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5 Body Language Signs That Reveal If A Person Is Dangerous

body language signsSituational awareness is an important tool in your survival arsenal. Most of the time, simply seeing the danger that lies ahead can give you a leg up on most people who drift through life oblivious of any dangers. The key to situational awareness is keen observation – observation of situations, things and even people. And it’s the people subset of situational awareness that comprises the study of body language – the study of those around you.

Body language is something we all give off, mostly unconsciously. It manifests itself in subconscious postures, facial expressions and hand positions. The way we carry ourselves speaks volumes to those who can discern what the signs mean; most amateurs look only at the face, but there is much more to observe. Before we delve into what to look for, a fundamental question must be answered: why even bother observing body language? There are three primary reasons:

  • Body language gives us advance warning about the actions that a person or group of people are about to undertake.
  • Body language gives us a window into the person’s mind, telling us what their current emotional state is.
  • Body language is an early warning device built into every single human being.

In short, the way a person carries themselves at a particular instant in time gives us a valuable insight as to whether they represent a threat to us or not. Here’s what to look for:

How To Defend Yourself And Your Family Against The New Breed Of Lowlife Criminal Scum

1. The Face: The face is on one hand the most expressive body part we posses, and on the other hand, the most easily manipulated. Experts are able to meticulously control their facial expressions so as to be unreadable (eg. the poker face) while amateurs will crack nervous grins and will sport numerous facial twitches. Ignore the signs that can be controlled and thus manipulated, and focus on those that cannot:

  • Pupil dilation: The human fight or flight reaction is something few people can control; the brain signals the body to dump adrenaline into the bloodstream raising the heart rate and dilating the pupils (making them larger). As the pupils dilate, the peripheral vision narrows – it is a mechanism designed to have us face the threat directly. People about to act aggressively or perform a violent act will usually have their pupils dilated the size of pie plates.
  • Pulse: As aggression or impulse builds, the heart rate increases as does blood pressure. The net result of this is a pounding pulse which is visible in the neck and temples. Again, this is difficult or impossible for most people to control.
  • Sweat: An increased heart rate causes involuntary perspiration, which again, not even professionals can adequately control.
  • Mouth: Besides obvious expressions, an open mouth often occurs when a person can’t get enough air from just their nose and is breathing rapidly.

2. Upper Torso: The upper torso reveals two important clues to those keen enough to observe them. The first clue is the shoulders – are the shoulders hanging naturally in a relaxed pose, or are they tight and raised? A person who is about to strike or move will often telegraph this intention by the way he carries his shoulders. The second clue is the upper chest area, where it pertains to respiration. Normally, men are stomach breathers while women are chest breathers, but when the action amps up, both sexes tend to breathe in a shallow manner from their chest. Look for the rapid rise and fall of the chest as evidence of breathing hard.

3. Hands and Arms: As one astute police officer said – feet never killed anyone. The reference was to the fact that overwhelmingly, hands hovering around the waistband represent a threat. At any moment, the person could produce a weapon, and so it’s important to watch the hands closely at all times. While things like balled fists are an obvious sign of aggression, keep in mind that many attacks come from the position of crossed arms, or hands in pockets.

4. Legs and Feet: Primarily, what we are looking for here is stance. As often happens subconsciously, people will tend to blade themselves towards a perceived threat. Blading refers to a combat style stance, where the dominant foot is behind the non-dominant foot and about shoulder width apart. Blading also serves as a dual clue – most people carrying a concealed weapon will subconsciously blade the weapon side away from the threat, both to protect it and to conceal it.

5. The Whole Package: Lastly, look for movement warning signs, nervous twitches that signal that the person is about to act. Two common signs of impending action are pacing and standing on the balls of their feet. Many attacks begin with a person pacing back and forth and then launching an attack at about the midpoint; many flights or escapes begin with the person getting up on the balls of their feet, much as a runner would before the starting gun goes off.

Your ability to recognize the above early warning signs could give you valuable seconds in which to act, potentially saving yourself or averting disaster.

