The 3 behaviours that make a Bad Guy stand out

Bad Guys give themselves away. This is what helps us spot them. No need to read minds or be clairvoyant – the BG’s will tell you who they are. And most importantly, they do this BEFORE they attack you.


Breaking news – Bad Guys behave differently to Good Guys. And why it’s easy to say “Well yes, we knew that already.” We need to be able to articulate what these different behaviours are.


Like the rule of thumb if you can’t draw a picture of it, you don’t understand it, if we can’t list specific behaviours that say “I’M A BAD GUY!” then we probably won’t spot them on the fly, walking to our car, holding the groceries, trying to answer the phone, and not get run over by another shopper.


Bikinis at church

It’s all well and good “looking for anomalies” or “people that stand out” but what specifically is it that makes a BG stand out? A gorgeous women walking around in a bikini at church on Sunday is going to stand out. Doesn’t make her a Bad Guy. Well I suppose that depends on your religion…


To identify BG’s we need to look at why they’re different from GG’s.


What makes a Bad Guy Different?

The Bad Guy/Threat/thug is going to attack someone. All the regular folk around him are not. This is what makes the BG different.


What makes him stand out is that he has to go through 3 processes in order to attack someone. And each of these processes has its own giveaway behaviours.


– Quick aside: This is heavily dependent on the 5 Stages of Violent Crime – you probably should go read that article.


The 3 ways a Bad Guy stands out

A BG has to have the Intent to commit a crime. Then he has to Interview people until he finds someone safe to attack. Then he has to position himself to carry out the crime. These are the 3 things that a BG does that everybody else doesn’t do.


Please note that this is excluding the actual attack. If it gets to the point of being attacked and you haven’t seen it coming, then you’re basically being ambushed and need to respond accordingly.


Intent – Focus is on people

A Threat has to decide he needs to attack someone before he can do it (despite what some people think these things do not happen by accident). This is the 1st place where BG behaviour is different from GG behaviour.


When you get ready for work (or drive there) there’s a good chance that the way you hold yourself and your mannerisms/behaviour change.



Intent alone can cause changes to the BG’s body language.


Right up front let’s just clarify – if you want to start profiling people based on their body language then you need to read “Left of Bang”.


Once he decides that he’s going to commit a crime the BG might feel guilty, or feel that everybody is watching him. He might act “shifty” – furtive movements, constant facial touching/hiding the face, rapid eye movement. Left of Bang would classify this as the BG acting “uncomfortable” while everyone else is “comfortable”.


Maybe he’s an experienced BG who just takes a deep breath and gets more serious. He’ll stop slouching (unless on purpose), he’ll walk with more purpose than the average Joe who’s just strolling along from his car to the shop. The BG would display “interested” behaviour compared to everyone else’s “uninterested”.


But that’s less and less likely the more experienced the BG gets. The more experienced he is, the more likely he is to fit in and not let his body language betray him.


The good news is that no matter what, there’s 1 behaviour that BG’s do that the rest of the world doesn’t do. The Bad Guy pays attention.


In order for a BG to find a victim, he has to actually look for one. Bad Guys people watch.


Watch people at the mall, at the beach, at work, at home, while driving. What do you see? Apathy and internal focus. The general public is too busy listening to the conversation in their heads and wallowing in their problems to look at the world around them.


Only Bad Guys and Protectors have external focus. So when you’re going about your day the easiest way to spot a BG is to look around for other people looking around. Look for the person whose focus is on other people.


Side benefit

One of the many benefits of focusing on other people is that doing so marks you as being either a Protector or a Bad Guy. Either way you will look switched on. And this makes you much less likely to be chosen as a victim.


Quick freebie

Go to the Left of Bang people’s website ( and download their body language/profiling cards here. For example the body language signs of being “uncomfortable” include:

– Bouncing feet (limbic system / flight response)

– Trying to create distance from whatever’s making them uncomfortable (leaning away, orientating body away, avoiding eye contact)

– Trying to create barriers for protection (crossing arms, crossing legs, raised shoulders, tucked chin)


See if you can spot these around the office to figure out who’s been crapped out by the boss that day.


