Street smarts are something that are invaluable to know, but that you won't know if you haven't grown up in areas that expose you to dangerous or dicey situations. You won't learn street smarts in the halls of a private high school or the sidewalks of an affluent middle class suburb. Instead, you learn them in the run-down, poor, impoverished areas where people keep an eye out for anyone who doesn't belong, just like you do in your neighborhood - only, instead of steering clear of people who don't fit the norm, like you may well, they come over to take a sniff or maybe a little bite.
Each of us has a different level of "protect" and "get" interests in other people. For example, if you see a big, scary-looking man, you probably feel nothing but "protect" instincts - there's nothing you can get from him, but he is a real threat to you... so you protect yourself, and stay away. If you're a single guy walking down the street and you see a beautiful woman, your "get" instincts kick in hard - you probably go want to meet her. Likely, you have some "protect" filter still up - if she looks completely cold or uninterested, you won't approach, because you probably won't get much from her, and you might not be able to protect yourself from rejection and losing face socially.
In less safe places, the people you meet have lower "protect" mechanisms toward you (you're less of a threat than the people they usually encounter) and higher "get" mechanisms (you're an easier mark than the people they usually see)... which means you're a lot more likely to get approached by someone you don't want to meet, for something you don't want to have happen.
Street smarts are really about raising people's "protect" shields and lowering their "get" meters around you, the same as that cold, aloof beauty walking down the street does with men who might otherwise be inclined to approach her - if only she seemed a bit more inviting.
The first series of steps you can take to be street smart fall under the umbrella of triggering individuals' "protect" shields to raise.
That is to say, we're going to talk about making you seem like the kind of person it's probably not worth it to mess with.
If you're sufficiently adept at flipping "protect" triggers, you don't have to worry about anything other than the most outrageous "get" signals. e.g., a bodybuilder with huge muscles and a powerful walk walking around a bad area in a really expensive suit and shoes - even though he's all but a walking wallet, he's probably not going to get jumped.
That said, nothing is 100%, and someone sufficiently desperate or crazy may ignore his better judgment and try you anyway - but most of the time, most people who might be tempted to try something with you are guys experienced doing so, and experienced thieves, robbers, and attackers know to scan their potential marks for strength or weakness first - you want to take on those who are going to be clean and easy to take what you want from, NOT those who are going to lead to a messy, unpredictable situation where it's anyone's guess who comes out of it alive.
Criminals take more risks, yes, but they're not morons - nobody wants to get killed over $200.
So, triggering that "protect" instinct is really about emulating the kind of guy a criminal will think twice about before approaching - and feeding him that kind of guy's reactions if he bothers to try and feel you out.
#1: Strong, Slow Walk
Personally, I always walk pretty slow, but when I walk through dangerous places, I slow down a lot more. My walk almost becomes a crawl, I move so slowly.
I also walk powerfully - the "gunslinger walk" we talked about here: "How to Have a Sexy Walk That Drives Women Nuts."
Now, your urge when crossing through bad areas is always going to be to walk fast. You will want to hurry up and get out of there A.S.A.P. There are a few reasons NOT to do this, though:
Fast walkers stand out. People who walk fast are "busy folk." They're people from the rich parts of town, with affluent lives and high-paying careers. They always have things to do, and are always in a rush, rush, rush. People in the slums do not have such busy lives. In fact, their lives are s-l-o-w. They spend all day sitting on the stoop, watching the hours tick by. The people who are eyeing you up with an ill-favored look don't have 9-to-5s that keep them rushing around; instead, the laze about, waiting for the next payday to stroll into their lives. Lions don't rush about; they wait patiently in the grass for gazelles to come speeding through - then pounce.
Fast walkers trigger fight-or-flight. When you're moving rapidly, you trigger an instinctive response in others, who find the rapidity of your movement in an otherwise slow environment jarring. If they're afraid of you for some reason, the emotion that's triggered is a "clear the path" or "run and hide" emotion. If you look like a mark, though, the emotion that's triggered is a predatory reflex - you almost force certain people to chase after you, simply by moving quickly. This reflex is not triggered by strolling slowly and naturally through an environment at roughly the pace of its inhabitants, or slightly less.
