Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Gift of Fear and Evangelical Manipulation techniques

The other day, I happened to watch Lithodid Man's video about Evangelical Manipulation.  In this video, Lithodid Man brings up the book The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker.  Although I'm a fan of true crime and books about psychology as it relates to crime, I had not heard of this book.  I bought a copy on Kindle because of Lithodid Man's ringing endorsement of it.  I started reading it the other day and am very impressed with it...

This book is basically about how to predict violence and danger and reminding people, especially women, to listen to their instincts.  Even though I'm only about a quarter of the way into this book so far, like Lithodid Man, I see how these techniques can be applied to everyday situations... not just those that involve danger, but any situation that involves manipulation.

Lithodid Man talks about being accosted by an evangelical Christian neighbor who was hell-bent on proselytizing to him.  When Lithodid Man tried to politely extricate himself from the conversation, the neighbor continued to try to push.  Then the neighbor tried to get Lithodid Man to allow his kids to be involved with the Awanas.  I have no personal experience with the Awanas, but I have a couple of Christian friends whose kids are involved.  It's sort of a Christian scouting type group.  Lithodid Man explains that he used to be in the Awanas when he was a kid and he hated it.  He was very adamant that his kids were not to be approached about this.  And yet the neighbor continued to press on... finally forcing Lithodid Man to get rude.  And now the neighbor probably hates him, which isn't a very comfortable situation to be in.

It occurred to me that a lot of people hesitate to say "no" because they're afraid of looking rude.  But as Gavin de Becker points out, the word "no" should never be negotiable.  Anyone who doesn't take no for an answer is seeking to control.  If you leave room for negotiation, you open yourself up to being controlled.  Sometimes that's not the worst thing in the world; for example, you might be talked into buying a slightly more expensive car than you really need.  On the other hand, not being firm about "no" can also lead to disaster.  Take, for instance, a woman who is approached by some strange guy wanting to "help" her with her groceries.  She says no.  He insists.  She lets him help her and opens herself up to being attacked.

A few months ago, I had a strange encounter at the end of my driveway.  A forty-ish guy was parked by my mailbox talking on his cell phone.  I was on my way up to move our trash can back from the street and see if there was any mail.  The guy rang off from his phone call and immediately turned his attention to me.  I had never seen this man before.  He drove a gray truck with a big dog kennel in the back.  I had my two beagles with me.

He was overly friendly to me, explaining that his car had run out of gas and he was waiting for someone to bring him some fuel.  I nodded as I moved the trash can.  He admired my dogs and asked me why I didn't let them run so they could catch coyotes.  Eyeing the dog kennel in the back of his truck, I told him I never let my dogs run.  Anyone who knows anything about beagles knows why it's not smart to let them run loose.  They get on a scent and end up in the next county.

The conversation annoyed me at first.  But by the time I got back to the house, I was feeling decidedly uneasy about the guy in the gray truck.  I locked the door behind me.  Later, when I told my husband about this encounter, he was equally creeped out about it.  And now that I've been reading The Gift of Fear ,  I know why I was uneasy.

1. The guy didn't belong in the neighborhood-- He appeared to be in his 40s at least and claimed that he ran out of gas.  It seemed strange to me that a man that age would allow himself to run out of gas, especially in a rural area.  I would expect that of someone younger.

2.  The guy was too friendly-- I had never laid eyes on this man in my life, yet he approached me in a very friendly and somewhat forward way.  He asked a few questions of me... questions that seemed odd.  Like why didn't I let my dogs run...  I thought it was odd that a man with a kennel in the back of his truck would ask me why I didn't let my dogs run loose.

3.  The guy gave me too much information-- I didn't ask him why he was parked by my mailbox.  He volunteered the information, along with some extra information about the neighbors down the road... more people I don't know or care about.

Thankfully, I wasn't very friendly to him, so the conversation didn't go much beyond that.

I mentioned this situation on a message board I frequent and the resident "voice of reason" tried to explain why my impressions of the situation were wrong and I had probably misjudged.  She said that coyotes were common where she lives, so they must be common in my area.  And as a matter of fact, it turns out they are; but that's a minor point.

Then she said in rural areas, it's common to let dogs run.  No shit.  I grew up in a rural part of Virginia, so I realize this is true.  However, that guy had a kennel in his truck, which indicated that he probably knows something about dogs, particularly hounds.  And he was definitely admiring mine.  When I was a child, we lost a dog to a dognapper and I'm highly aware that pets can be used for bait in dog fights or as lab animals.

Then she said the kennel has probably sat in the back of his truck for ages.  Maybe... but why would he have one and specifically ask me why I don't let my dogs run... especially when my dogs are pretty obviously not used for hunting?

And finally, she said that anyone can run out of gas.  And that's true, of course, but it does seem unusual that a man of that guy's age would.  All of these things together made the situation seem very strange to me.  I now wish I had reported the guy to the police.  The last time I got a six sense like that, we called the cops and it turned out the guy we complained about was wanted.

I'm looking forward to finishing this book... and honing my skills of saying "no" and not being scared of appearing to be rude.


  1. Wow, a friend of mine pointed me to your blog on this. I am glad you enjoyed the book, it is awesome to hear someone got something out of my vid! Take care - Aaron (Lith)

  2. Thanks for the comment, Lith! Happy new year!


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