Gavin de Becker (@gdbaprotects) is the author of The Gift of Fear and Other Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence and the security pioneer who designed the MOSAIC Threat Assessment Systems used at the top levels of government. This is part two of a two-part episode. Make sure to catch part one here!

What We Discuss with Gavin de Becker:

  • Why is “no” the end of the discussion for a man, but the beginning of a negotiation for a woman in our culture?
  • Understand why you should be wary of the unsolicited promise.
  • Should we try to join our intuition to our intellect, or do the two work better on their own?
  • The difference between worry and fear — why worrying is ultimately useless while fear can save your life.
  • Try the Rule of Opposites exercise to calibrate your intuition in the moment.
  • And much more…

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The Gift of Fear and Other Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence by Gavin de BeckerViolence is built into the human mind. Try to imagine the most grisly way of being violated by another human being; since you’re able to contemplate it in the first place, it’s likely been done to someone — or maybe even many people — in the past. It’s part of human nature.

The Gift of Fear and Other Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence author and MOSAIC Threat Assessment Systems developer Gavin de Becker joins the show to discuss his decades of experience in protecting people at every level — from the top levels of government to victims of spousal abuse.

Listen to this episode of The Jordan Harbinger Show in its entirety to learn more about why we should consider the unsolicited promise a red flag, the difference between worry and fear, how predators work with the word “no” as part of their psychological strategy, how “no” is perceived differently depending on who’s saying it, how intellect can work against us in the heat of the moment, how we can calibrate our intuition with the easy Rule of Opposites exercise, the most important thing we can do to cut potentially threatening people out of our lives, the intimidation versus threats distinction, why threat is not the same thing as risk, and lots more. This is part two of a two-part episode. Make sure to catch part one here! Listen, learn, and enjoy!

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Transcript for Gavin de Becker | The Gift of Fear Part Two (Episode 330)

Jordan Harbinger: [00:00:03] Welcome to the show. I’m Jordan Harbinger. As always, I’m here with producer Jason DeFillippo. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we code the stories, secrets, and skills of the world’s most brilliant people, and turn their wisdom into practical advice that you can use to impact your own life and those around you. We want to help you see the Matrix when it comes to how these amazing people think and behave. We want you to become a better thinker. That’s the crux of this. And if you’re new to the show, we’ve got episodes with spies and CEOs, athletes and authors, thinkers and performers, as well as toolboxes for skills like negotiation, body language, persuasion, and more. So if you’re smart, you’d like to learn and improve, you’re going to be right at home here with us.

[00:00:40] And today is Part Two of our episode from the vault with Gavin de Becker. Gavin’s been head of security for folks. Like Oprah, Jeff Bezos — one of the world’s most respected people in the security industry globally. He’s also the author of The Gift of Fear. This book is tremendously popular. It’s just known as being a lifesaver for some people literally. We’ll dissect fear, why it exists, how we can use it as a tool instead of avoiding it. We’ll also rediscover our intuition, how it developed, how it evolves, how it’ll keep us alive if we listen to it, and hone our sixth sense for danger. Something I wasn’t sure was possible. And perhaps most importantly, we’ll discover how to observe the warning signs of abusers, con man, and other predators so we can avoid them. Help our friends and loved ones — do so as well. This show morphed into a sort of a toolbox for safety here on The Jordan Harbinger Show. Send it to everyone you care about. That’s what I asked for this one. This is a fascinating episode. It could potentially save your life or the life of someone you love. And I think that alone is worth the listen here.

[00:01:41] If you want to know how I managed to book folks like this, my network is enormous. In fact, it’s growing now, even though we’re all cooped up, my network is growing now that we’re all self-isolating and you can do the same. I created a course about how to do this that’s been highly successful. It’s also free. It’s our Six-Minute Networking course over at That’s and most of the guests on the show, they subscribe to the course in the newsletter, so come join us, you’ll be in great company. Now Part Two with Gavin de Becker.

[00:02:12] In the book, you use a classic example, the main story of this woman, Kelly. Can you tell us a little bit about that and highlight some of the pre-incident indicators as well that show up in the story?

Gavin de Becker: [00:02:22] Sure. Kelly was a young woman who was walking home to her building and she had a bunch of grocery bags more than she could easily carry. When she got to the building, she took a key out to unlock the door and she found, as she often did, that her neighbors had not secured the door and latched it. So she was pissed about that, but also happy that she didn’t have to go through the process of using the key and she just used her hip to push the door open. And then she was walking up the four flights of stairs and one of the bags tore and it let out a lot of cans of cat food that rolled down and turn the corner and went down to the next level. And she suddenly heard a voice. A friendly voice called out, “Got it.” And then this friendly-looking guy came around the corner and said, “Let me give you a hand.” But right from the moment, she heard the voice, she didn’t like it. And she had no real good reason and this guy said, “Let me give you a hand.” She said, “No thanks. I got it.” And he said, “You don’t look like you’ve got it and what floor are you going to?” And she paused a moment and then she said, “The fourth, but I’m okay. Really, I don’t want any help.” But the guy wouldn’t hear a word of it. And he said, “I’m going to the fourth floor too.” That’s forced teaming. Right? “We’re both going to the fourth floor to make you feel more comfortable.” And he eventually reached up and took one of the bags from her, but she didn’t let go of it and was still holding onto that bag. She said, “I don’t need any help.” And he said, “There’s such a thing as being too proud, you know?” And for a moment she didn’t let go of the bag and then she did.