If someone wants to catch you, walking fast won't save you. You might be thinking you're going to breeze by before anyone can notice you, and by the time they see you, they're going to think, "Whoops - oh well, he's too far away NOW and moving too fast ANYWAY... I guess I'll just wait for the next mark to come along." Only, the people who are going to approach you to relieve you of your belongings or worse aren't going to not notice you until you're zooming by; they're going to notice you the moment you appear on the horizon, 30 seconds before you reach them. If they want to introduce themselves to you, a rapid foot speed isn't going to deter them.
When you walk slowly, you affect others' emotions a very different way: if you're walking a little slower than they themselves walk in that environment, you come across as being even more confident there than they themselves are. This makes you seem like someone who walks through that area every day; even if they don't recognize you, they will tend to second-guess themselves about who you are and wonder if you're someone who lives in that neighborhood, or very nearby, even if you don't look like you belong.
And when you walk powerfully, you make them simply not want to confront you, because you seem like you'd probably be a dangerous person to mess with. Most nervous people in dangerous places slump down and try to take up as little space as possible while they move through; if you're doing the opposite, you communicate power, confidence, and strength, which makes any potential aggressors a lot more likely to decide to simply sit this one out.
#2: No Scanning
What do you do when you go somewhere new or unfamiliar? You look all around to try to get your bearings and learn the streets and landmarks, right?
How about when you walk down the same street you walk down every day? Do you scan about a lot then - are you studying the street signs, looking carefully at every shop and awning, and observing the people walking, standing, and sitting nearby? Probably not, right? You're probably in your own head, just walking the street you need to walk.
If you want to look like you "belong" in a place, one of the best things you can do is simply NOT scan. Street-smart people do no scanning. I stopped scanning when I was a teen, and you'd be amazed how often I get approached for directions by tourists in unfamiliar cities. It doesn't matter if I look like a fellow tourist or I'm indistinguishable from one of the locals; if I'm in the United States or some far-flung locale - people approach me for directions because I look like I'm "from" there and they think I must know.
I feel bad when I have to say, "Sorry, I just got in this morning and it's my first time in town here," and then point them in the direction of a convenience store and suggest they ask a cashier (who will almost certainly REALLY know the town), but it's just another reminder that walking around confidently and not scanning makes you look like a local to anyone who's paying attention trying to differentiate those who belong from those who do not.
If you want to look local, don't scan. Even if you don't blend in skin-color or clothes-wise, simply not scanning can be so confusing a signal to potential harassers that they'll steer clear of you, because people are afraid of things they find confusing and unexpected - better safe than sorry, goes the rule... even for hoodlums.
#3: Eyebrows Down and Throw On a Frown
If you really don't want to be messed with, throw a scary look on your face. Eyebrows down (creased); slight frown on your mouth. Basically, just plaster a look on your face as if you've just had a really bad day and just had a nasty blow-up with a friend or coworker and want to punch his lights out.
Why's this one work? Again, if you're looking to rob someone, or just to get into it with someone, you want to pick someone who's going to be put off-balance by your approach - who will go back onto his heels... NOT someone who's already itching for a fight and is going to be ready to go before you are.
Most guys who see you walk by with a look like this on your face will tend to have this reaction - of, "Nah, I'm not messing with that guy."
The one exception:
the exception to this rule is very large groups. In this case, you will
sometimes have guys who take your angry look - even if
you never look in their direction or make eye contact -
as a threat,
because they feel frightened on first noticing you, then become angry
that you made them feel that way, feeling backed up by all their
They may also see confronting you as a chance to look strong in front
of their friends (while backed up by their friends in case anything
When you are walking past belligerent-seeming groups: wipe your angry look off your face, and put on a totally neutral one. Generally, the worst these types of groups (groups where the guys are looking for someone to fight) will do is cat-call a neutral guy and throw insults at him, which you can just ignore and keep walking (I'll talk about this in a moment, below); where, with an angry-looking guy, they will actually get up and come approach you.
So, rule of thumb: when walking through dangerous areas, an angry
look will usually keep you very safe. However,
if you're crossing near to a group of guys that doesn't have anything
to do and seems like it's looking for trouble, get rid of your angry
look and slap on a neutral one... so that you don't invite them to come
down off the stoop they're sitting on and walk right up to you. I've
had this happen, and it teaches you pretty fast that angry looks are
only good until they're not.
