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

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  33,622 ratings  ·  3,369 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, 352 pages
Published July 2000 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (first published 1996)
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Average rating 4.15  · 
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 ·  33,622 ratings  ·  3,369 reviews

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Jan 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Gift of Fear taught me some important lessons abut paying attention to your instincts. The author spent decades in protection and grew up in an abusive, violent home, so he knows what he's talking about. Some of his ideas are quite counter intuitive, like that Protective Orders don't help and frequently are the catalyst for violence from the offender.

Another idea he has is that women need to be much more assertive with men who they know they will never be interested in. According to his rese

Something about the title and cover design of The Gift of Fear gives the impression that it’s a self-help book about self-defense. It isn’t. The only good thing on the cover is the quotation separating title from subtitle: “This Book Can Save Your Life.” That’s true.

The author is a specialist in security issues and threat assessment who owns a successful private security firm in Los Angeles called Gavin de Becker & Associates. His clients include many high profile figures. (A p
Darth J
Apr 23, 2013 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
Feb 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 03, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Goran Powell
Dec 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 24, 2014 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 NoNameLoves2Read by: Someone on a self defense forum
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 -
Feb 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Jon Nakapalau
Essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the undercurrent of violence in our society today. If you have a child going away to college give this book to them the summer before they will feel better.
Oct 24, 2007 rated it it was ok
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
Jan 16, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 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 percent of t
Joy D
Gavin de Becker encourages us to pay attention to our intuition, which he defines as “knowing without knowing why.” He defines the difference between fear, worry, and anxiety. As an expert in violence, he provides guidance on personal safety, such as offering tips to avoid becoming a victim of crime and what to do to discourage stalking.

Part of the issue in disregarding intuition lies in our desire to act based solely on logic. It is also influenced by our tendency to be polite or protect feelin
Dec 22, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Feb 21, 2020 rated it did not like it
The point of this book is to pay attention to early signs and to trust your "intuition." Okay, what are the early signs about this book?
-Endorsement of the author's expertise by Oprah. This is a red flag. You may like Oprah's taste in literature, but her track record on scientific facts is not so good.
-Lots of anecdotes, no rigorous evaluation. Another red flag.
-The anecdotes seem very cherry-picked. For example, a mother is worried about sending her child into surgery and the child dies. Exce
Jul 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I wish I could make all young women read this book. Everyone should read it, but the parts about partner abuse and avoiding stalkers and pushy men and keeping yourself safe in relationships were so good. I loved how he talks not just to women about keeping themselves safe, but also addresses the broader cultural messages we give to men to never give up and to not take no as a final answer. No is a complete sentence, he says. Exactly right. I loved his many examples of how our fear can guide us t ...more
Jul 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Meredith Holley
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
Jan 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sharon by: Yes Please by Amy Poehler
For some reason, I assumed this book encouraged women to walk around holding their keys as weapons and always look over their shoulders for random attackers. Nothing could be further from the truth. The author actually dedicates a chapter towards the end of the book to why misinformed, always-heightened worry makes us less safe, and on top of that, undermines the parts of our lives that are safe and happy. I don't know where my assumptions came from, if I had read something misleading or if I wa ...more
Aug 18, 2010 rated it liked it
I waffled back and forth between three and four stars, so I guess I'd give this one three and a half.
It was informative, but not really what I was expecting. The title and description lead you to believe that this is a sort of 'survival guide' that will help you hone your natural instincts, so you can detect dangerous situations before it is too late. Eh, not as much as I'd hoped. I'm not saying it's devoid of good advice because in between stories and statistics there are some good tips. How to
❀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,
“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”
― Gavin De Becker, The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence

It is a great book and worth reading. Mr. De Becker teaches you about using your intuition to scope out dangerous situations.

I will not say this book SOLVES everything. I do not believe that to be true. But it will resonate and it is well worth reading and maybe reading again .
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
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
Feb 13, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Heather Gilbert
Jul 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020-reads
Such a helpful book on so many levels. Basic takeaway--trust your gut, because your fear instinct makes sense of things you might not even put together until later. Such great insights. I highly recommend for women in particular.
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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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