs the clock tower.

I'll relate my own Gavin de Becker-esqe story here, by way of example.

Several years ago I had a well-liked roommate who needed to break the lease and move to another city. We both interviewed roommates from the
Mar 24, 2009 Amber rated it it was amazing
Shelves: desert-island
The most important book I've ever read. I first encountered de Becker when he was on Oprah years ago, talking about what to teach your child if they get lost in a public place. "Tell them to find a woman who looks like a mommy and ask her for help." After all, how often is a policeman around? This pragmatic, common sense approach stuck with me.

Later, a friend in law enforcement suggested this book and I read it in one sitting. Have a coworker who makes you uneasy? Read this book. Trying to get o
Darth J
Jan 01, 2015 Darth J rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I was intrigued when Amy Poehler kept mentioning this book in Yes Please, so I decided to order it. Sidenote: Wouldn't this title be a great tagline for a Christmas-themed horror movie? "This Holiday season, give THE GIFT OF FEAR."

Anyway, a lot of this book is common sense, and the author describes "intuition" or your "gut feeling" as (deep voice) THE GIFT OF FEAR! De Becker says this is made of mostly unconscious processes like observing things and being able to predict what will happen... base
Goran Powell
Mar 03, 2010 Goran Powell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: All martial Artists
Recommended to Goran by: Especially Women
All martial artists should read this.

Hopefully you already know that awareness is by far the most important aspect of self-defense. The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker tells us how to tune into the body's natural awareness (a subconscious intuition for danger that is hard-wired into our psyche). Basically he argues that our intuition is a far better judge than our logical mind when it comes to danger.

The author runs a security firm that guards Presidents and A list celebs among others, his tra
I have a long-standing . . . psychological investment, let's say, in the science of violence: classifying it, predicting it, recovering from it. This book spent a bit of time talking about the epidemic of violence, which needs very little more illustration than to say that three out of every four American women will in their lifetimes be the victim of a violent assault, and a large portion of those assaults will be sexual. This is not something I need convincing on. I often find myself in a pack ...more
Apr 02, 2013 Ellen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Removed a caveat here that said I hadn't quite finished the book because, well, I've finished it. Thoughts haven't changed. Enjoy the review!

People are saying that this should be required reading for all women, and while there's certainly a heavy emphasis on women in dangerous relationships or situations, this recommendation is a wee bit shortsighted. I think that everyone could benefit from reading it, particularly when it comes to the examples he gave about the businessman who wouldn't leave a
Jun 28, 2012 Megan rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book highly repetitive, somewhat illogical, and utterly impractical. De Becker uses many examples of people who suspected something was wrong and then were proven right, but what about all the times that people suspected something was wrong and then nothing happened? Furthermore, I do not share his confidence that people can just know by instinct when a situation is dangerous. Perhaps some people can, but other people cannot. For example, I have an anxiety disorder. If I trusted my ...more
Feb 26, 2013 Besha rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
On the first day of SFSI training for sex educators, we do an exercise called "I Don't Want To Talk About It." Trainees practice saying just that to a partner who inundates them with questions, from the mundane to the highly offensive. (And first-day sex educators can come up with some really offensive questions. Most of them are about anal sex.)

It's hard for many trainees to set that boundary, and most women especially add qualifiers:
"I don't want to talk about that right now."

"I'm sorry, but
Feb 28, 2015 Stacy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: women, young single women, managers that want to avoid hiring employees that may"go postal"
Recommended to Stacy by: Someone on a self defense forum
Shelves: non-fiction, 2015
Sometimes we need a book like this, because not everyone is as obvious as this guy...

Oh sure, let me check in right now!

This book isn't about what to do after a crime has started. Instead, it's about how to prevent these things from happening in the first place. It's about using your intuition, a natural response to things being, "off". It's an instinctive survival signal that we've had since the caveman days.

"Since fear is so central to our experience, understanding when it is a gift - and w
Oct 24, 2007 Anna rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: paranoids
I saw a girl reading this on the subway and remembered that I read it 5 years ago or so on the recommendation of a friend. It's basically a book version of those internet forwards that tell women how to protect themselves from random attackers and/or serial killers. The gist of it is: Be aware of how you feel and don't discount your fear.