#4: No Distractions
"I'll just pop my earbuds in and listen to that audiobook I've been meaning to listen to!" you think in a panic, trying to come up with a way to look natural while you cross through this bad neighborhood you've suddenly found yourself in at exactly the wrong hour of the night.
Nah-uh. Leave the earbuds in your pocket. Phone too. Don't go reading text messages or checking your Facebook wall.
Why? It's not because these devices attract unnecessary attention and raise others' "get" urges (though they frequently do).
Rather, it's because distractions take away from your other "intimidation factors":
If you're walking slowly, it's not because you're comfortable in the area - it's because you're too engrossed in your phone to walk faster
If you're not scanning, it isn't because this is a neighborhood you know like the back of your hand - it's because you're lost in the distractions you're feeding yourself
If you're looking angry, it isn't because you're a bad ass - bad asses don't listen to music or text on the phone. It's probably because you're listening to some hard rock, or you just got rejected by that girl you've been hounding on Facebook
Distractions nuke your power in dangerous situations. In fact, if I cross from a "safe" place to an "unsafe" one, and I am listening to an audiobook, I will pop out my earbuds, tuck them in my pocket, and put my phone away... not because I'm afraid of people wanting to steal them, but because I'm afraid of the power loss that comes with them.
You look like you're trying to hide from the world when you have distractions up in obviously dangerous situations. Put them away, and keep your power.
#5: When with Friends
If you're out with friends, the street smart way is that you want to be talking with them, and minding these guidelines:
- Stay upbeat / positive / happy / excited / high energy
- Talking in your lowest (deepest) voice that still sounds natural
- Speak LOUDLY (as loud as you can sound without shouting)
The effect of this is that when you're communicating loudly and animatedly, you're putting yourself at a higher energy level than anyone who's just sitting around waiting for a mark to happen by, which is off-balancing - it's the same feeling for them as when you get to the club late and the party's already in full swing, and some wild girl bounds up to you yelling and gyrating and you're just like, "Whoa. Too much."
The effect of speaking in your deepest voice is that humans have a natural fear-respect tendency for deep voices, and the deeper you sound, the less likely guys are to mess with you. It's even been shown that voters prefer the U.S. presidential candidate with the deepest voice, and in something like every presidential election over the past 100 years, the candidate with the deepest voice has won the election - voice depth and dominance tend to go hand-in-hand (possibly also testosterone / aggression). Other research has shown men with deeper voices are perceived to be better fighters.
Basically, talk deep, and you can
scare the bejesus out of would-be accosters.
#6: Dealing with Insults / Cat-Calls / Feel-Outs
Because you are not scanning, you will usually not be making eye contact either in dangerous situations. If someone interacts with you directly though, you must respond.
The reason for this is that if someone talks to or otherwise addresses you in some form or another, and you ignore / pretend not to hear, unless he did so so quietly that it seems reasonable you didn't hear or didn't realize it was intended for you, your power drops like a dropped towel, and suddenly you look naked. All that acting strong was clearly just that - acting. Because you don't know how to deal with actually being confronted or tested.
Rascals and rapscallions will invariably try to feel you out before they try anything with you. This is a reasonably "safe" way for them to gauge your strength relative to theirs, and it's how they figure out if proceeding with you is green light (you're a mark), yellow light (you might be a mark, but could be trouble), or red light (don't mess with you).
You'll find that men from dangerous places use "feel-outs" as their default mode of engaging with new people; it's why you'll see guys from the hood cat-calling women they find attractive (they're feeling them out to see if the women are receptive prior to approaching), and they'll do the same thing with everyone from guys they want to beat up or rob to guys they want to approach as potential friends, or even people they're just curious about and wondering what the heck THAT guy is doing here.
Insults look like this:
- "Yo, pussy!"
- "Yo! Retard!"
- "Hey, [racial insult - gringo, white boy, chink, nigger, spik,
Cat-calls look like this:
- "Yo, nice jacket!"
- "Hey man, nice hair!"
