I Promise You, I’m No Gigolo!
“I promise you, I’m no gigolo!”
The psychopath I was involved with said that to me one night, out of nowhere.
As it turned out, he was absolutely a gigolo. Even worse, he was a psychopathic one. His promise was broken.
When he made that promise, I was flummoxed. Why would he think I might consider him a gigolo, of all things? What I should have asked myself was, why does he have gigolos on his mind? why is he making this promise when I never voiced any concern? why is he trying to convince me he’s not a gigolo? His unsolicited promise was a “tell,” a clue to who he really was and what was going to happen.
Just a Gigolo ~The Soundcasters
Beware the Unsolicited Promise, which is a promise to do—or not to do—something when no such promise is asked for. It usually means that promise will be broken.
U nsolicited promises are considered a “pre-incident indicator,” according to Gavin de Becker, author of the book The Gift of Fear. He explains that the reason a person promises something is because they feel the need to convince you of something; they sense or anticipate your doubt. He says you must ask yourself, “why does this person feel the need to convince me?”
An unsolicited promise is often a warning sign of impending victimization of one kind or another, and should never be ignored or believed. It can be a way to buy time or to create an opportunity to get control over you or the situation.
Some examples of unsolicited promises:
“I promise I won’t hurt you”
“I promise I’ll leave you alone after this.”
“I promise I’ll never cheat on you.”
“I promise I’ll just have one drink and then I’ll leave.”
“I promise I’ll just help you bring in your groceries and then I’ll go.”
“I promise you, I’m one of the good guys.”
“I promise I’ll never lie to you.”
“I promise I’ll never let you down.”
An unsolicited promise is not a guarantee of anything…. it is a way to convince you of something.
Other Pre-Incident Indicators (from Gavin de Becker’s book, The Gift of Fear) (some of these happen without ill intent, but should still be considered serious warning signs):
Typecasting- In this strategy, the con artist labels a woman or other victim in a critical way: snobby, stuck-up, etc. Most people don’t like to be labeled as being uncaring, snobby, unkind or paranoid, but these labels can be used deliberately to get you to react in the opposite direction. The idea is that you will then be compelled to disprove this charge, which gives the person an opportunity to win your trust. “You’re probably too beautiful to go out with a guy like me.” “You’re probably too snobby to talk to me.” The defense is silence, acting as if the words weren’t even spoken. Ignore it. If you engage you may win the point, but you might lose something greater.
Loan Sharking- A person does you a favor—one you never asked them for—not because he or she is nice, but because they want you in their debt. When they ask you for something later, you will find it difficult to refuse.
*Not Taking “No” for an Answer- Refusing to accept rejection. Perhaps the most universally significant signal that bad things are to come. “No” should NEVER be discounted. You tell someone that no, you do not need their help, but they proceed to insist on it. Of all the signs one should pay attention to, this is the one that De Becker emphasizes. He says that “no” is a “a word that must never be negotiated, because the person who chooses not to hear it is trying to control you.” Criminals and manipulators go through a “victim selection” process involving an “interview” in which they test the you to see if you can be controlled. One of those tests is to ignore the victim’s protests to see how they react. If you let someone talk you out of the word “no,” you might as well wear a sign that reads, “You are in charge.”
The worst response when someone fails to accept “no” is to give ever-weakening refusals and then give in. Another common response is to negotiate (“I really appreciate your offer but let me try to do it on my own first”). Negotiations are about possibilities, and providing access to someone who makes you apprehensive is not a possibility you want to keep on the agenda. When someone becomes insistent on giving you help you don’t want, say loudly and in no uncertain terms: “I SAID NO.” It’s worked for me more than once. When you feel you may be in danger, forget being “nice.”
Always remember this:
PREDATORS ARE PERSISTENT
Forced Teaming- A strategy designed to establish a premature trust, it’s the projection of a shared purpose or experience where none exists. The con artist uses this manipulation to create a sense of “togetherness.” This is when a person implies that he has something in common with his victim, acting as if they have a shared predicament when that isn’t true. Speaking in “we” terms is a sign. This technique is meant to bypass healthy distrust. “It looks like we’re in the same boat.” “We’re in quite a predicament.” “We’re not like them.” “We don’t need to talk outside… Let’s go in.” “How are we going to handle this?” “Now we’ve done it.” Forced teaming is done I many contexts for many reasons, but when applied by a stranger in vulnerable situation, it is always inappropriate.