[00:03:41] And that seemingly insignificant exchange between the stranger and then the woman getting his courtesy was the signal to him and to her that she was willing to trust him. And really, as the bag passed from her control to his, so did she pass from her control to his and he then said, “We better hurry. We’ve got a hungry cat up there,” because he’d seen cans of cat food that he had picked up. Again, they don’t have a cat that’s forced teaming. It’s trying to make you feel we can be comfortable together. And when she got to the door to her apartment, she said, “I’ll take it from here.” And he said, “No, no, I didn’t come this far to let you have another cat food spill.” He saw her hesitation and he said, “Hey, we can just leave the door open like ladies doing old movies. I’ll put the stuff down and go. I promise.” And the unsolicited promise is another one of these pre-incident indicators. Another one of these features of behavior that is very powerful because she didn’t ask him for a promise. And you don’t ask somebody for a promise when you trust them. Somebody promises you something when they can tell you don’t trust them.

[00:04:41] For example, my 16-year-old son says, “Hey, Dad, can I borrow the car tonight?” And I hesitate a moment and he says, “I’ll be back by 11. I promise.” He’s promising that because he can see that. I doubt him. And that was happening with Kelly and the predator as well, that he only answered by saying, “I promise I’ll put the stuff down and go. I promised,” because he could see that she wasn’t persuaded. Ultimately, she did let him into the apartment and that led to a three-hour rape ordeal. And most rapes, by the way, the average is two hours. It’s not a brief victimization. And she later came to me and she said, “What in the world made me feel uncomfortable about him when all I had heard was his voice?” And she was lamenting that she didn’t listen to that signal where she was immediately uncomfortable with the voice. And we went back over all of the experiences that she related to me. And it turns out that when she pushed the door open, she latched it behind her and she’s sure she latched it behind her because she tested it. She pulled on the door handle as she always did, and that meant that by the time she got a couple of stories up, a couple of floors up on the staircase, that the only place that person could have been would be hiding somewhere because she didn’t hear the door open again.

[00:05:55] So when somebody said, “Got it,” catching the cans of cat food. She knew intuitively that person must’ve been hiding out of you in the main lobby corridor downstairs when she locked the door behind her. There was no other way into the building, and that’s the signal that she got, but she chose to ignore and to be talked out of in all the ways that she was.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:14] Wow. The problem with that is, right. You realize only in hindsight, just like I did in the Mexican fake taxi cab, that you’re just a few minutes behind it. You’re too late. It’s 20-20 hindsight, but at the time you do have that intuition and it seems like our intuition is correct. It’s just our interpretation of that intuition or the fact that we’re smothering it or drowning it out with something else is not always correct.

Gavin de Becker: [00:06:38] That’s exactly right. And she had the internal dialogue, which is she was uncomfortable about the person. And then she said to herself, “Gee, I’ve got no reason to be uncomfortable. This guy is not doing anything except wanting to help me,” which was true by the way. That’s all he was doing in that moment, was wanting to get her to accept his help. Now, favorably in the Kelly story, she made a decision later on which saved her life and made an enormous difference to her, and that really made this an experience of prevailing. She did experience a rape ordeal, but at the end of it, he said, “I’ve got to go. I’m in a hurry,” and he got up from the bed and he closed the window and he got dressed. And he said to her, “I’m going to go to the kitchen to get something to drink, don’t you move?” And she was immediately afraid that she would be killed. And in fact, we now know that he did kill two of his other victims. And so when he walked down the hall, she said to him, “Don’t worry, I won’t move. You know that?” And when he turned and walked down the hall, she took the sheet off the bed and silently moved right behind him, down the entire hall in her own apartment toward the kitchen — like a ghost she said to me later on where if he’d stopped or turned around, he’d have obviously recognized her. But she knew if she’d stayed in the room that she was going to be killed.

