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Beware of predators using boundary-lowering tactics

Just talking or is there more to it?  Predators don't always use a weapon to get you to do what they want.   by cheetah via Creative Commons
Just talking or is there more to it? Predators don’t always use a weapon to get you to do what they want. by cheetah via Creative Commons

When you think of being confronted by an assailant you probably imagine them using a gun, knife or the threat of violence to get you to do things you wouldn’t normally do, but some predators can get us to put ourselves into unsafe situations with just a few techniques and you need to be aware of them.

Personal safety starts with understanding how predators can manipulate you into lowering your guard with a few well chosen phrases. 

The best example of these types of tactics can be found in violence expert Gavin De Becker’s book “The Gift of Fear”.

We will discuss the 7 boundary lowering tactics described in Gavin De Becker’s book and how someone might use them to persuade a potential victim to lower his or her guard.

You can help yourself to stay safe by learning these techniques and being aware of when these tactics are being used. Is the person trying to get you to do something that you also want to do or are you are being persuaded to lower your boundaries in ways that will put you in a dangerous situation?

Forced teaming:

Sometimes someone will say and do things to make you feel, “We’re in the same boat,” or, “We’re on the same team.” The purpose is to establish rapport and to put you at ease. Team spirit can be an excellent motivator. Sport teams, political parties, community service organizations, and neighborhoods all work best when people feel a sense of belonging with each other.

However, notice when someone with whom you have not chosen to be connected with talks as if you are together. Remember what your relationship with this person truly is and is not and take charge in order to take care of your own personal safety as needed.

Charm and niceness:

People sometimes project warmth, kindness, sympathy, and humor as a way to get others to open up to them. People like this can be very enjoyable, but they also might be harmful.

When someone is very funny, kind and sweet, think to your self, “This person is trying to charm me. Is being with this person what I want? Am I being charmed into accepting things that are not okay with me? Am I in a safe place if things go wrong?” Sadly, many women who were attacked say afterwards, “But he was so nice to me at first!”persuading

Too many details:

When people want to persuade you, they sometimes give a lot more information than necessary. This can be because they really care about what they are saying, but it can also be because they are trying to distract you or confuse you into believing their story.

It can be hard for honest people to remember that sometimes other people will make up added details to get you to trust them instead being truthful. Instead of getting too involved in what someone is saying, stay focused on your actual situation. Ask yourself questions like, “How well do I know this person? Is this person’s behavior suddenly different in an uncomfortable way? Is he or she respecting my wishes?”


Understandably, most people don’t like to be labeled as being uncaring, unkind, thoughtless, paranoid, unfair, misusing their power, or ignorant. Someone might deliberately use negative labels to get you to react in the opposite fashion.

Watch out for comments like, “You don’t care, do you?” Or, “You aren’t one of those women who think all men are bad, are you?” Or, “You probably think you are too good for someone like me.” Or, “Someone who comes from a family as well off as yours could not possibly understand what it’s like to be poor.” Or, “This is an unfair restriction on my freedom.” Or, “Telling me to stop is abusive.”

Trying to prove someone wrong by changing your behavior is another way of letting someone’s words have power over you. Instead, make a conscious choice about how you are going to act depending on what the specific behavior being labeled is, what is actually going on, and what is in the best interests of your personal safety, both physical and emotional

Loan sharking:

A loan shark lends one amount and then collects much, much more than was loaned. People sometimes try to build relationships by giving gifts. People sometimes are kind and want to help. There is nothing wrong with this if what they want to do is something you want and if there is no pressure for you to give more than you wish in return.

If someone else approaches you and tries to do you a favor, you are not obligated to accept it nor are you obligated to give a favor back. Be aware that this could be a tactic to get close to you. When someone you don’t know says, “Here, let me help you!” and tries to do something you did not ask for or don’t really need, the safest response is to say firmly, “No thanks!”

The unsolicited promise:

Promises are important. If you are the kind of person who keeps commitments yourself, you are likely to be reassured when someone makes a promise. However, before you trust your personal safety to someone’s promise, make sure that this person has a track record of keeping promises.

Watch out for comments like, “I promise I will never let you down,” “I promise I will never lie to you,” “I promise I’ll leave just as soon as we get there,” “I haven’t been drinking, I promise” or “I’ll drive carefully, I promise.”

Discounting the word, “No”:

As successful fundraisers, negotiators, and salespeople all understand, NO can sometimes mean NOT YET. Asking for more information, listening to concerns, or offering other choices can lead to a good outcome for all concerned, so it is important not to let NO mean more than it actually does.

As wise parents know, a child’s NO should always be respected as a feeling but not always accepted as a choice. At the same time, intrusive or dangerous people will test the boundaries of potential victims by not listening to their NO.

If you are shy or uncertain in saying NO, even people with good intentions might not hear you and might keep pushing your boundaries.  This can affect your personal safety, both physical and emotional. If something is not okay with you or is potentially unsafe, it is important to be strong and clear. “I really do not want to!” or “This is really not okay with me.” Or “Go away! I don’t want your help!”

The use of these tactics does not automatically mean that someone is a bad person with bad intentions. In fact, some of these tactics can be very helpful when people are building a relationship. If we never lowered our boundaries with other people, we would have a hard time making friends, doing business, or participating in social events.

Weekly Self-Defense Classes for Adult Men & Women and teens age 15 and older are taught Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday evenings 7:30pm – 8:30 pm and Saturday from 3:00pm – 4:00pm

You can sign up for Act in Self Defense classes at:

If you are interested in a Personal Safety/Self-Defense Class for you, your high school, college, business, or organization contact me at

Ed Kress
For over 35 years Ed Kress has been an instructor and student at the Degerberg Academy of Martial Arts, named "Best Overall Martial Arts School” worldwide by Black Belt Magazine. Master Fred Degerberg awarded Ed his 7th degree Black Belt in 2015. Growing up on Chicago’s Southside, Ed learned early in life to pay attention to his surroundings in order to avoid potentially dangerous people and situations. Along with local law enforcement officers and directors of campus security, Ed has developed a program which focuses on teaching personal safety on the streets, and as it relates to the high school and college experience. Ed has trained thousands of adult men and women as well as high school and college students to improve their personal and situational awareness and, when necessary, how to physically defend themselves using their brains as well as their bodies. Ed began his martial arts career when he started wrestling in 8th grade, taking 1st place in the Chicago Park District City Championships. He later wrestled varsity at Mendel Catholic High School where he was a Chicago Catholic League Conference Champion. During his college career at North Park University he was a Conference Champion and 2-time NCAA Div 3 national qualifier. He was on his way to qualifying for the 3rd time when a neck injury ended his college career. His record that year was 17 - 0. He continues to wrestle as Head Freshman Wrestling Coach at Loyola Academy. A position he has held since 2004.

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