FearLess Fridays, Week Six: Notice People and Assess Situations


One way to increase our odds of staying safe is to identify potential dangers before they become immediate threats. Then we can take action to avoid or prevent the problem. This week, we’re going to practice analyzing people’s behavior in everyday situations for clues about safety and risk.

You can do this activity any time you find yourself in a public space—at the store or a park, in line at the bank, waiting for the bus or subway. Take a moment to observe the people around you:

  1. How would you describe the general atmosphere, or mood? Are people tense? Tired? Relaxed? Happy?
  2. What are people doing (especially with their hands)? What are they looking at? What are they carrying and wearing?
  3. How do people interact (or do they ignore one another?) Can you tell which people know each other, and which are strangers? How?

Ask yourself:

  • Whom do I perceive as “unusual,” and why? We have a tendency to be suspicious of people who look different from us, even though that’s not a very effective way to assess danger. Focusing on people’s actions provides more reliable information.
  • How do our definitions of “normal” behavior change from one environment to another? Say, at an outdoor concert as opposed to a children’s playground?

For the rest of the week, pay attention in group settings, and try to identify patterns of behavior that indicate both 1) normal activity, and 2) potential disruption.

By Friday, I hope you’ll find yourself feeling more observant, and more practiced at noticing behaviors that signal people’s mood and intentions. You may even start to notice some of these variables without having to consciously put yourself in “analysis” mode.

Let’s use the next five days to make ourselves safer and more powerful! Check in below in the comments to share how things are going—or Tweet your responses to @SusanSchorn, hashtag #FearLessFridays. You can find all the FearLess Fridays activities on the main page.