[00:07:49] And she said to me, “I don’t know how I knew that.” And I said, “Well, go back over what you do know.” And what it turns out is that when he got up and closed the window. He had no reason to do that. He was leaving. Why would he care if the window — if there’s warm air or cold air coming in? He closed the window because he did not want to have any sounds or noises leave the apartment. Noise was the reason. She said because of that, she had this tremendously courageous signal that filled her that said, “Follow him right now down the hallway.” And she followed him down the hallway toward the kitchen. And as he walked into the kitchen, she turned left and went out of her apartment door and walked immediately to the apartment across the hall, which she knew intuitively would be unlocked and it was. And she entered the apartment and her two neighbors were in there and she locked the door behind herself and she put her finger up and said, “Quiet.” And because of that act — that enormously courageous act — she survived. And he was indeed in the kitchen looking through a drawer for knives.

[00:08:43] And she said to me later. That fear had replaced every feeling in her body. I’m quoting her and she said, “Like an animal opening up inside me. It used its muscles to move me down the hall, and I had nothing to do with it. I was a passenger moving down that hallway.” So that’s what can happen when you listen to fear without question, when fear says, “Shut up and do what I say and I’ll get you out of here.” And so she prevailed tremendously well through that and was not killed obviously.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:09:10] It seems like the difference between worrying and intuition is that one is maybe based on a little bit more rational concerns or is more subconscious and one is a waste of time.

Gavin de Becker: [00:09:21] Yes, worry is a waste of time, and in fact, the root of that word, it means to chew on, and its original usage was that people would talk about a dog worrying a shoe — worrying a leather shoe – it meant chewing on the shoe. It doesn’t get you anything and nobody will ever thank you for doing it. No kid who’s gone off to college will ever say, “Gee, mom, all that worrying you did really help me.” It makes everyone uncomfortable and it’s a waste of time.

[00:09:44] There’s an antidote to worry. That’s very effective and that is action. If there’s an action to take because you’re worried your kid has gone off to university. If there’s an action to take – getting your daughter a book or talking to the local police department or giving resources or better training — those are actions. And if there’s no action to take, then the worry is totally counterproductive. I just want to quickly say worry is not an intuitive signal. Fear is an intuitive signal. Fear is a signal in the presence of danger — meaning you perceive it right now. You see it, you sense it, you smell it, you feel it, you’re aware of it. But worry is always based on something in your imagination or your memory. It’s never about the present moment. The worry and anxiety, both are not intuitive signals. 

Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:26] Worry is definitely distinct and I wanted to highlight that. Distinct from intuition and what we’re seeking to hone our intuition or uncover it is recapturing our inherent predictive skills — not coming up with a way to worry about more stuff that’s not relevant.

Gavin de Becker: [00:10:42] Very true. And so if you work on the ways in which your intuition genuinely communicates with you, which can be dark humor, curiosity, gut feelings, hesitation, and fear — and you think less about the things that have no substance. They literally have no matter. You know, the expression something doesn’t matter, you could call that does not have matter. Thought is typically the vast majority of thought — 90 percent or greater is an absolute waste of time. 

[Jordan Harbinger: [00:11:10] One piece of that story with Kelly was the passive control. You mentioned that, and I’m a little bit hung up on that. You mentioned, well, that’s when she handed over her control to him — when she gave him the bag with the cat food. Is that because that showed that she was willing to accept someone invading kind of her psychological boundaries? 

Gavin de Becker: [00:11:28] That’s right. That gesture told both of them that she was willing to participate. When I would teach someone — if you’re not comfortable about someone in your environment and they don’t listen to the word No. Remember she said two or three times to him? “No, I’m fine.” “Really, I don’t want any help.” “No, I’m okay.” That is also another predatory strategy, which is refusing to hear the word No or ignoring the word No. The strategy that’s best for a target in that situation is to ramp up the intensity of the No. “I said no.”

[00:11:58] The vast majority of people, even predators, will recognize this is not my victim because this person is not accepting the negotiation. There’s an observation that I’ve made often that when a man says, “No,” it’s the end of a discussion, and when a woman in our culture says, “No,” it’s the beginning of a negotiation.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:12:16] Yeah. That which is unfortunate actually, and dangerous as we see from the story as well. 

Gavin de Becker: [00:12:22] Yes, and dangerous to so many people, but also just remove the sovereignty of women so often. Because if I say No to somebody out in town today, I say, “No, I don’t want any help,” from somebody in the store, they tend to hear it. If a woman says No, “No, I don’t want a drink. No, I don’t want you to buy me a drink.” “Oh, come on just one drink.” “Oh, come on, loosen up, have a drink.”  

Jason DeFillippo: [00:12:43] You’re listening to the Jordan harbinger show with our guests, Gavin de Becker. We’ll be right back after this. 