- "That's a cool briefcase, dude!"
Feel-outs look like this:
- "Yo, what's that on your head?"
- "Yo man, what you doin' out here?"
- "Hey man, you live around here?"
If you're not used to this, these can feel VERY off-balancing the first few times you encounter them, especially if you're decidedly outside your element, and especially if the guy saying this has friends and you do not.
But all you actually need to do when you find yourself on the receiving end of one of these is simple:
- SLOWLY turn your head in the direction it came from
- SLOWLY make eye contact with the person who said it
- SLOWLY flash them the bored look or the skeptical
- SLOWLY break eye contact again to the side, back the way you're headed
- SLOWLY turn your head back in the direction you're going
- Keep on going your way (slowly) at the same speed you have been
In the event you've been asked a question, a nonverbal gesture as a
reply after you make eye contact is best (e.g. "What's on your head?"
--> you tap your head authoritatively after making eye contact, as
if to say "Look - see?"; "What you doin' out here?" --> you gesture
in front of you and widen your eyes, as if to say, "Walking - see??";
"You live around here?" --> point in the direction you're going, as
if to say "Just up there"). The reason you want a nonverbal response is
that it shuts down future questions; you're following the Law
of Least Effort, which
makes you appear much more powerful than the guy, and also makes him
look like he's chasing if he continues to ask you questions that he's
getting much lower effort responses to - a dynamic that most guys who
are street smart themselves are very attuned to, and normally respect.
The effect of this series of steps as your response is that you nonverbally communicate something along the lines of, "[scoff] Are you serious?" while continuing on your way (you never stop walking). It's a moderately powerful, dismissive statement that isn't so powerful the harasser feels the need to challenge you to save face, but it's strong enough that it lets him know you don't see him as any kind of a threat. It's essentially a signal that you are not afraid, that you reject his harassment, but that you're not going to get into some verbal battle with him because it's irrelevant to you... without going quite so far as to insult him back.
I have personally found this to be THE single most effective way of dealing with people yelling stuff out at you whom you'd really rather not engage with. It's superior to:
Ignoring them (you look weak, and like an easy target)
Insulting them back (you may force them to confront you to save face)
Being friendly and nice (you don't want a dialogue with these people - you have nothing to gain, and everything to lose - they will find some way to con you if you try to hang out with them as their friend)
Instead, you just make eye contact, give them a bit of "Sheesh!" acknowledgment, and then continue on your way.
#7: When Approached
If you're minding the above instructions, you will rarely if ever actually be approached. The few times you are, though, respond this way:
Take instant initiative. Your approacher is assuming he has the initiative, and will be in charge of the interaction. You can spook him, off-balance him, put him on his heels, and even make him doubt, reconsider, and scrap whatever his plans were by instantly seizing the initiative and trying to TAKE from HIM, instead of passively waiting to see what he does with you.
Be loud, deep, and energetic. Again, as when talking with friends in bad parts of town, when you interact with him, speak in a LOUD, deep voice, and with a big smile and lots of energy coming through your voice and person - make it as much friendly-but-physically-imposing energy as you possibly can... imagine the giant football linebacker or rugby flanker who greets you in a friendly tone, but has an air of powerful dominance behind him nevertheless.
Ask him his name. This is the first thing you do to put him off-balance and get him complying with you. It also breaks down the "other" barrier and makes you people to each other, instead of strangers - once you trade names, it becomes much harder for him to view you as some nameless mark. This also makes it more difficult for him to rob you or confront you - you now know his name (you can finger him to the police), and he now knows yours (does he really want to do something bad to this new but friendly person he now knows?).
Ask him which way [X] is. We're not scanning, because we don't want to look like we're not from around there, but we're not lying and pretending we absolutely are. And if he's approaching, he clearly doesn't buy it that you are from there - so don't pretend anyway. Instead, ask him where [X] is - and [X] can be anything. It could be a street you need to get to, or a convenience store. Anything. Try to make it something he'll know of, because if he says, "I don't know," that's negative compliance, and you'll have to ask him about something else, or say, "Is it this way? I'm pretty sure it's this way. Well, I'll find it!" and then continue, which isn't quite as strong as if you enlist him in helping you.