Interview – Focus is on you

Once the BG has decided on someone to rob/rape/murder he needs to test them. No self-respecting mugger wants to get a wallet with only a couple bucks in it and end up in hospital for his troubles.


No rapist wants to go to the trouble of dragging a women behind a bush, only to have his “victim” pull a knife and slice his dick off.


No home invading torturer wants to find a house with his preferred type of victim, case the joint, find a sneaky way in – and then get shot in the head 3 times by the people that live there.


BG’s are just like us poor working Schmoes – we all want to go home in 1 piece at the end of the day.


So the BG will test a potential victim to make sure he will be safe during the attack. This test is called the Interview.


There are a bunch of different Interviews that BG’s use, but they have some common threads.


– An interview will stop your movement (“sitting duck” anyone?). The random guy walks up to you to ask you a question (or bumps into you while he’s “texting”). The dude (with 3 friends lined up next to him) yells “What the fuck’s your problem!” at you as you walk by.

He basically wants to know if he can sucker you into standing still and if he can distract you (you look at your watch/tie up one of your hands trying to get a lighter out/get angry at him for insulting you – distracted).

If so, he knows you have no clue that he’s a BG and that he’s in control of the encounter, and you’re an easy target.


– An interview will violate some kind of “social boundary”. He’ll come too close. The guy insults you. The guys surround you (again, too close). As I’ve said before – social boundaries do not exist, the only boundaries that exist are the ones you’re willing to back up with force.

   They’re pushing you to see if you start getting ready to use force to protect your boundaries. Heck they’d prefer it if you either pretend to be oblivious or actually are oblivious that 2 young thugs standing way too close is a threat and a test.


So basically if you engage in conversation – you lose. They can get you to stop walking – you lose. You let them get close without some kind of response (e.g. by creating more space) – you lose.


You just walk right past them without stopping – you win. You shadow dance with them – you win. (No, not guaranteed, but much better odds).


I’d recommend reading Marc MacYoung’s article(s) on the Interview stage of a crime. It’s much more in depth and much more useful info than my quick introduction. Find them here.



So at this point the BG has decided to commit some crime or another (Intent) and he’s paying attention and watching people in ways that the regular folk aren’t/don’t. BG signal #1.


Then BG will pay attention to a specific person and violate a boundary of some sorts. BG signal #2.


In order to rob you, mug you, rape you, whatever, the Bad Guy(s) have to get close. And they’ll get close in a way that’s gives them the biggest advantage possible.


Whether they spread out along a wall so they can “fold” around you to surround you. Or if they walk up to you so that you’re stuck between them and a car or wall in order to trap you. Or whether they split up as they approach you so they can surround you better.

That moment when you (an innocent Stormtrooper) realise there are 3 ninjas spread out along a wall – and you just walked into the middle of their trap – Positioning 101


Either way Bad Guy positioning serves a couple purposes. To prevent your escape (surrounding, trapped against object). And to make it easy to overwhelm you.


Friends walk in weird little clumps so they all talk at once. They stand near each other when stationary. They face each other when waiting around someplace.


Friends do not spread apart when standing against a wall (too far apart to share a joke, all with their backs to the wall, looking at the people going past and not each other).


Friends do not walk together but far enough apart that people can go through the middle (friends might separate when someone aims to walk between them, but usually at the last moment and with all their focus on each other/their phones/their internal dialogue).


Friends do not walk up close to someone who they don’t know.


Bad Guys, on the other hand, do all of the above.


Read more about Positioning techniques here.


So how do we spot a Bad Guy? We look for someone (or a group) that:

– pay attention to people (not their phones/friends/internal dialogue)

– tests your distance boundary

– tests your social boundaries (insults you, yells at you, asks you a question)

– positions you so you can’t escape or fight back (trapped/surrounded/BG is too close)

10 thoughts on “The 3 behaviours that make a Bad Guy stand out”

  1. […] Let’s look at situational awareness. The industry standard advice is to be in condition yellow (that’s the colour that means you’re aware and paying attention). First of all, very few people bother telling you what you’re supposed to be aware of. What does a Bad Guy look like? What does being set up for a crime look like? What does it look like when someone evaluates you as a potential victim? […]


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