FBI behavior analysts develop and advocate numerous techniques to assist law enforcement with spotting problem behaviors in people before they commit workplace violence. The goal is to identify dangerous individuals and behaviors before they result in tragedy, but there are no silver bullet solutions.
While some people may have gut instincts for reading people and can innately see the warning signs of violence, you don't have to be a psychic, and it's not something you're necessarily born with. It is entirely possible to learn what to look out for and how to apply behavioral analysis to your day-to-day life.
How Do You Analyze Behavior?
When someone is making you nervous or feel uneasy for no obvious or direct reason, don't dismiss it. You have to make sure you're viewing these behaviors in the right context. First, establish baselines for normal and expected behavior in the current context, and then examine their behavior through that lens.
If a violent attack or active shooting is about to occur, there are usually many warning signs in the immediate moments before it happens. But, you can't just look at one indicator or a single behavior to prevent workplace violence, active shootings, or crimes of opportunity.
Check out this clip from Mike Drop: Episode 60, and watch former Marine and Situational Awareness & Behavioral Analysis expert, Yousef Abdou, give some examples of how to spot a bad actor or dangerous environmental factors before any violent behavior occurs.
For more techniques and strategies and strategies to use situational awareness to keep your family and your workplace safe, you can watch the full interview with Yousef Abdou.
How To Spot A Threat To Your Safety Before Violent Behavior Occurs?
One approach, the Threat Risk Assessment (TRA), is a simple but systematic way of looking at what you know about an individual's behavior and their potential to harm.
- Capability: The person has the means, motive, and opportunity to commit violence
- Intent: The person has expressed or exhibited violent intentions
- Behavior: The person has engaged in violent or threatening behavior in the past
This approach is not always 100% accurate, but it can be a useful tool for assessing and managing risk if people you already know or have some familiarity with.
How Behavior Analysis Can Help Spot Problem Behaviors?
Behavior analysis in a crowd or an event full of you people you don't know may seem impossible. One helpful tool is establishing a baseline for normal and expected behavior to quickly classify and group everyone into buckets based on their own behavior in the context of the group and social environment. If you see something out of the ordinary you will be prepared if someone becomes violent.
What Are Some Different Categories Of Behavior?
For example, before you walk into a mall you can use the behavior categories above to think about the baseline. Should most people at the mall typically exhibit submissive or neutral body language and behavior in the majority of situations? Usually, yes.
If someone is dominating everyone around them or one person in particular they might be an obvious threat. But what about threats that aren't so obvious? What else can we look for?
- Dominant or Neutral/Submissive
- Interested or Uninterested
- Comfortable or Uncomfortable
Should most people at a mall be interested or uninterested in what they are doing? Usually, interested.
Should most people at a mall be comfortable or uncomfortable? Usually, comfortable.
Now if you see someone completely uninterested in anyone around them and looking uncomfortable or distressed, you know you can focus your observations on them, as opposed to continuing to scan everyone there following the "rules" of the baseline you established.
Each of these behavior analysis methods has its own strengths and weaknesses, but when used together, they can provide a more comprehensive view of an individual's risk for violence.
The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from workplace violence is to be aware of the risks and know how to identify potentially dangerous behavior. If you see something that doesn't seem right, report it immediately. And if you are an employer, you should ensure you have a policy in place for reporting harassment, disturbing behavior, and violence in the workplace.