Thank him for his help, then continue on your way. Once he's given you some help finding what you're looking for, OR he's said he doesn't know but you've given your own directions, thank him for his help (again, in a LOUD, deep, friendly and powerful voice, with a big, broad, powerful smile) - "Great! Thanks for your help!" or "Well - thanks for your help anyway!" - and then continue on your way (still walking slowly). Because the interaction has ended, he will be in violation of the Law of Least Effort if he now pursues you and tries to reopen; he'll also feel socially dominated to have approached you for a purpose, then had you seize control of the interaction, get him to comply (or have you imply compliance in the event he tells you he doesn't know), and then end the interaction without him achieving his purpose for approaching. He's usually just going to go back to where he was, rather than re-open you and potentially be socially dominated again (if he does, you just start grilling him / deep diving him on various things as you continue to walk, and he's forced to keep up with you and answer your questions, continuing to remain off-balance, until he gets tired of it and gives up).
In this way, you deny your approacher the chance to steer the conversation toward whatever he wants to steer it toward, and almost everyone who approaches you directly is going to try and steer a conversation toward his demands, rather than running up to you and sticking a gun in your face like they do in the movies.
If you dominate the interaction socially here, your accoster is not able to ever reach his demands. And, he will leave the interaction feeling dominated, intimidated, and wondering what on Earth just happened.
#8: When Attacked
There are basically four different "attacking" situations:
- You discover someone trying to pickpocket you
- One guy attacks you (alone, or while friends look on)
- A group of guys attack you (together, at once)
- One or a group of guys brandish weapons at you
Here's how I'd recommend you deal with each in a street smart way:
Pickpockets: when I've discovered pickpockets, the first thing I do is grab their arms so they cannot escape (which is what they always try to do), then yell and swear at them in my loudest, angriest, deepest, most terrifying voice imaginable. Pickpockets are usually small, thin, and often young, and they're used to people not noticing them. You scare the living crap out of them when you do this, and put them far off balance. Take back anything they took, then chase them off.
One guy attacks you: the best thing you can do here is get out of the thick of it (e.g., throw him off if he's grabbing you), create some distance, and then look both big and angry but also puzzled, like, "What the heck was THAT?" if he has friends who aren't getting involved, they will usually pull him off of you and break it up. YOU DO NOT WANT TO RE-ENGAGE. If you do, the friends may perceive you as an aggressor and pile on. If you look angry but quizzical, the friends will assume you're a pretty tough guy to be annoyed, rather than flustered or, alternately, raging, and instead will tell their boy to cool off. Just back up, look at the guy like, "WTF???" and let his friends drag him away, allowing both of you to save face. Shake your head and walk away.
A group of guys attack you: I haven't had to deal with this one, but I've had a few friends who have, and the best advice here is just "fight them off, then run like hell." I took a class with a guy who got jumped by four hoods in a New York City alleyway, who beat him with boards and a steel pipe until he decked a few of them and ran off. A short walk-in to the hospital E.R. and he was in mint condition, minus a couple of unsightly bumps and bruises (the girls certainly liked them, though).
One or a group of guys brandish weapons at you: if you can run, run. The time for walking slowly and looking tough is over - just get out of there pronto. They might just be trying to spook you, or they might be working themselves up to rob you - don't stick around to find out. If they've got you cornered, give them what they want (money, shoes, coat, etc.). Even most people trained in disarming weapons won't mess around when facing down a knife or a gun in person - it's just too easy to make one mistake and lose your life. Hand over your wallet, then get out of that area and cancel your credit cards. You can always get new ones - you can't get a new shot at life once yours has been snuffed out.
Basically, if it's one guy, get him off of you and scare him or create separation. If it's more than one, just get the hell out of there - you're not going to trigger them to protect themselves from you at that point, and sticking around much longer is a losing proposition for you.
The other side of the coin from triggering potential accosters' "protect" shields is thwarting their "get" drive. You do this by making it seem like you have nothing really worth getting - nothing worth overcoming all the "protect" triggers you're setting off in their minds for, anyway.
