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The Gift of Fear

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The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence
AuthorGavin de Becker
Publication date
Publication placeUnited States
Media typePrint and Kindle

The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence is a nonfiction self-help book (Dell Publishing 1997, republished with new epilogue 1998) written by Gavin de Becker. The book argues that every individual should learn to trust the inherent "gift" of their gut instinct.

The Gift of Fear spent four months on The New York Times Bestseller List, was a #1 national bestseller, and has been published in 25 editions, including two audiobooks and at least 15 foreign-language versions.[1]


By finding patterns in stories of violence and abuse, de Becker seeks to highlight the inherent predictability of violence. The book explores various settings where violence may be found—the workplace, the home, the school, dating—and describes what de Becker calls pre-incident indicators (PINS). By noticing PINS (events and behaviors that often precede violence), individuals can better predict violence before it occurs and, therefore, take the necessary precautions and actions to stay safe. The Gift of Fear also describes de Becker's MOSAIC Threat Assessment Systems, which have been employed by various celebrities and government agencies to predict and prevent violence.

In The Gift of Fear, de Becker describes pre-incident indicators to watch for:

  • Forced teaming: This is when a person implies that they have something in common with their chosen victim, acting as if they have a shared predicament when that isn't really true. Speaking in "we" terms is a mark of this, i.e. "We don't need to talk outside... Let's go in."
  • Charm and niceness: This is being polite and friendly to a chosen victim in order to manipulate them by disarming their mistrust.
  • Too many details: If a person is lying they will add excessive details to make themselves sound more credible to their chosen victim.
  • Typecasting: An insult is used to get a chosen victim who would otherwise ignore one to engage in conversation to counteract the insult. For example: "Oh, I bet you're too stuck-up to talk to a guy like me." The tendency is for the chosen victim to want to prove the insult untrue.
  • Loan sharking: Giving unsolicited help to the chosen victim and anticipating they'll feel obliged to extend some reciprocal openness in return.
  • The unsolicited promise: A promise to do (or not do) something when no such promise is asked for; this usually means that such a promise will be broken. For example: an unsolicited, "I promise I'll leave you alone after this," usually means the chosen victim will not be left alone. Similarly, an unsolicited "I promise I won't hurt you" usually means the person intends to hurt their chosen victim.
  • Discounting the word "no": Refusing to accept rejection.


The Gift of Fear spent four months on The New York Times bestseller list and was a #1 US bestseller.[2]

A reviewer for Time found the book's section on stalking to be the most informative part.[3] An instructor at the FBI Academy opined that the information in The Gift of Fear would be useful for law enforcement officers by providing "tools for assessing potentially violent encounters".[4] In the Boston Globe, Zachary Dowdy described it as "a how-to book that reads like a thriller".[5] Julie Barlow described The Gift of Fear in The Gazette as "surprisingly credible" and "strangely reassuring".[6] Years after the book's publication, Carolyn Hax recommends The Gift of Fear in her syndicated advice column.[7][8]


  1. ^ Foreword to the 2010 Kindle edition.
  2. ^ Main Page. Gavin de Becker & Associates website
  3. ^ Van Biema, David (July 28, 1997). "The Lesson: Don't Be Afraid, Be Wary". Time. Vol. 150, no. 4. ISSN 0040-781X.
  4. ^ Linkins, Julie R. (June 2002). "The Gift of Fear (Book)". FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin. Vol. 71, no. 6. ISSN 0014-5688.
  5. ^ Dowdy, Zachary R. (August 25, 1997). "A primer on impending violence". The Boston Globe. p. 93.
  6. ^ Barlow, Julie (August 30, 1997). "Survival tips for era of random violence". The Gazette. Montreal, Canada. p. 90.
  7. ^ Hax, Carolyn (May 25, 2005). "Give daughter the book 'The Gift of Fear'". Statesman Journal. p. 34.
  8. ^ Hax, Carolyn (June 21, 2017). "Friend's husband sends reader unwanted texts, calls". Honolulu Star-Advertiser. p. D1.

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