Non-verbal Cues

Situational awareness is key to our self-defense and protecting our loved ones. One part of situational awareness is noticing non-verbal cues around us. Someone following you, hands fidgeting in a pocket or under a jacket, excessive looking around in a nervous manner - none of these actions 100% mean you’re about to be attacked, but they can be indicators of a pending issue.

image What non-verbal cues do you watch for?

Thanks to @Alexander8 for a great topic idea!

  1. face -> how the person looks at you
  2. hands -> these body parts attack you first
  3. waist -> most of the time, person carrying firearm or knife touches the waist to confirm that weapon is still there

I once told someone that said she would leave if someone where she was came in wearing a gun, even if it was a cop. I replied to her asking; what is he doing? Is he playing with it, look nervous, glancing around a lot, where is he located in the store or restaurant, talking loudly or sound angry. If the guy is just sitting there eating calmly, don’t worry about him.


There is a non-verbal cue that I call “smart eyes”. A person looks at you with keen interest, it is different from person just casually glancing at you. Not necessarily a threat. I cannot explain better. Maybe there is a professional term for it.


I define situational awareness as being aware of your physical surroundings.( exits, choke points, cover and concealment)

After some recent courses I’ve added active awareness to my training.

I define active awareness as actively searching for anomalies in people’s behavior. I watching people coming towards me first because distance mitigates skill, so I start closest to me with the hands and then start from the ground up. ( it’s easy to fake a smile but most people don’t think about what their feet, legs and torso are doing). Once I’ve scanned those coming towards me I focus on people standing still and search in the same manner. After that it’s being aware of changes in the environment.

Physical features don’t change. Once you’ve located an exit that exit will always be there, however the mood in an environment is always changing and some of those changes will require your attention.



  1. Demeanor.
  2. Eyes.
  3. Foot Traffic.
  4. Clothing.
  5. Lack or presence of Camera’s.
  6. Suspicious behavior, when I turn to check my 6.
  7. Suspicious behavior when I make a sudden detour.


They don’t lie!

But, I agree with @Zavier_D


A danger with using eyes and other biometric cues is how close you have to be to read them


STAY OFF THE MOBILE DEVICES when around people for excessive time and sitting in your car like it’s your apartment or your house when around people isn’t wise neither… It’s not the 80’s no more. Also, we’re trained that an attackers’ dream of somebody being distracted every second count… A few years back in Houston, TX. Khou 11 TV news station gave 3 hints what attackers look for believe or not attackers prey on people not paying attention, they even showed in on news caught on camera. It amazes me how trustworthy people still are nowadays. That was 5 years in 2015…

  1. People sitting in cars distracted by their phones.
  2. People on their phones in a public environment.
  3. People on their phones in a public place. Doctors Office, Private Public Place with no security.
    (What happens if somebody comes in violently or unexpectedly remember hurt dysfunctional people nowadays enter buildings, schools and other outdoor events shooting at crowds of people…

Also, when entering a room or any establishment immediately memorize the exit and/or a path/game plan in case of a rapid evac is required to be sure the family is also aware of the plan. My and wife and I practice evac situations drawing and covering while grabbing the kids while on the move to the nearest exit… Pay close attention who comes and who leaves, in and out of any establishment just because they leave necessarily doesn’t mean they won’t return for your situational awareness…


I had to learn that the hard way!

So true!


Sorry to hear that @Randall318 But glad you’re well enough to share for others to see for themselves… Stay Safe my friend…

2016 ran into Sharpstown Mall in Houston really quick on the way home from security job unrelated. I came out to noticed this girl on her phone in her car. I had to warn her this wasn’t smart. I had my uniform on from work (Concerned Citizen Courtesy)… Sadly enough, I scared the crap out of her. She was completely unaware I was even near her and her vehicle…


All great stuff! I will add that I do listen to my “3rd sense”, and it has saved me a time or two. Most people seem to discount all those evolutionary senses, but they are there. Use them!


@MarkinMT. They are an essential tool to our survival. Our subconscious will pick up on danger before we are consciously aware of it.


You really need to be watching for anything that “doesn’t look right” for the environment you are in eyes, hands, anomalies in clothing, stance or stature. Pay attention to and trust your own feelings.


I feel obligated to mention… Please be aware of your own demeanor. We might not notice that our own body language can be suspect, and elicit awkward body languages from others… especially if we are assuming the worst.

For example, I had a friend who would stare at people in public places. I would ask him why he was looking so intensely at something behind me. He would respond, about someone looking at him weird. I would look at my friend weird if I didn’t know him and he was looking at me that way. Usually it was just someone, sometimes a worker, who was casually glancing around while working and seeing someone staring at them with “hard” eyeballs.

One other issue… we tend to focus in on things. We might be distracted by the potential threat, when an actual threat is some place else. As an example, I’ve known a few people that would get irritated when driving because someone came close to cutting them off or passed closely to the car. However, it often distracted them (sometimes for a few minutes) from other dangers… even to the point of missing a stop sign or light.


This is something that was mentioned in Varg Freeborn’s book “Violence of Mind.” If you do not know who he is, I would encourage you to check out his book. He says that having an aggressive demeanor can trigger somebody into acting violently if they have done time in prison (the majority of violent offenders).

My wife and I have a “safe phrase” if we see something we do not like in public, it is “let’s go grab a beer.” I do not drink and she only will drink wine or a mixed drink on occasion. Do any of you have any safe phrases that you will use in public to warn your SO of possible danger?


We don’t but I think that’s going to change very soon. Great idea


I like that!

Glad you reminded me because I was watching something with similar directions…
I can’t recall…

Oh, YEAH! (Kool-Aid man busting through the wall)the Home Defense, E-Learning!


Not a specific response, but I always start with John Correia’s Rules of Stupid: Don’t be in stupid places at stupid times doing stupid things with stupid people.
I have to use a cane a lot, which marks me as a potential victim. I look out for potential predators following me or waiting for me when I’m out and about. I apply the situational awareness factors that others have noted here and never let myself get backed into a corner, even by “accident.” A


That’s the best advice I’ve ever heard.
I love ASP channel :slightly_smiling_face: