This article came from my book (student guide) on Martial Arts. It is related to self-defense, however, like "The Book of 5 Rings", or "The Art of War", the concepts can be applied in a more broader sense to your life. The best Martial Artist is the one that can avoid harming others as well as himself. The best way to do that is to avoid confrontation. Learning about people and how to deal with them will not only help the Martial Artist in class, but through out his life. Some of the most important lessons learned in Martial Arts are how to interact with others.
When computers deal with information, it is generally split into two categories, Input/Output and Processing. This is mimicing human responses except that humans are much more complex. First humans have to be AWARE and pay attention to their "sensors"; in todays stressful environments this is easier said than done. Next, humans have to COMMUNICATE, and make sure when they receive or listen (input), or when they speak or gesture (output), that the proper messages are getting through. Finally, processing information is the most complex step, the actual UNDERSTANDING of what is going on; what is meant, what languages are being spoken, what are the values (learning all the variables, constants and the whole equation). If there is too much or too little focus on the details, the whole picture or the composition as a whole may be lost. To make the whole thing a little more complex, all of these things must interact; a person should be aware of their communications (or lack there-of), understand what they're communicating (or not communicating), and so on.
One of the biggest problems in life seems to be that so many people are "unaware". They just plod through life without thinking (on autopilot) -- without thinking of their actions, or others actions, and what ramifications their actions have on those around them. The first step to breaking this pattern is to think. Think about how and why. Think about what you are doing and what it really means. Think about what your priorities are in life, what the likely consequences of your actions, and how your actions are going to help you achieve those things that you find important.
If you are jumped, get in a fight, get mugged or are attacked it is often your own fault.
This does not mean that victims are asking to be attacked, nor that they should blame themselves for being assaulted -- but if they are attacked they missed opportunities to avoid the situation. They need to learn from that, and learn to avoid those situations in the future.
People do not get mugged completely at random, they get mugged because they "fit the profile". Meaning that they were at the wrong place, at the wrong time, with the wrong attitude. If you are in a "bad" part of town, at night, alone, you are already "prey". If you look out of place, feel out of place, and act out of place (or frightened), you are programming yourself to become "prey". If you fail to pay attention to what is going on around you, or you act like a scared rabbit, you are telling others that you are "prey". If you run into a "predator" with these attitudes, you may become dinner.
This obviously applies to more than just being mugged, but all areas your life. Things don't just happen to individuals at random, there are usually significant warnings and setup before things happen. Sometimes the signals are explicit, sometimes they are vague, but learning to read these signals is the individual's responsibility, not the rest of the worlds. If a person becomes a victim, it is often because they failed to read the signs or use proper forethought.
So what can you do? The answer is, "Don't fit the profile". This is not a guarantee against mugging, but it will cut down the odds significantly. There are no guarantees in this world when it comes to how people will or won't behave.
Avoid the situation (Think Ahead). Try not to be in the wrong areas, or if you have to be, try not to be there at night. If those situations can be avoided and you go out of your way to do so, you are not being a coward, you are being intelligent and thinking ahead. The best defense is to not be there. If you have to be there, be there with someone else if possible -- avoid dangerous situations. There is safety in numbers, but make sure the person you are with is aware of how to act, etc., so they don't get into trouble (and drag you into it also).
Know your surroundings. If you are in an environment, then learn to fit in as best you can. Do not draw attention to yourself. This is camouflage, if you are not seen (you don't look out of place) you will not be a target. If you are in a bad part of town, try not to be there in a tuxedo or evening gown, as the locals seldom wear those, because it will draw attention, and in many cases attention is bad. Communication in what you say (Verbal) and body language (Non-Verbal) is an important part of "fitting in". If you look like you belong, most people will not spend the time to inspect you. Carry yourself like you belong, act like you were born where-ever you are, do not look lost or confused. Act purposeful. Be confident, you can handle the situation. Make eye contact. This includes everyone. If you don't make eye contact with people you look meek, that screams "Victim". This does not mean "stare everyone down", that will just get you into fights -- just let everyone know that you are alert, confident, you know they are there and you are not afraid.
Predators look for the easiest prey. If you look easy, they will go for you. If you look tough, but not challenging or threatening, they will wait for easier prey.
Make sure you understand the rules of the territory.
Surroundings / Scanning
Always be aware of your surroundings.
Learn to scan. Let your eyes wander around your surroundings and notice what is going on. You do not have to be paranoid, but neither should you be ignorant of what is going on around you. There is so much happening at every time, and most people are just not aware of any of it. Stop being unaware. Check suspicious things well; a dark corner deserves a second look, a suspicious person might deserve a "visual frisking". Be discrete, but be aware, being alert will not hurt you, being unaware will (eventually).
You will obviously let your guard down more when you feel safe. This is up to you, there are less crimes in "better" areas, but they exist. Fist fights seldom break out at high class social functions, but added awareness can help you in many ways.
If it doesn't happen it was blind luck,
and if it does, you will be unprepared to deal with it.
Once you can accurately assess what is going on around you, you need to utilize that information by thinking ahead. If you are not accurately understanding what is going on around you, you can not utilize information. In computers the term is G.I.G.O. or Garbage in-> Garbage out. If you don't have the right input, you will not give the right output.
Think about possibilities, and your responses. "What if?!", how would I react. If you have these thoughts in mind, and the "what if" happens, you will be much more prepared to handle the situation. If someone or something catches you completely unaware and you have no idea what to do, you will hesitate, that delay could be the difference between life and death. If you have a potential plan of action and something happens you will usually react much better. This is using all that gray matter purposefully.
When you drive a vehicle you should be a "defensive" driver and be thinking ahead; what if that car cuts me off, is that child going to chase the ball into the road? Are those people stopping up ahead of me? Now apply that forethought throughout your life.
While you are working, you should be thinking, "What if I slip with this tool?".
You do not have to be paranoid, but think of the consequences of your actions.
If you crack a joke at someones expense, are they going to take offense? Is the gesture you are casually making going to offend, etc.
Forethought will help you to understand the world, and keep you from being surprised. The ability to think ahead is what seperates us, from the animals. Animals feel, they love, they hate, they feel anger -- but they can not think of cause and effect like we do, so don't be an animal, learn to be a human.
If you are sucker punched it only proves that you were a sucker.