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[00:15:03] Thanks for listening and supporting the show and to learn more and get links to all the great discounts you just heard from our amazing sponsors, visit Don’t forget we have a worksheet for today’s episode so you can make sure you solidify your understanding of the key takeaways from Gavin de Becker. That link is in the show notes at If you’d like some tips on how to subscribe to the show, just go to Subscribing to the show is absolutely free. It just means that you get all of the latest episodes downloaded automatically to your podcast player, so you don’t miss a single thing. And now back to our show with Gavin de Becker.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:15:44] How do we improve our ability to make conscious predictions of intent or behavior? In other words, how can we kind of marry our intellect with our intuition? Is that even desirable?

Gavin de Becker: [00:15:53] I think it isn’t necessary because if you listen — there is an intellectual process at work here. For example, I meet somebody I feel immediately uncomfortable about this person. I don’t want this person to be in the environment of my kids ever alone for example. So now there’s an intellectual process, which is I could ask myself why. I can ask myself what I registered there. I can discuss with myself whether or not I’m willing to listen, and if I’m not willing to listen, why not? And I can see what it is that I’m responding to. So there’s an inquiry to be made there, but there’s no role for intellect first. We’re not strictly intellectual beings, and if you think about the way you make most of the most important decisions in your life, those were made intuitively. They were first an intuitive idea. Something told you, you wanted to pursue seeing this person. You didn’t want this person in your life. You did want this person in your life. And this decision — who you include in your life and who you don’t include in your life — these are literally, this is the foundation of the quality of life is who shall we have relationships with and who shall we not have relationships with.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:16:54] The other technique that involves creating lists of opposites in your head. I think there was a grocery store helper, which is what jogged my memory on this. Do you know what I’m talking about? Where it’s, you ask yourself, is he a manager looking for a TV star or is he a creep? It helps kind of calibrate your intuition in the moment.

Gavin de Becker: [00:17:09] Sure. If you could imagine a woman’s uncomfortable with a stranger in your home. Let’s say somebody is delivering furniture, for example. Her comfort communicates that she’s already predicted, he’s not dangerous to her or her discomfort communicates that she feels there is a problem. So her intuition has asked and answered several questions in order to complete that prediction. A strategy I’ve found very valuable that recognizes that we are more familiar with favorable behaviors than unfavorable behaviors because we tend to experience more favorable behaviors than the opposite. What you can do is develop in your head a list of the opposites. I call it the rule of opposites.

[00:17:46] And here’s an example. A man’s in your home delivering something. Favorable would be, he does his job and no more. The opposite would be, he offers to help on unrelated tasks. That’s unfavorable. Favorable would be, he’s respectful of privacy. The opposite would be, he’s curious and he’s asking lots of questions. Favorable would be, he stands in appropriate distance from you. The obvious opposite is he stands too close. Favorable would be, he waits to be escorted in your house. The obvious opposite would be, he just walks around the house freely. Favorable, he keeps his comments to the job at hand, right? He’s talking about delivering this couch. Unfavorable would be that he gets into discussions on other topics and he tries to make personal conversation. Favorable would be that he’s mindful of the time and he works quickly. The opposite would be, he’s got no concern about time. He seems to be in no hurry to leave. Favorable would be, he doesn’t care if others are home. The opposite would be, he wants to know if others are home. Favorable would be, he doesn’t care if others are expected. The opposite would be, he wants to know if others are inspected. Favorable might be, he doesn’t pay undue attention to you and the opposite might be, he stares at you.

[00:18:49] Now the reason that’s so powerful Is all of us know the favorable list perfectly, and we’ve all experienced the favorable list. A workman who comes, wants to get the job done, stays focused on what he’s doing, goes about his business, and leaves. We all know that, so we don’t know the opposite as well, but you can use this rule of opposites to identify what it would look like. 

Jordan Harbinger: [00:19:09] Perfect. Yeah, it helps calibrate us a little bit. When we start talking ourselves out of something, we can go, “Wait a minute, there’s a lot wrong here, and once you start to articulate it and put a finger on it, it starts to highlight just how inappropriate some of the behavior actually is.

Gavin de Becker: [00:19:23] Yes, inappropriate and unwanted. And because a woman has the right to decide who’s in her environment, and she also has a right to decide how they behave in her environment and if not that she has the right to leave. 

Jordan Harbinger: [00:19:35] When you talked about Kelly earlier, you mentioned the refusal to hear No is just trouble in any context. Also, I assume people in the predator position make small requests and often use that as an excuse for contact to keep control of the situation, like the cat food or, “Oh, I’m just going to carry up the bags and help you.” And so you mentioned in the book that when we have somebody in our life that is like that, even if they haven’t victimized us yet, it could be somebody that we know that no contact is really the only answer, especially if this is someone that’s threatened us or that’s been a problem in the past, you say engage and enrage. The only answer, the only way to deal with these people is to cut off all the contact. I’d love to hear the rationale behind that because I think a lot of people, they don’t do that. They keep stalkers and weirdos at arm’s length, but they dangle just enough of a carrot intentionally or unintentionally, of course, to keep them around.