Watch forced teaming in action:
(from the movie House of Games)
Charm and Niceness- De Becker has little good to say about charm. He believes that charm is almost always a directed instrument, which means there’s a motive behind it. To charm is to compel, to control by allure or attraction. Charming people do not all necessarily have sinister motives, but because it is a strategy used by manipulators, it is prudent to be aware when it’s happening and stay alert. De Becker particularly warns women to rebuff unwanted approaches. He specifically makes the point that women are expected to respond to any and all communications from men (and those who are not willing and compliant are viewed as being cold and uncooperative). Niceness does not equal goodness. Niceness is a decision, a strategy of social interaction; it is not a character trait. People seeking to control others almost always present the image of a nice person in the beginning.
Too Many Details- If a person is lying they will sometimes add excessive details to make themselves sound more credible. Even though it sounds credible to you it doesn’t to them (because they know they’re lying), so they keep throwing out details. This tactic also works to make you feel that you know someone better than you do, which makes you more likely to trust them. The defense for ‘too many details’ is simple: Bring the context of the conversation into conscious thought. Is it someone you just met? Watch out.
The opening chapter of The Gift of Fear is truly chilling. The author shares the true story of a woman named Kelly, who was nearly killed by a serial rapist-murderer. All of the pre-incidence indicators were there and her gut signaled danger, but with persistence the rapist was able to make her act against her fear.
Kelly arrived home carrying several bags of groceries. She headed up the steps to her apartment building, noticing the door had been left open again. “Stupid neighbors. That’s not safe! Anyone could just come in!” She latched the door behind her.
Kelly began to climb the four flights of stairs to her apartment with the groceries. She didn’t manage to make it all the way up before one of her bags broke, and a can of cat food rolled down the stairs. A man’s voice called up the stairs that he would bring it to her (NICENESS and LOAN SHARKING). There was something in the man’s voice that she didn’t like. When he came up the stairs and rounded the corner, he was friendly-looking and smiling (CHARM). He offered to help her carry the groceries the rest of the way. She refused multiple times, but he was insistent (NOT TAKING “NO” FOR AN ANSWER). He claimed he was also going up to the fourth floor and was running late due to a broken watch (TOO MANY DETAILS). He implied that she was being too proud (TYPECASTING) and she finally allowed the man to help her. “We better hurry,” he says, “We’ve got a hungry cat up there!” (FORCED TEAMING).
She still felt apprehensive of the man, but she shook it off and scolded herself. After all, he was so nice, and he was only trying to help. After getting to her apartment door, she thanked him and tried to take the groceries from him, but he refused to allow her to take them, instead saying he didn’t want her to drop the cans again and he would just set them inside and be on his way. She hesitated and he laughed, saying, “Hey, we can leave the door open like ladies do in old movies. I’ll just put this stuff down and go. I promise.” (UNSOLICITED PROMISE). She gave in. He didn’t leave. Instead, he raped her for hours.
After raping her, he got up from the bed, got dressed, and closed the window. He started glancing at his watch and rushing around. “I gotta be somewhere. Hey, don’t look so scared. I promise I’m not going to hurt you.” (UNSOLICITED PROMISE). Kelly knew, without a doubt, that this man was now going to kill her. He told her he was going to the kitchen for a drink of water and promised he would leave after that (UNSOLICITED PROMISE). “Stay right there,” he said. “Don’t move.” She assured him she wouldn’t move, but got up the moment he turned his back, and followed him so closely that he might have felt her breath on his neck. He paused to turn up the volume on the stereo and continued into the kitchen. Kelly did not follow him there. Instead, she walked through her living room (and as she did, she heard him rummaging through the cutlery), and slipped out the front door. She walked straight into her neighbor’s apartment across the hall, knowing somehow that it would be unlocked.
Kelly survived the ordeal, though she wasn’t meant to. What made her sure he was going to kill her? Part of her registered first the shutting of the window. The three hour ordeal had occurred with the window open; why was he shutting it now? The same reason he stopped to turn up the volume on the stereo; he was concerned about noise. If it were truly over and he was going to leave as he promised, those wouldn’t have been details he attended to. Kelly’s mind interpreted the window closing as a red flag and that gave her the energy and willpower to escape with her life. The man proved that intuition correct by digging through the drawers in her kitchen. His last victim had been stabbed to death.
A list of Gavin de Becker’s “messengers of intuition”:
The Gift of Fear is about heeding our gut feelings and intuition. Never ignore feelings of discomfort or fear. The problem, though, is that psychopaths and some others are often very good at disarming our gut instincts. Mary Ellen O’Toole, PhD, psychologist, retired FBI profiler and author of Dangerous Instincts, advises us not to count on our gut instincts to keep us safe. Instead, she lays out a procedure to follow using advanced planning and critical thinking that one can use when dating someone new, hiring a repair man or babysitter, or when there’s a knock at your door.
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