It’s important for people to know self-defense in case life puts them into a situation where defense against violent attack is necessary. However, it’s also a good strategy to develop situational awareness skills that help you learn how to avoid dangerous situations in the first place.

For some people this is a natural instinct. They have ingrained situational awareness and an internal alarm that goes off whenever they approach a dangerous situation. However, for most people, developing strong awareness involves focus and practice.

While a knife is a good choice for self-defense, people should conduct themselves in such a way that they rarely if ever get into a situation where using one is required.

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Situational Awareness Tips

Situational awareness refers to the ability to “read” the real-time situation in every environment you enter. Some people can walk into a parking garage, street or unfamiliar building and identify potential danger almost immediately. They quickly note areas where they don’t want to go and people they want to avoid. In some cases, they may even make the decision to leave if they sense potential threats.

The point is not to be afraid all the time. Actually, it’s just the opposite. Most situations are safe. Honing your situational awareness will make you less fearful when walking along or going to a new place, because you can tell the difference between a dangerous situation and a perfectly safe one.

By putting the following tips into practice, you can learn to heighten situational awareness and avoid dangerous situations.

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Stay in Populated Areas

There’s typically safety in a crowd. It’s perfectly fine to walk alone if you’ve determined it’s safe, especially during the daylight hours. But at night or in a new location, staying near people offers an extra level of protection.

Stay Alert

Texting while you walk is a bad idea for a number of reasons (like running into other people or tripping and falling). It’s also an absolute killer for situational awareness. Put the phone away and pay attention to your environment at all times. To see potential trouble coming, you have to stay alert to what’s around you, not what’s on your phone.

Don’t Make Yourself a Target

Putting the phone or any other distraction away and focusing on your surroundings also makes you a harder target for thieves or anyone who might try to assault you. Criminals are risk-averse cowards for the most part. If you are walking confidently and staying aware, you don’t look like an easy victim.

Use Your Ears

Humans evolved to pick up danger signals, and not all of them are visual. Hearing fast footsteps, heavy breathing, or any odd, unexpected sound can alert you to trouble. It’s best not to listen to music while walking, it takes away one of your most important senses.

Notice Odd Behavior

When it comes to situational awareness, it’s OK to assess and judge other people, at least for their likelihood of becoming dangerous.

Out on a typical street, even in a place that’s new to you, people usually mind their own business, moving to their destination. But certain odd behavior should stand out if your situationally aware. For example, people who loiter and stare at passersby. Or packs of people who move together and watch people in the crowd rather than look at each other as people normally do in conversation. These don’t always signal trouble, but it’s wise to keep those behaving differently on your radar until they have left your area.

Listen to Your Gut

Science is science. But most people at some point have a story about how they paid attention to their instincts, and it got them out of a bad situation. If you feel that something is wrong, then take appropriate action. In most cases, that means exiting the area as quickly as possible.

These tips on how to avoid dangerous situations are just the beginning of how to raise your self-awareness, but they are a good place to start. While it’s important to know self-defense skills, it’s also important to develop situational awareness that will keep you from having to use them.

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