Gavin de Becker: [00:20:24] That’s very true and absolutely the most important thing to do when you don’t want somebody in your life — you know, it gives you the creeps or make you uncomfortable — is to return that person to the stranger pool, to return that person to the population of 320 million other Americans who you don’t have relationships with. And the only way to do that is to stop engaging. And indeed I have that expression engage and enrage because what happens when you engage someone but you’re not giving what they want — for example, a guy who wants to date you, if you’re a woman and you’re not going to date him, but you’re going to continue to keep him engaged in some way, is it tends to lead to hostility because he’s not getting what he wants. The better choice is just say the words that few men have ever heard a woman say but it would sound like this, “I am absolutely certain that I don’t want to have a romantic relationship with you, and I’m telling you that, and you’re hearing it, you are likely to put your attention elsewhere. And I certainly understand if that’s what you do because that’s what I’m going to do.” Done. Never another word because any other words after that imply that there’s a negotiation here, implies that there’s opening. 

[00:21:29] Typical ways that women say No to men — you’ll understand when I share one with you what an invitation it is. If someone says, “I don’t really want to update you because my head’s not in the right place yet. I’m still not over my ex-boyfriend.” What the man hears is the word Yet — you’ll be better soon. You just need more time. Or somebody who says, “You’re really cute, but–” what the man hears is you’re really cute. He doesn’t hear, “You’re really cute, but I don’t want to date you.” So with no reason — why would you give a reason to somebody you don’t want a relationship with? Why would you talk about your intimate internal feelings? You just say, “I don’t want a relationship with you. I’ve thought about it. I decided I don’t want a relationship with you. I expect you’re going to put your attention elsewhere and that’s what I’m going to do.”

Jordan Harbinger: [00:22:13] Right, so we mute them. My question following up from that then would be, how do we know we’re not ignoring something, maybe we should be paying attention to or suffer the consequences? Like, “Okay, we’re ignoring this guy now,” but, “Huh, that’s weird. I keep seeing him everywhere. Is it just because I’ve met him and he lives in my neighborhood or is this guy actually trying to be around me?” At what level do we mute this person? What are we ignoring? What are we not ignoring? 

Gavin de Becker: [00:22:35] Well, I don’t think you ignore anything. Your perception system doesn’t even have the capacity to ignore. What you see is recorded. What you hear is recorded. What you feel is recorded. Now, what you do with it — that’s up to us. So I don’t think you ignore anything, but you make a decision about who you want in your life and who you don’t want in your life. I suggest to people that they make very fast decisions about who you exclude from your life and very careful and slow decisions about whom you include in your life. And that very simple sentence will lead to a far happier life because your sovereignty — and I addressed this particularly to women — your sovereignty depends on you deciding rather than other people deciding.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:14] Right. And if you’re slow to accept and quick to reject, it sets the filter up such that it’s very difficult to get close to you. Safety wise, that’s definitely a good thing. Of course, you could probably tune it up too high and be lonely forever, but that’s another show. I’d love to discuss this. The intimidation versus threats distinction. That is very clear in the book that one is an outcome and the other is an end-game move. I think that’s very useful today because, of course, people are intimidating others and threatening others all the time, but I think we tend to ignore a lot of threats that end up being things that we should not have ignored — thinking mistakenly that they’re simple intimidations. 

Gavin de Becker: [00:23:50] It’s true. I mean, these words are so misused now and even more so in the age of terrorism where a threat is confused with risk. There are two different things. Put very simply, a threat is a statement of an intention to do harm. I will kill you. That’s a threat. The far more common communication is actually called an intimidation and an intimidation always includes the words if, or else, until, unless. For example, “I will burn down the building if I don’t get the promotion.” You know, an employee says that to his boss. “Unless you apologize, I’ll harm you in this way. “If you fire me, you’ll be sorry.” Those are all intimidations and they’re different from threats and that they always tell you the outcome they want. In the statement, there it is. “If you ever put out another music video, I’ll kill you. I don’t want you to put out another music video,” written to some public figure. “If you fire me, you’ll be sorry. I don’t want to be fired.”

[00:24:46] Whereas a threat, which is a statement of an intention to do harm, it doesn’t have any conditions and it doesn’t have any alternatives and it doesn’t offer ways out. Now, having said all that, I need to say the most important part, the overwhelming majority of threats go nowhere. Threats are very similar to promises as an instrument of communication. The promise says, “I’m trying to show you how seriously I feel in this matter,” and the threat also says, “I’m trying to show you how seriously I feel in this matter.” And the overwhelming majority of threats go nowhere. You could think of a threat as a promise to kill. If you think about it that way you realize that promises, you have a way of evaluating whether somebody will keep a promise. And it’s the same for evaluating whether somebody will keep a promise to kill, which is a threat. And the overwhelming majority of people won’t keep that promise. So threats are not particularly powerful in most contexts.