To some extent, this is smart - most people feel afraid for good reason, and you shouldn't feel silly about your fear. The thing I remember most vividly is a s
Feb 27, 2015 lindsey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned, ebook, important
a friend gave me this book when I was 18, after a traumatic event in my life. im rating it five stars not just for the content, but for as valuable as i (personally and directly) found it to be. i have reread it a few times, and its relevancy and accuracy hasnt diminished.

i recommend this book to women i know who care about personal safety, but also to people who are interested in the patterns of human behavior; its not just insight into what i consider 'bad behavior,' its a very interesting be
Sep 19, 2008 Karen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: every woman
Forgot to add this to my "read" shelf when I joined Goodreads until I saw that Tori is reading it. This book did change my life and years after reading it, there are many points that remain vivid in my memory and I actually recall them fairly regularly. Although the grim reality of what women in particular face in the sense of being targets on a daily basis is made quite clear through the book and scared me, that wears off while the insights gained have changed my perspective on protecting mysel ...more
How had I never heard of this before??? Why were you all keeping this book a secret from me??? This book is so fantastic. There are so many things I want to say to you about it, but mostly just read it.

I’m pretty much obsessed with Gavin de Becker after reading this book, and then Lena Dunham did an interview with him for the Lenny Letter!!! When I saw that I felt like that part in Friends where Ross realizes Monica and Chandler are together:

Ross saying,

My heart grew three sizes, folks.

Gavin de Becker is a
Dec 26, 2009 Emily rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This book has some useful information, particularly for women, and I appreciate that Mr. de Becker gives the reader permission to trust her instincts while aiming to educate and fine-tune her intuition. That said, he seemed to spend a lot of time at the beginning telling me what he was going to tell me instead of just jumping in and telling me. Also, the closer I got to the end of the book, the more outlandish, sensational, and extreme the examples of violent behavior became and the less applica ...more
I finally read this, after seeing Carolyn Hax recommend it for years, but it wasn't nearly as good as I expected it to be. It reminded me of Malcolm Gladwell's books--quick to read, lots of anecdotes and "science", but ultimately not really helpful because you can pull one of the examples to support any argument you want to make.

For example, in one of the chapters he talks about watching a predatory man strike up a conversation with a single girl on an airplane, and he ticks off the warning thi
Jul 10, 2008 Jake rated it it was amazing
This book was recommended to me years ago by Tony Blauer and Van Canna Sensei, a very high ranking (and very skilled) Uechi-Ryu instructor. I've read it several times since then, and recently re-read it as prep for a project for my book publicity class. It's a great book, so I thought I'd throw a review of it up here.

The Gift of Fear is a book about violence. Specifically, it's about predicting violence, and how most modern people ignore the signals that their intuition and their body give them
Sep 24, 2008 Kirsten rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: just about everyone
The more I think about this book, the more impressed I feel with how useful it is. So often, information about avoiding danger that is given to people, particularly women, is unhelpful, dangerous, sexist, and/or serves only to feed into paranoia.

De Becker, in contrast, draws a strong distinction between the culture of fear that we live in (where TV news and email forwards cultivate fear of dangers that are unlikely to occur), and fear as an instinctive tool one can use to protect oneself. He poi
Emily Achenbaum Harris
Not perfectly written or organized, but still a must read.

The book says it's scientifically proven that we non-sociopaths have a physical reaction around sociopaths that we try to ignore or explain away, especially if the sociopath seems "normal." Book walks the reader through our own animal instincts designed to protect us, giving examples of when our bodies say no (suddenly tense, sweating, urge to run) but our brains, in fear of looking dumb or rude, say yes (he looks like a nice guy, sure I
Apr 27, 2013 Deborah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Since an acquaintance committed murder-suicide some years ago, I have often wondered what I might have done to avert that outcome. I'd cautioned my friends that I saw darkness in him, and even asked his girlfriend--earnestly, not in jest--why she was dating him when she could easily nab someone not-scary. She laughed off my questions, as did friends who told me I was "being too hard on him" or not "giving him enough credit" when I tried to explain my concerns. I couldn't articulate why he made m ...more
❀Aimee❀ Just one more page...
I read this book years ago and never really wrote a review. THIS BOOK IS FASCINATING AND COULD LITERALLY SAVE YOUR LIFE.

Per the author's GR author page,
Gavin de Becker is an expert on the prediction and management of violence. He has served on President's Advisory Board at the U.S. Department of Justice and the Governor's Advisory Board at the California Department of Mental Health; he now runs a consulting firm which advises government agencies, universities, police departments, corporations,
Mar 19, 2009 Barbara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"This book can save your life"...I strongly believe EVERY women should go and buy or borrow this book ASAP. It is unbelievable at how brilliant this book is.

One of the things (but they're many) that really got to me was how Becker really put things in perspective. I'll never ever forget the example of the Antelope in the desert that only "senses" danger in a field; You've seen it on the Discovery Channel where the animals head jerks up and out of no where he runs. Then the next minute a lion or
Oct 12, 2015 Emma rated it did not like it
What this book taught me: I should have listened to my intuition and not read it. (Thanks Jake!)

How can I be the only person that hated this book? It's so dumb. It's so useless. You really needed a 400 page book to tell you, "listen to your gut?"