A helpful way of thinking about "get" is like this: depending on how much and what kinds of value you show about yourself, you can trigger "get" responses in ANYONE of some sort or another. A girl who's a gold digger might have "get" kick in when she notices you cleaning up at poker in a Las Vegas casino; and an ordinarily law-abiding citizen might be tempted to take your briefcase and run if he or she learns you have $500,000 in cash inside of it, and your attention is called away from keeping an eye on it for a moment by some distraction in the distance.
There are two key ways of reducing / removing the "get" response in others:
- Have nothing they want to get, and
- Make it way too hard for them to get it if you DO have something
Let's talk about each.
#1: Have Nothing Worth Getting
Obviously, if you park a Lamborghini in the middle of the 'hood,
you're asking to get robbed. Even if you just drive one through and
stop at a red light, you're asking for it. A piece of advice my father
received when taking a management job in a plant located in a bad part
of town was, "Don't stop at the stop signs - nobody does anyway, the
police don't enforce them, and people will run up to your car and rob
you if you obey the signs because they'll know you're not from there."
Understandably, he doesn't stop at stop signs when traveling through
that part of town.
Following this advice means you don't wear flashy, expensive-looking clothes into bad areas. In fact, you don't wear NEW clothes at all - those shoes might've only been $15, but if they're brand new, they'll look shiny and flashy and people are going to want them. You're probably better off wearing a dingy old beat-up pair of $100 shoes through a bad part of town than a pair of shiny new $15 ones.
It also means you don't brandish your smart phone or other expensive possessions in dangerous places. Someone suspecting you have a smart phone and someone knowing you do are two very different things. A friend of mine who was listening to an audiobook on a crowded train with his white iPhone earbuds in his ears suddenly had his audiobook cut off, and when he looked down to check why, his phone was gone - someone had seen the cord, gently used it to pull the phone up, out of his pocket, disconnected it, and ran. My friend tried to run after the guy he saw running away from the train (the guy had picked the moment just when the doors opened, and a mass of people was struggling to get off the train and another mass struggling to get on), but he couldn't make it through the crowd and the thief got away.
When I know I'm going to be going somewhere dangerous, I do the street smart thing and leave everything at home except a little bit of money and the key to my apartment or hotel room. You will never 100% prevent having your pocket picked, even if you're the most vigilant guy in the world; yet, this way, if anyone pickpockets you, all he'll get is some pocket change and maybe the key to a place he doesn't know the address of (although I usually put the key in the most secure place I have, and the money in the second most, if both won't fit - I'd rather lose a little money, than lose the key to my place and not be able to get in without a lot of hassle).
You can use this technique verbally to shut down people who are harassing you to buy something, or even who may be casing you as a potential robbery or pickpocketing victim: when they walk up to you trying to sell you something, just respond with this: "No money - can you do [5% of the price they asked for]?" they'll act disgusted and wave you off - then, you chase them and repeat, "No money - [5% of the asking price]?" Because you're now chasing, they'll now wave you off more aggressively and more annoyed, and go into auto-rejection, acting disgusted with you. You can then happily leave, with them insulted that you valued their merchandise so low, and you clearly marked as someone with nothing worth taking to everyone in earshot.
#2: Make It Really Hard to Get Anything from You
A good way of thinking "make it hard to get things" is thinking
about an armored car - there's a lot of money in there, yeah, but
there's also a lot of armor on there, and a couple of guys with
shotguns - anyone who might be tempted to snag a bag of cash for
himself if it were all just sitting unguarded out in the open won't
even have the thought enter his mind when it's sitting behind
armor-plated truck walls and guarded by security agents with
I stopped putting my wallet in my back pocket a long time ago, even though I did it from childhood through into my teenage years. It's simply too easily lifted back there. Instead, anything I must carry with me I carry in my front pants pockets - and then, any time I need added security, I just hook my hands into my pockets too.
I've had times I've had people approach me whom I could tell were trying to distract me, which is how many pickpocket teams work - one distracts, the other picks. I mostly ignore the distracters, while plunging my hands into my pockets and putting my fingers around all valuables, and looking around immediately for an accomplice, while preparing to use my feet to defend myself (read: kick the annoying distraction person standing there in front of me).