[00:25:35] They are slightly more powerful in interpersonal relationships — husband and wife, for example, because they so destroy the quality of communication between the two people and they show so little regard between the two people. That in a husband-wife situation, a threat has a lot more meaning than it does, for example, written to a public figure in a letter or posted on a blog somewhere. Their threats are not particularly important indicators of actual intention.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:01] I can see it now. If someone threatens to kill you, and it’s like, “Well, you also said you were going to wash my car and that didn’t happen. So your word isn’t worth much good here.”

Gavin de Becker: [00:26:10] Yeah, that’s right. And also, even when you look at threats themselves, Jordan, they often get ramped up, ramped down. And so, for example, somebody who says, “I’m going to kill you.” “I’m going to shoot that political public figure.” And then three days later they say he’s dead. Thursday, that’s his last day. Then on Saturday after Thursday. They say, “I’m telling you, if I ever see him in my town, I’m going to shoot him.” So they’re really reducing the value of their statement because they didn’t do it when they said they would do it. Why would we believe they would do it at all?  In most cases, threats are not particularly valuable as a pre-incident indicator. 

Jason DeFillippo: [00:26:45] You’re listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Gavin de Becker. We’ll be right back after this. 

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[00:27:52] This episode is also sponsored by Manscaped. If you’re listening to the show right now, just take a second and look down — when was the last time you shaved your junk? Maybe you don’t even have junk. It’s been a while. Don’t lie. Let’s take a second to thank our sponsor Manscaped for holding you accountable to get rid of the funk and shave your junk. Manscaped is the only men’s brand dedicated to below-the-waist grooming and hygiene. And I got to be honest, when this came across my desk, I was on the fence. I didn’t really want to accept it, and they said, “Let’s just show you the product.” And they sent it over, and fortunately, unfortunately, it was really, really nice. It was great, and we ended up gifting it to the whole team. It’s a really nice product. It’s nice packaging, no pun intended. This new update is its third-generation trimmer, which has a cutting-edge ceramic blade that prevents manscaping accidents. So millions of balls are about to be nick-free, thanks to Manscaped advanced skin, safe tech. They’ve got the Crop Preserver, which is an anti-chafing ball, deodorant and moisturizer because why not? And it’s a great time to start trimming down under — I mean, God knows you have time now. You know, you can spare the time. Jason, tell him where to get a deal on Manscaped. 

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[00:29:12] Thank you for listening and supporting the show. Your support of our advertisers keeps us on the air. To learn more and get links to all the great discounts you just heard to see, you can check out those amazing sponsors, visit And don’t forget the worksheet for today’s episode. That link is in the show notes at If you’re listening to us in the Overcast player, please click that little star next to the episode. We really appreciate it. And now for the conclusion of our episode with Gavin de Becker.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:29:43] So how do we respond to threats then, or don’t we? 

Gavin de Becker: [00:29:46] Well, I mean, it depends. If you want to engage in a relationship with somebody who makes threats, then you can respond. I wouldn’t recommend that somebody who makes threats to you is ever appropriate to have a relationship with. And so, there are threats in our daily lives that are culturally acceptable. A husband says to his wife, “If dinner’s not ready on time,” or, “I’ll kill you if you don’t pick up the kids on time.” But it’s not meant in the context of “I’ll actually kill you.” There are lighthearted threats. You know a kid who says, “I’m going to make a big scene in the supermarket, Mom, unless you give me the chocolate.” That’s a threat too. And so how do you respond to that? Typically, if you give in, what happens is you’ll get more threats. So in the case of the child in the supermarket, you hope to teach the kid that threatening behavior is offensive, disruptive, that nobody likes it, that it won’t be well-regarded, that it won’t get him what he wants, and we hope to teach the adults in our life the same thing. But typically in our lives, if somebody made a threat to harm you, your relationship really ought to be over.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:41] Of course. Yeah, and we don’t counter threaten and you mentioned that in the book as well. Why? 

Gavin de Becker: [00:30:46] Our counter threat is no more valid or credible than the original threat. That’s why it doesn’t work.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:53] Right. So it’s ineffective, basically just puts us in the exact same category as that person, and now we’re playing a drama, a game with this person. And that contradicts your earlier advice, which is you need to just cut off contact. So by counter threatening, you’re just doing the dance willingly with this knucklehead who you shouldn’t be in touch with at all.

[00:31:10] Gavin de Becker: [00:31:10] That’s exactly right, and in fact, we’re not doing the same thing he’s doing because a counter threat is not an original idea. We’re doing something far weaker than what he’s doing because of his threat, he knows whether he intends to carry it out or not. Our threat is clearly responsive. It’s not something we had decided to express absent a threat. So counter threat, in general, is not a workable strategy.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:31:30] I’d love to wrap this show with how to tell if you’re in a potentially violent relationship. These you mentioned are America’s most predictable murderers. How do we tell if we’re in a potentially violent relationship? And if we need to make it gender specific, let’s work on this for the ladies, even though I would imagine that most of this is overlapping between genders as well.