Give me $7.99 and I'll tell you to listen to your gut.

The Gift of Fear is impossibly repetitive. It is disorganized, badly edited, and mainly serves as a pedestal on which Gavin de Becker can place himself for the rest of us to admire.

This is basically w
Aug 20, 2008 Sheena rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone who interacts with people at all. Meaning, you.
Shelves: reference
After the fifth or sixth person either recommended "The Gift of Fear" or mentioned reading it, I made sure to find it at the library.
"The Gift of Fear" is a tough read at times, due to discussion of violent crimes. However, the subject -- learning to trust that true reaction of fear when in a situation or encountering someone that just doesn't seem right -- is one that more people should spend time thinking about.
While De Becker emphasizes listening to the reaction of fear, he discourages worry,
Mar 17, 2016 Lea rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read this book!

I learned so many valuable lessons from The Gift of Fear, by violence expert Gavin de Becker, including:

- how to trust my own intuition and thus be safer
- how to recognize manipulation techniques by predators (many of which it turned out I was already familiar with through experience)
- how to break up with someone
- how to deal with a stalker
- how to recognize whether a man working in your home (plumber, builder, mover, whatever) is a danger to you
- how to differentiate between wor
Nov 20, 2015 Punk rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Non-Fiction. The premise of this book is that if you trust your intuition and learn to recognize certain signs that often precede violence, you can live free of fear because you'll have the tools to identify a threat should one occur and so the rest of the time you can just go ahead and relax.

Are you relaxed yet?

The problem is that this book came out in 1997 and hasn't been revised or updated in the almost twenty years since it was published. In 1997, Mark Zuckerberg was thirteen, less than four
Feb 24, 2009 Danna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I have the sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching, stuffy-head nasties and am home on the couch, I indulge in comfort reading and pull out old favorites. The Gift of Fear may seem like an odd choice for comfort reading, but it's a very reassuring book that emphatically states what we all need to understand about the pervasiveness of violence in our society and what we can do about it. I'm especially pleased with the way he calls TV news to task for being part of the reason why people have a ...more
Aug 10, 2011 Melissa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: yikes
This should be required reading for all women everywhere, if only for the opening story. Guy gives women the creeps, offers to help her carry her bags. Not wanting to seem rude, she aquiesces & he "promises" that he'll leave her apartment after he sets her stuff down. Instead, he rapes her. Every women needs to know that it's okay to seem rude, it's okay to be assertive, it's okay to tell some man who says, "There's such a thing as being too proud," to fuck off when you try to turn down the ...more
Jul 14, 2013 Kayte rated it it was amazing
A book everyone should read, especially women in today's world. Learning to trust your instincts when the rest of society tells you not to is not easy but this book teaches you how. This book teaches in a positive matter of fact way that is neither condescending or depressing. I appreciate his critique on our violent obsessed media and the need to stop the idolization and publicity of criminals as it is only feeding their ego and encouraging others to follow them into the lime light.

Thank you f
Jared Ure
Dec 05, 2015 Jared Ure rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting read. In a world increasingly obsessed with empiricism, one's gut remains an indispensable resource--but one that is too often dispensed with. De Becker's perspectives on would-be assassins and mass shooters help readers tap into the minds of people that news agencies are inclined to simplistically label 'psychos.' But the most beneficial aspects of the book are, I think, the chapters where the author discusses how to recognize the cardinal signals and subtle maneuvers of predat ...more
I read this book because 1) Captain Awkward often refers to and recommends it, and 2) there was a situation that was raising some alarm bells for me so I went looking here for answers. I’m glad I read it but I am pretty conflicted about some of the stuff in it, to the point where I don’t feel I can give it a rating. I have given books the lowest rating for saying things that are less objectionable than some of the things in this book. There are also some chapters that were totally superfluous an ...more
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Unisa Psychology : July 2015: The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker 1 8 Jul 01, 2015 10:03AM  
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  • Terror at Beslan: A Russian Tragedy with Lessons for America's Schools
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  • Mismeasure of Woman: Why Women Are Not the Better Sex, the Inferior Sex, or the Opposite Sex
  • Necessary Losses: The Loves Illusions Dependencies and Impossible Expectations That All of us Have
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  • Dark Dreams: Sexual Violence, Homicide And The Criminal Mind
Gavin de Becker is an expert on the prediction and management of violence. He has served on President's Advisory Board at the U.S. Department of Justice and the Governor's Advisory Board at the California Department of Mental Health; he now runs a consulting firm which advises government agencies, universities, police departments, corporations, and media figures on the assessment of threats and ha ...more
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“Most men fear getting laughed at or humiliated by a romantic prospect while most women fear rape and death.” 231 likes
“intuition is always right in at least two important ways;
It is always in response to something.
it always has your best interest at heart”
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