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24 comments

  1. Dam good article man…
    I teach self defence and situation awareness and you’ve hit the nail on the head here..
    nice job…

    • wannabemountainman

      I was told that my eyes tended to glance downward for a split second, before I went on the offensive. Normal?

      • EgbertThrockmorton

        wannabe, yes we all have “tells” of one kind or another, yours are different to others, we are all individuals. Don’t take it as gospel, most people you encounter who will be hostile and aggressive are under the influence of controlled substances and/or alcohol and MAY NOT BE PAIN COMPLIANT.
        Before I retired from law enforcement, I liked to encroach on a known combative suspect’s “personal space” enough to make it difficult for him to NOT telegraph his intent prior to him launching an attack. Worked for me very well. Every person and each situation we encounter will be different.Always.

  2. Nicely done! These are things almost anyone can train themselves to look for. Start now…get your practice while you can! Thanks for a great article!

  3. Always Aware Woman

    Growing up on a farm with some animals that can hurt you, I learned to watch them, and where they were and I was at all times. Later when learning how to fly small planes, I perfected my scanning techniques, which are required if one wants to avoid the idiot in the other plane that is not watching. I sit with my back to the wall, facing the door whenever I can dining out. I notice everyone, especially their EYES. We ARE animals, and the eyes often give someone away, just like an animal’s eyes do. In parking lots, stores, etc., I watch where I am and who is around me. Now, am elderly, and have never been assaulted. I never went to places that a LADY would not go to!

  4. a great article well done…
    I teach KRAV MAGA also situation awareness and the LAW regarding Self defence you’ve hit the nail on the head here..

  5. There is one more very common “tell”. I have seen many street scammers and muggers who use humor and a outgoing personality to get close to their targets. Watch for the friendly stranger, smiling, talking a blue streak, too friendly. Their goal is to get close and their intent is a knockout punch so they can mug you or worse. Often these guys are big and could do you damage even without the subterfuge but this way they get off without a fight or a risk to themselves. If you can touch the other person they are too close because they can touch you too and often even if they are two arm lengths away they are too close. Most street criminals won’t give you warning signs they will move in close and sucker punch you and follow up with punches and kicks until they are happy with their work.

    • Yes they will use humor to get close and also they will use your name also to get closer, that is why I would never put my name on a license plate and try not to put it on any of my stuff. Hearing your name throws you off guard by thinking this person knows you so they have gained a way to get that much closer to you. I am always leery of the guy that is overly nice and talkative. Watch out for the “man in trouble” and the “stranger” that is trying to help him out and trying to get you to help them out, both men are the scammer trying to work you over.This is why I am always aware of where I am and I don’t walk around with headphones on because you are less aware and more of a target. Far too many are just plain ignorant and so caught up with life in their bubble that they are easy prey because they feel secure in their bubble and I see them as a future victim because of their complacency.

  6. Excellent article! I find that ways we can study what people look like when they are lying or about to attack is to watch reality shows like Survivor and Big Brother where you see people lying to each other and you are privy to the fact that they are lying – so you can use that to study what people do when they are lying. Looking down is common, looking to the side and avoiding direct eye contact.

    To study more on what people do right before they attack is to watch the numerous videos now on YouTube documenting these – from security videos to videos taken by the friends of the perpetrators.

    The most basic signal to watch for is pacing – especially if you are stationary and someone is pacing in front of you – watch out.

    Most criminal attackers are not that bright so they are not so good at hiding their intentions – thankfully

  7. Nice article, I have noticed these, as well as the ones in the comments in the downtown area where I have a business. some others I see down there frequently are:

    aggressors are always scanning for signs of opportunity. The truly homeless shift through in their own reality and seldom noticed the real world moving all around them; but the opportunist and thugs are always on alert. Not one passer by escapes being “sized up”. The beggars do so as well but aren’t bashful and make no moves to conceal it. Beware the person loitering that watches you approach from 2 blocks out, but then seems to not notice you from a block in.

    the 2nd thing I have witnessed several times, esp near the public transpertation stations is the “working as a pack” body language. It seems that the “youths” never attack one on one, but instead in groups. It seems they communicate with a series of glances and head nods to reach the consensous of whom the target should be and when to initiate the attack.