Gavin de Becker: [00:31:49] So that is a great question. That can be enormously helpful to people because indeed, spousal homicide or homicide that happens in intimate relationships is the single most predictable and preventable homicide in America and very common. Today, there’ll be another three or four women killed by husbands or boyfriends in America. And so, the warning signs that I encourage people to think of — and there’s a whole list of them in the book. I won’t go through the whole list, but I’ll share with you some that come to mind now.

[00:32:17] Number one and most important is the woman has intuitive feelings that she is at risk. Number two is that at the inception of the relationship, it was accelerated typically by the man, accelerated the pace and prematurely put on the agenda. Things like marriage and living together and commitment. So if you think back to the beginning of the relationship — did it have an unnaturally accelerated pace? The next warning sign that comes to mind is that this person resolves conflict with intimidation, bullying, and violence. The next one is that he’s verbally abusive or uses threats and intimidations as an instrument of communication. And that can be threats to harm, but it can also be threats to defame or to embarrass or to restrict freedom or to disclose secrets or to cut off support or to abandon or to commit suicide. All of those are threats designed to control someone else. Somebody who breaks things or strikes things in anger. That’s called symbolic violence. It basically means if I tear up our wedding photo, I could do the same thing to you. An obvious warning sign would be that he has battered in prior relationships, and very often women in new relationships have learned that. And when I’m talking here about men and women, you can make this gender-neutral as well. The same features apply. Another one is using alcohol or drugs with adverse effects, particularly alcohol. Alcohol is present in an overwhelmingly significant number of spousal homicides, drunkenness. And related to that is that the abusive partner sites, alcohol as an excuse or explanation for hostile or violent behavior. You know, “That was the booze talking, not me,” or, “I got so drunk. I was just crazy.” If you have somebody who has a history of police encounters for behavioral offenses, threat stalking, assault, battery, et cetera, those are all meaningful.

[00:33:59] Now, as I think of these, I realize that they can sound enormously obvious, and yet I’ve listed about 10 of them now. And millions of people have gotten into a relationship with millions of people who have a lot of those 10 that I just listed in the book. There’s probably 30 of them that are super important. 

Jordan Harbinger: [00:34:17] You mentioned in the book as well, men who cannot let go choose women who cannot say No. And I wanted to highlight that as a corollary to the above where these predators are consciously or subconsciously testing for your ability to say No. So if we find any of these signals in significant numbers, I assume we look for these in groups — maybe not just one, depending on the severity. We look for these probably in groups, just like we look to body language and groups to decide intent and things like that. So how do we stop that contact? How do we get out of there? I know you said the best way to stop contact is simply to stop contact. Is that the best way to get out of these types of relationships?

Gavin de Becker: [00:34:55] It is, and of course it becomes more complicated if one is married and far more complicated if you have kids with an abusive partner, and that’s why –thankfully, battered women’s shelters exist because that had women’s shelters are well prepared for dealing with people who have a complicated challenge ahead of them to extricate themselves from a relationship. The kids are in school, their pets, their jobs, et cetera. Sadly, about 75 percent of the people in battered women’s shelters right now are children, and that’s because a woman who doesn’t have children doesn’t have to go to a shelter usually. She can go sleep on a friend’s couch, but a woman who has children has no place else to go very often. And so, getting out of the relationship is not something that has to be done alone. There are resources. My books are certainly examples, and then there are more active resources in the community, like battered women’s shelters that are very valuable, even if only for advice, not just for staying in them. But if you’re in a relationship that has you being abused or intimidated or afraid to leave, those are all good indicators that it will be better if you leave. 

Jordan Harbinger: [00:35:59] Right. Especially with the rationalization involved, like you mentioned, and the complexity of abusive relationships. A lot of people are addicted to the feeling of relief when an incident ends. And the worst that the bad times are better than the good times are in contrast, so it can be really easy to self-deceive. 

Gavin de Becker: [00:36:14] Very true. Every one of those things you just said is a key part of why it is so hard to get out of an abusive relationship. And let’s just talk about the simplest one — just verbal abuse. A partner is verbally abusive, yells and says cruel and unkind things. Now, none of us would sign up for that going in, say, “Oh, that sounds good, I’ll take that.” But a lot of us accept it. Self-love and sovereignty help people to stop accepting it. So we’re not only talking now about homicide as an outcome because that’s fairly rare relative to other forms of abuse. You know, some of those other warning signs are that the person minimizes incidents of abuse. You know, that itself is an abuse. I could say to you, “Jordan, you’re speaking to me in such an unkind way. It’s bad for me. It’s too much. I don’t want it any.” And you say, “No, no, no. That’s not what’s happening.” So that itself is an abuse, which is not hearing someone and not honoring someone’s sovereignty. And look, if we ever can help someone get out of a relationship that doesn’t go anywhere good, that’s great. That’s really something I’m happy to participate in because when I was younger, I used to think, “Ah, Steve and Molly are getting divorced. How sad.” I don’t think how sad anymore. Good marriages don’t end in divorce. 

