Enhancing Your Situational Awareness

The Importance of Understanding Human Behavior for Personal Safety

“Situational Awareness” is all the rage now, but what is it?; Is it knowing where exits are, keeping your “head on a swivel,” “checking your Six,” or is it a matter of learning and living in one of “Cooper’s Color Code” conditions? These are nice mantras, but how do they apply to our awareness and the ability to perceive, understand, and predict the dynamics of our environment? 

“Situational Awareness” is much more than a mantra, but it doesn’t need to be too complicated. At the risk of oversimplifying things, human behavior ultimately shapes these dynamics. We don’t need to obtain a Ph.D. to understand this because we are human and know and understand what normal human behavior is. Human behavior, often driven by emotions, intentions, or reactions, wields the power to transform inert objects and spaces into potential threats or safe havens. Therefore, to truly comprehend our surroundings and anticipate potential hazards, we must focus on understanding and interpreting human behavior. 

Recognizing human behavior is critical for personal safety. It allows us to interpret intentions, anticipate actions, and react appropriately, potentially diffusing threats and avoiding harmful situations.

While these insights on situational awareness and human behavior may seem profound, they’re not new. Much credit goes to Greg Williams, whose teachings significantly influenced my understanding and whose wisdom I’m proud to pass on.

Situational Awareness and Human Behavior: The Connection

Situational awareness essentially involves two key processes: ‘making sense’ of the situation and ‘solving’ the problem. 

First, ‘making sense’ requires understanding your environment, observing others’ behaviors, and discerning potential threats or opportunities. This understanding is informed largely by human behavior, which reveals intentions and possible actions.

Next, ‘solving’ involves making informed decisions and taking appropriate actions based on this understanding. These processes together form the backbone of effective situational awareness, enhancing personal safety.

The Critical Role of Human Behavior in Personal Safety

Understanding and interpreting human behavior plays a critical role in preventing dangerous situations. We can anticipate potential actions and respond appropriately by observing and making sense of behavioral cues, emotional signals, and patterns. Most cases are not inherently dangerous, but understanding them allows us to navigate our lives free from constant anxiety. This nuanced understanding helps us differentiate between benign and potentially harmful scenarios. Awareness doesn’t mean living in perpetual fear but embracing an informed awareness that equips us to recognize and react to potential danger, enhancing our overall sense of safety and well-being.

An example of this happened to me personally. Early one morning, I was driving to the store when a young lady with wild hair, wearing a black cocktail dress and stockings but no shoes, ran from between some houses and crossed the street in front of me without looking. She was in a hurry to go somewhere. 

A moment later, a car came racing around the corner (ignoring the two stop signs) and disappeared down the street.

I turned around and drove to the corner to see the car stopped in the road (driver’s door open) and a shirtless man pacing in front of and around the side of another house. 

Why did I turn around to follow these two? 

  • Early morning is not the usual time to be running shoeless, dressed for an evening out (is there ever a normal time for this?)
  • Running between homes is different from the usual route for navigating the neighborhood.
  • Most residents drive slowly and stop at signs
  • Most residents park in the assigned slots
  • After parking, most residents enter their homes or sit in front of the house.

I dialed 911 and observed from a safe distance until the police arrived. 

I learned later that this was a case of domestic violence.

I used my neighborhood knowledge to “make sense” of anomalies to “solve the problem” by calling the police.

Enhance Your Awareness of Human Behavior

Enhancing awareness of human behavior is a skill we can develop with practice. Understanding non-verbal cues and body language is significant. Interpreting a clenched jaw or crossed arms may provide insight into a person’s emotional state (if we know the baseline behavior.) Similarly, recognizing emotional signals such as agitation or fear can help predict potential actions.

Empathy and intuition also play a crucial role in perceiving human behavior. Empathy allows us to step into another person’s shoes, allowing us a deeper understanding of their emotions and motivations. Intuition is our subconscious mind giving us information from our environment and connecting the dots based on our experience and knowledge. Empathy and intuition can enhance our capacity to interpret human behavior, strengthening our situational awareness.

Human Behavior, Situational Awareness, and Self-Defense

Understanding human behavior is a fundamental cornerstone that forms a critical link between situational awareness and practical self-defense. It enables us to perceive potential threats before they escalate, providing a crucial window of opportunity to de-escalate situations or, if necessary, prepare for self-defense. The ability to read and interpret behavior helps us to predict actions, allowing us to navigate problems with enhanced foresight and control.

Awareness of human behavior doesn’t just supplement physical self-defense techniques – it contextualizes them. By understanding the intentions behind these behaviors and potential threats, we can apply the appropriate level of response. We can avoid overreactions, which could unnecessarily escalate situations, or underreactions, which may compromise our safety. Thus, combining a solid comprehension of human behavior with physical self-defense techniques forms a well-rounded, effective, and responsible approach to personal safety.

Overcoming Obstacles to Understanding Human Behavior

Understanding human behavior is challenging. One common barrier is our personal biases, which can distort our interpretation of others’ actions and emotions. Similarly, distractions, whether digital or environmental, can divert our focus and impair our observational skills.

It’s essential to keep an open mind to overcome these obstacles. Regularly challenging our assumptions and biases helps us see situations more objectively. Critical thinking can also help sharpen our focus, making us more attuned to the subtleties of human behavior around us.

In addition, training ourselves to limit unnecessary distractions, particularly in situations where acute awareness is necessary, can significantly enhance our ability to interpret human behavior accurately. With these practices, we can better navigate our world, with an improved understanding of human behavior and elevated situational awareness.

So What… did we learn?

Understanding human behavior is paramount in personal safety and situational awareness. Through this understanding, we can anticipate potential threats and respond effectively. Amestratus challenges you to practice what we’ve explored, fostering your ability to interpret human behavior, enhancing your situational awareness, and ultimately contributing to a safer personal environment.

Next Steps

Want to unlock the power of keen observation and anticipation for personal safety? Sharpen your senses with our SAFE (Situational Awareness For Everyone) course at Amestratus.

Visit for more information

Greg Williams and Brian Marren of Arcadia Cognerati provide in-depth knowledge on recognizing human behavior for personal safety. Their ongoing education focuses on honing situational awareness skills, empowering individuals to navigate potentially dangerous situations confidently and strategically. Tune into their “Left of Greg” Podcast for deeper discussions, providing individuals the knowledge to navigate potentially threatening situations with strategic foresight and confidence.

Posted in Information and tagged , , , .