On my computer case, I have a combination lock. Many people have laughed at that and called me paranoid, and others have said a lock only attracts thieves, and you're better off without one - but I don't call it paranoid; I just call it street smart. That combination lock is the only reason I haven't been successfully pickpocketed when carrying that bag. I caught a guy in Mongolia with his arm deep into the front pocket of the bag while I was carrying it against my back one night in the rain - but the most valuable thing in that part of the bag was a $2 Bic pen. Everything of value I keep in the main compartment - and that compartment I keep locked up at all times, except when my computer is out and I'm working on it. A lock isn't a magical impenetrable device; if someone stole the whole bag, he could cut through the material of the bag, or clip off the lock with a pair of bolt cutters. However, for someone who's relying on me simply not paying attention for a few seconds to get the compartment open and run off with a $1600 computer or my passport or reserve cash, it's simply not going to happen.
Continuing to keep walking is another one that's invaluable for thwarting anyone trying to get something from you. In tourist trap countries where locals suck in tourists by calling out to them or asking them if they want to buy something, I'm amazed at how many American, European, and Australian tourists I see stop and pay attention to the people calling out to them, because they are too polite to keep walking. There's nothing there that these tourists want - they have nothing to gain, and everything to lose. The tourist fleecers survive 100% on overly-polite tourists who feel morally obligated to stop and pay attention to anyone addressing them, then get sucked into sob stories or sales pitches for things they don't really need. You'll notice that the people targeting tourists NEVER target locals - because if they ever do, the locals just ignore them and keep walking. That's the same thing you need to do when you're around people trying to get your attention - whether they're criminals, or people who are just looking to help make your wallet a little lighter by selling you stuff you neither need nor want.
Most people will not chase after you to sell you anything. If they do, you just wave them off and shake your head (or, if they're people who are potentially criminals, you do the "engage them high energy with a deep, loud voice and keep them on their heels with lots of questions and compliance requests" thing we talked about earlier).
It's worth remembering that "get" can mean more than just money and
possessions, too - some people will harass you because they are social ladder climbers and want
to use tooling you as a rung on their journey to self-ascension. Or,
coworkers may be trying to get hints or help from you that they will
then turn around and use to enhance their own presentations without due
credit to you, using your work to elevate themselves in the corporate
ladder. Even family members may try to get concessions out of you to
elevate their position within the family.
In the case of people trying to get immaterial things from you (as opposed to money and possessions), the first section on triggering their "protect" shields is often your best and most effective defense. That's because people who are status vampires will tend to look for "easy prey", since the act of stealing status is not a one-way street - if you successfully thwart their efforts to pirate your status, the end result is invariably a reverse transfer of status - from them to you. Do a sufficient job communicating your social dominance, and most people won't even both trying - they don't want to risk the status hit you're liable to put on them for their efforts.
These still generally fall in the domain of "street smarts", because
they deal with people trying to railroad, take from, or control you in
messy situations - though they aren't the traditional "ruffian in a
dark alleyway" sort of street smarts the term originally emerged for.
Street Smarts Essentials
So those are our two sides of street smarts:
- "Protect" and
Keeping yourself safe on the street is all about triggering "protect" instincts (to make your potential attackers instead take measure to protect themselves from you) while not triggering "get" instincts (to avoid any unnecessary temptation).
To trigger "protect":
- Walk slowly and powerfully
- Don't scan the street, buildings, or other people as you walk
- Frown and look scary, except around cohesive groups of roughnecks
- Keep distractions (smart phones, earbuds) off and tucked away
- When with friends, talk loudly, deeply, and energetically
- When dealing with people calling after you, acknowledge, then keep going
- When being approached, take the initiative and keep him off-balance
- When attacked, defend if it's one person and you can; otherwise, escape
To not trigger "get":
- Have nothing on you that people will want to get
- Make it so obviously hard to get things from you that people don't bother
Your social awareness is every bit as important in dangerous areas as it is anywhere else - perhaps even more so, since your possessions and, possibly, even your life may sometimes be at stake.
Keep your wits about you; know your street smarts up, down, left, right, and in between; and most of all, just steer clear of dangerous or compromising situations whenever you reasonably can.
Nevertheless, should you find yourself in them... you now have the tools to handle them with confidence.