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The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence
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The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence

4.18 of 5 stars 4.18  ·  rating details  ·  10,787 ratings  ·  1,532 reviews
In this empowering book, Gavin de Becker, the man Oprah Winfrey calls the US's leading expert on violent behaviour, shows you how to spot even subtle signs of danger - before it's too late. Shattering the myth that most violent acts are unpredictable, de Becker, whose clients include top Hollywood stars and government agencies, offers specific ways to protect yourself and...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published July 2000 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (first published 1997)
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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...more
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...more
Goran Powell
Mar 03, 2010 Goran Powell rated it 5 of 5 stars
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...more
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
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...more
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...more
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
Sep 19, 2008 Karen rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
Sep 24, 2008 Kirsten rated it 5 of 5 stars
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...more
Oct 24, 2007 Anna rated it 2 of 5 stars
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...more
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
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...more
Barbara M.
"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...more
Aug 20, 2008 Sheena rated it 4 of 5 stars
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,...more
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...more
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
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...more
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
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...more
Nov 11, 2007 Bridget rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: all women---particularly Southern women
God has given us the capacity for fear as a protective mechanism. Our intuition of fear is often a split-second response to multiple types of sensory information & years of life experiences. Due to social constraints, we frequently ignore our fears and do things that put us in danger either physically or emotionally. Southern women are especially unlikely to act on their fears if doing so would make others embarassed or uncomfortable. This book also has practical information about how to end...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
I wasn't sure how to review this book. I don't read much non-fiction, and I read this one because, with certain events happening in my personal life, numerous people told me I needed to read this book.

It was incredibly informative. The biggest thing I took away from it was probably in the very first chapter. Intuition is not woo-woo. It is your awareness of warning signs around you, things that you haven't stopped to think about yet. He points out that we do this all the time. In traffic, you of...more
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
If you're my Goodreads 'friend' you probably already know a fair bit about this book, so I won't recap it, except to point here for those who don't know: this is a few quotes from his Pre-Incident Indicators part of the book, which is the core of the book for me. De Becker describes clearly the ways in which abusers will weasel, charm, promise, and loan-shark their way into positions where they can exert power, dominance, and violence over women. Physical and emotional abusers alike (and those o...more
This was a really interesting book & I'd recommend that everyone read it. The reason I only gave it 3 stars is 'cause it really could have been cut down into a MUCH smaller book. Whenever he wrote about his company, I skipped it. When he wrote about celebrities, I skipped it. I skimmed/skipped large portions of the book. (If I could cut all that stuff out, I'd give it 5 stars)

The parts I DID read were very educational. He talks convincingly of not discounting your instincts, being aware of...more
Jan 06, 2011 Kristine rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Women. And Men. But Mostly Women.
Recommended to Kristine by: Annette
My reading behaviors are rather erratic - determined mostly by library due dates, procrastination, and then realizing I can't renew a book online and I have to read it in 24 hours or check it out another day. Annette reviewed this book two years ago and I'm glad I finally decided to pick this up.

Now this book does not get 5 stars because it is so well written or is literature destined to become a classic. This is 5-star because it may save my life someday . . . and because the advice I got here...more
Do yourself a favor and read this book several times--you will never doubt your instincts again! Y'know when you meet someone and those little hairs stick up on the back of your neck and you feel silly about not trusting them because you want to give all folks the benefit of the doubt...well, *don't*--it could cost your life or extensive grief! This book also doesn't say to doubt everybody but the overall message is to trust your instincts and if something isn't right--believe it!

He also gives t...more
O.M. Grey
As a survivor of rape and sexual assault, both by "friends" and colleagues, I found the warnings and signs outlined in this book spot-on. Know the warning signs. Trust your gut, no matter how silly or "irrational" people might say you're being. Protect yourself. Trust yourself. Anyone who throws judgments at you for doing something to protect yourself and feel safe, especially if they shame you, cut them out of your life without mercy.

This is a must-read for everyone. The number of predators is...more
Unauthorized Cinnamon McCann
When Captain Awkward and Ask a Manager both repeatedly recommend a book, ya gotta read it.

Here's what I wish someone had told me before I read this - if you want to learn about using intuition to protect yourself, and get some insight into red flags from strangers, co-workers, dates, etc., there is some amazing stuff in here, but it's salted in among a lot of other content, from a clinical discussion of risk assessment on a more mathematical level, to detailed stories of disturbed people committ...more
Lisa M.
I decided to read this book on the high rating it received from a friend. But, when I went to buy the book, I hesitated. This book could go one of two ways - it could be mere fear-mongering, or it could empower women to continue to lead their lives in this violent society without fear.

I am glad I decided to buy this book, because it is definitely of the latter category. This book explores different types of violence - most of which can be rooted in people who refuse to let go or hear the word "n...more
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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.” 146 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”
More quotes…