    A last move I have observed is what I like to call the “pre-occupied shopper”. I see them walking down the sidewalk with a bag of drinks from the 7-11 and either busy with their cell phone or ipod. They use the “urban camo” to pass by unsuspecting victims and then swing the bag with bottle waters or can drinks in a quick strike at them. The stunned recipient is quickly moved in on and knocked down and then mugged.

  8. Retired Oldschool Cop

    Other indications of imminent attack:
    – clinching and unclinching the fists
    – glancing all around to assess who may witness (and interfere) with an attack
    – shifting weight from one foot to another
    – gradually raising hands from waist to chest level, especially if done jerkily
    – deep breathing without apparent cause (eg,, after exertion)

    Good Post and some good comments.

  9. good info. thanks.

  10. I’m sorry but this article is based purely on common sense.

    • Then why are you apologizing? Most of us appreciate good common sense info and need to be reminded occasionally of that fact. When common sense info isn’t used it can be lost-forgotten or we let our guard down and BAM. Thanks for the reminder.

    • True, but common sense is no longer a common commodity in our society. It has been replaced in many by the use of emotion and how good one thing makes someone feel!

    • I agree……100%….. there’s nothing extra about this article that anyone with a brain shouldn’t already know…..

  11. I would agree with many of the signs, but some are just so common, that some signs do not always indicate aggression. Sweating, hovering hands, stances, etc. could be a result of the environment or nervousness. Just because someone is sweating or nervous, does not indicate that they will be aggressive. Just as some people get stage fright, some people get nervous when confronted. That does not mean they did anything wrong, nor will they respond aggressively, but that is their nature to be nervous in that situation. “Correlation does not imply causation”.
    Also, I saw one person post “shifting weight from one foot to another”. People with back issues often do that regularly.
    All in all, the big picture needs to be determined rather than looking for certain signs and the probability of the sign being aggression or normal for that person. Otherwise, you wind up attacking an innocent person, who may wind up trying to defend himself.

    • I believe the signs were mentioned only that we should be alert to the possibility not a certainty. Remember, we can all forget and get lazy on what could happen.That’s how sucker punches can happen. I remember the greatest threat “we” had in Nam was the kids and women carrying weapons not the men. Always at the ready and expect the unexpected. God bless

  12. Excelant post. I’v workedin a forinsics psy. Hhospital forr over 11 yrs. Corrections for apx 3 yrs and 30 yrs in combat arts. One exercise i’ d have my students do was go some placenew to them andsit and observe people as they go about there lives.what people were hardest to spot who stood out the most,and why? We also do this exer. Observing nature in diffrent sittlng spots .record your observations.

  13. The article was very knowledgable I learned something myself After 19 years in the law enforcement field. One thing I was surprised that was leftout was the suspect scratching the back of their neck. This was an identifier I learned of a few years ago. After watching some disturbing footage of officers being murdered on traffic stops it was amazing how many of the bad guys would be acting normal then scratch the back of their neck and a second later be pulling out a gun or fighting to getter officers. Once again this identifier is controlled by ones brain, people who are contemplating harm will scratch or rub the back of their necks so if anyone sees that. Get ready I know I always did.

  14. Excellent article! Will definitely share.

  15. Many of the behavioral indicators mentioned are those any anxious or frightened person would give. Point being, keep in mind that your supposed suspect may not be dangerous but rather just have an anxiety disorder.

  16. For some reason I have been the victim of a lot of unfortunate situations. My last was when I was locking up a coffee shop I was working at with my sister and luckily I had mace on my key chain so when they ran up to us, I held it out saying I was going to spray them. They ran off but from when I was 8, my friend and I were beating up by two boys to being kidnapped, beaten and rapped for three days, what can I change about myself so this won’t happen anymore?

  17. is there a dvd?

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