An interview is a way to relay information. At job interviews, we want to relay our skills and experience to a potential employer. Celebrities are interviewed to discuss their latest movie, TV show, book, whatever. In the news, witnesses are interviewed to give an account of what they saw. There are lots of things about ourselves that we don’t mind sharing with the world. On social media we share the most mundane aspects of our lives with relative strangers. Even among all of this, there is a chance that we could be “interviewed,” without our knowledge. This interview isn’t about finding a job, or asking you about where you found this amazing completely organic, pumpkin spice, gluten-free motor oil. And the person giving this interview is someone you don’t ever want to meet.
I’m a people watcher. When I’m out and about in public I observe other people. I watch their behavior, their interactions, and I’ve been knocked upside the head once or twice for looking a little too long at some of the women out in the world. I have some news that might be uncomfortable for some of you. You are being profiled. No matter what you do, or where you go, people are looking at you and making judgments about you as a person. The way you dress, the way you carry yourself, the way you interact with other people; it’s all being observed by someone else. If you are wearing a tank top t-shirt, cutoffs, and flip-flops, and trying to eat at a 5 star black tie only restaurant, they typically won’t let you in, even if you hand the hostess $500. You don’t wear a track suit to a job interview, because you want to make a good impression. This is all profiling, and admit it, you do it too. So what about the person who is profiling you? Who is it, and what are they looking for? There is a chance, however small, that the person who is “interviewing” you without your knowledge, is a bad guy, and what he is looking for is a victim. He is looking for someone that he can take advantage of, who won’t put up much of a fight. You don’t want to be the person he picks.
Get your head in the game
One of the things that I have noticed when I walk around downtown, is the number of people who are completely oblivious to the world around them. They are staring at their cell phones or tablets, reading a book, have earbuds jammed in their ears, or are lost in a phone call. This is one of the signs of a potential victim. Knowing self defense techniques isn’t going to do this person a damn bit of good, from any type of martial art to being armed. They have already lost any fight with a bad guy before it even started, by simply not paying attention to what was around them, and the bad guys know this. Not being aware of what is around you means that you can be taken advantage of. That brief moment of confusion is all that a bad guy needs to ruin your day, and possibly your life. You don’t want to be this person. Get your head out of whatever it is you’re doing, and start watching the other people.
Make Eye contact
When you start watching other people, you’ll notice that there are also people watching you. Don’t just look straight ahead of you, but turn and look around. Take in everything, and enjoy being a part of it. Make eye contact with the people around you, and smile. Notice the people who are noticing you. You don’t have to get into a staring contest with anybody, but make sure that you make eye contact with the people around you. If you make eye contact with someone else who is just going about their day, you didn’t lose anything. If you make eye contact with someone who was intending you harm and make them uncomfortable, however, that might make all the difference in the world. It’s not a guarantee that simply making eye contact will work. But it does let a bad guy know that you are alert to your surroundings, and may not be as easy a target as they were hoping for.
Don’t be “that guy”
The last place you want to be is at the wrong place, at the wrong time. While hanging out in front of the Quik-Stop in the middle of the night is perfectly legal, it’s not the smartest thing to be doing. There really isn’t a good reason for you to be there. If you are in a place like this, at the wrong time of day, you might as well paint a bullseye on your forehead to identify you as a target. As a friend of mine is fond of saying; “the only things open after two a.m. are legs and waffles.” Once upon a long time ago, shortly after moving into the first house I bought, an issue arose where I had to go to Wal-Mart in the middle of the night to pick up some insect killer. Our house had an developed an infestation of some odd little spiders from somewhere, and my wife was having none of it. So I got dressed, sort of, and headed to the store. While I was there, I called my wife about the type of individuals that were inhabiting the store at that hour. She said “sweetheart, you’re one of them.” (If you have ever seen the website “People of Wal-mart” then you know the kind of people I’m talking about.) Now granted, I had a legitimate reason to be there, but it was still not the best idea for the time that I was there. Needless to say I didn’t spend any longer there than was absolutely necessary, and I got out as fast as I could. Thankfully it was uneventful the night that I was there. (Unfortunately, it is not always uneventful, I just got really lucky.) There are plenty of stupid people, in stupid places, at stupid times, doing stupid things. Don’t be one of them.
You might have noticed that pretty much everything I’ve mentioned so far is related to behavior, there is an absolutely crucial aspect however, that is more important than all of the others; Body Language. Being alert and aware of your surroundings and making eye contact are elements of Body Language, but not the whole picture. With your body language you need to tell the people around you, that if everything around you suddenly went out of control, that you are going to be the one in charge. Even if you aren’t, you need to portray yourself as an alpha type personality. (“Fake it ’til you make it,” comes nauseatingly to mind.) I’m not an expert in the field, but as evidenced by a ton of anecdotal evidence, and as I’m sure my law enforcement friends will attest to, criminals tend to avoid any conflict or confrontation. If you look like you are going to be problematic for them, they will likely pass you over. While it’s not a 100% guarantee, decreasing the odds of being tagged “it” by someone with bad intentions is never a bad idea. As an added bonus, exuding a Johnny Bravo level of confidence in public also tends to improve your own personal mood and self image.
So there you have it. The best way to fail the “street interview” is pretty much the same way you ace a job interview. You don’t have to be dressed in a suit and tie, it’s more about the attitude than the way you dress.