Jordan Harbinger: [00:37:25] Yes, absolutely, and I think that people learn that the hard way all too many times. There’s so much here in the book as well, a lot of practical exercises about asking yourself what your anxiety is hiding, using the gift of fear. I might have to have you come back at some point as well. But I want to be conscious of your time and thank you very, very much for coming on the show today.

Gavin de Becker: [00:37:44] Thank you too, Jordan, and thanks for sharing your own story about the Mexico kidnapping. Very helpful for me to learn. Thanks. Be well.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:37:53] Big thank you to Gavin de Becker. Links to everything he’s done will be in the website in the show notes, of course, including the book, The Gift of Fear. Please use our website links if you buy the book. It does help support the show. Also, in the show notes, there are worksheets for each episode, including this one, of course, so you can review what you learned here from Gavin de Becker. We also now have transcripts for every episode, and those can be found in the show notes as well. 

[00:38:15] I’m teaching you how to connect with great people and manage relationships using systems and tiny habits over at our Six-Minute Networking course, which is free over at Don’t wait because you think, “Oh, we’re isolated. I can’t do these drills. You know, we’re stuck inside.” The whole idea is that you can do this from your phone, from your computer. The biggest mistake people make is not digging the well before they get thirsty. You have to build your network before you need it, even if that means starting from scratch. These drills take a few minutes per day. So I’m really not interested in the excuse that you don’t have time. You have tons of time, and you certainly have six minutes a day that you’re wasting probably on social media. I wish I had this stuff decades ago. It’s not fluff. It’s crucial. You can find it for free at And by the way, most of the guests on the show, they subscribe to this course. So come join us, you’ll be in smart company. Now speaking of building relationships, you can always reach out and/or follow me on social. I’m at @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram. 

[00:39:13] This show is created in association with PodcastOne and this episode was produced by Jen Harbinger and Jason DeFilllppo, engineered by Jase Sanderson, show notes and worksheets by Robert Fogarty, music by Evan Viola, and I’m your host Jordan Harbinger. Our advice and opinions, and those of our guests are their own. And yeah, I’m a lawyer, but I’m not your lawyer. I’m not a doctor, I’m not a therapist. So do your own research before implementing anything you hear on the show. And remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for this show is that you share it with friends when you find something useful or interesting — if you care about someone and you want to keep them safe, this is one of the shows that you should be sending. This is the show you should be sending them. Hopefully, you do find something great in every episode. Please do share the show with those you love. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen, and we’ll see you next time.

[00:40:03] A lot of people ask me which shows I listen to and something I’ve gotten into recently is My First Million. It’s from the guys over at The Hustle. And I’ve got my friend Sam Parr, the CEO of The Hustle here today. Sam, thanks for coming on the show, man. 

Sam Parr: [00:40:15] Hey, what’s going on? How are you?

Jordan Harbinger: [00:40:17] I would love to hear about recession-proof skill sets. This is something you guys talked about recently on the show, and I think since we may or may not be headed into a recession right now, it might be good for people to know some about what these are.

Sam Parr: [00:40:29] Yeah, so basically on the podcast, we just talk about all types of interesting ideas that we’re seeing growing and different business opportunities we’re seeing pop up just from insiders. But last week, because of this whole corona thing, we got really nervous about the recession and so I went on a little ramp where I talked about recession-proof skill sets, specifically, I think the biggest one that people need to learn is copywriting. Copywriting, in my opinion, the most important because not only do you learn how to sell stuff, but you learn how to communicate effectively and influence folks to do certain things, whether that be influencing your employees not to worry, influencing investors to invest in you, or you just want to sell stuff that makes revenue.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:07] I would agree. I think I was going to say sales and I think copywriting and sales are two sides of the same coin that have more than two sides — so bad analogy — but it’s definitely a similar skill set. And I think written communication certainly has the ability or has in the past, had the ability to reach a lot more people than voice up until, you know, podcasting became a thing.

Sam Parr: [00:41:26] It’s absolutely, I think the most effective thing you could learn and if you want to make more money, and so in that particular podcast, which aired last week, we went through the resources that you can turn to in order to become, at least, a better copywriter. But at best, you could become great using the resources we talked about.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:42] You can find My First Million — if you Google my first million or anywhere you get your podcasts.

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