Bully Busting 106: Winning the Interview

Bullies (and other criminals) are like wild animals testing out their prey before they make their put down, lunch robbery, strong arming or assault.  They have no conscious of hurting someone weaker or out-numbered. (Man, it was five to one.  He was the toughest guy that we ever beat up.”)   This “sniffing out the prey” usually involves what self-defense expert Marc MacYoung describes as the interview[1].

Interviewing is basically how the criminal “smells you out.”  Just like how a strange dog approaches you to see if you are friendly or scared.  They stop to smell you and look you over.  If the dog is cowardly it might try to intimidate you and see if it is safe to bite you.

In many ways, an interview is like a sales person’s approach.  They want to know if you are a good prospect.  In the criminal’s case, they want to know if you are a good target. They need to know if they can hurt you without getting hurt in the process.  They need to measure out the risks.

There are several types of interviews.[2] According to MacYoung, they are the:

  • Regular
  • Silent
  • Escalating
  • Hot
  • Prolonged

The regular interview is when the criminal or bully is looking for tell-tale signs of nervousness or “jumpiness” in a targeted person.  They want to see how much they can push their limits.  A bully will toss insults or try to invade a person’s space.  It can be a casual bump. (“Hey, watch where you are going.”)

You have to avoid reacting to this kind of interview.  This is where the criminal will make the snap decision about whether or not to rob, assault, con or intimidate you.  If they are unsure, they will usually just move onto another target.

The silent interview is where the criminal waits and watches.  You can see some of these types usually hanging around public places, like malls, parking lots and parks.

I have read about studies of muggers, in “correction facilities” (jails), being shown video clips of different people walking.  The muggers almost all consistently chose the same people as potential crime victims.

You can test this silent interviewing with your friends the next time that you are in a public place.  You might be surprised at how obvious it is sometimes. Usually, the potential crime victim will display a certain lack of confidence about them, like an awkward gait, with their arms out of sync with their legs.  They will also act unaware of their surroundings, either in a focused or “spaced out” manner.  Don’t be either of them.  Walk with a purpose, like you know where you are going.

I recall an example of the silent interviewing when I was freelancing as a crime reporter.  There were a group of 15 year old girls who used to hang around the Metrotown Shopping Center in Burnaby, B.C. Canada.  They knew what a typical victim looked like.  They would wait for a younger girl with several shopping bags of high-end clothing to walk by them in an isolated walkway near the sky train (above ground subway) and then take the girl’s belongings.

The Escalating Interview is when a seemingly harmless encounter turns ugly.  The aggressive panhandler is a prime example.  “Gotta a quarter?” can escalade into “Gotta a dollar?” or “How about a dime?  You can’t even spare a dime?  What’s wrong with you?[3]” Or they will start talking about how their mother died or some sob story.  The situation also escalates by walking past a group in an isolated area.  I talked to a man who experienced this first hand.  He had been approached by a teenager asking him “what was he doing here?” and that the man “looked like a thief.”  While the man protested, seven youths surrounded him and proceeded to beat him up.

As a teenager I was once approached by a couple of bigger, older, drunken teenagers.  One walked up to me and accused me of bothering his sister.  As I tried to explain that he had the wrong guy, he became agitated.  Then, I foolishly tried a karate back fist and straight punch.  Only I pulled them, just I did in karate practice.  The guy threw me down on the ground and pounded me into the ground.[4]  (Fortunately, the unpaved dirt took some of the shock.)

The Hot Interview can be seen coming a mile away.  This is typical of the high school bully’s phrase, “You looking at me?”  It is very aggressive and often uses any excuse to attack, even sexual assault.  It is never their fault.  They will insult someone and use the rebuttal as an excuse to attack.

The typical approach is the car full of drunks, thugs, sport fans or in one of my encounters, members of a sports team looking for a target to take their hyped up aggression on.  Once in Vernon, B.C. three athletes in their sports jackets, were yelling insults from their car, trying to pick a fight with me. with me.  Lucky for me, I had been competing in kick-boxing for several years.  Which, turned out to be unlucky for them.

The prolonged interview is perhaps the creepiest.  Where the other interviews are crimes of opportunity, the prolonged interview is used by professional burglars, stalkers and some rapists.  The professional burglar[5] will watch a place to learn the movements of shift workers, security systems and escape routes.  They will “case a joint” and weigh the risks prior to stealing from a place.

Stalkers include celebrity fans, former employees and co-workers, rapists and even high school students stalking people in person or on the internet.   Stalkers can be mean and threatening.  They can make threatening phone calls, letters and face-to-face taunts.  The best defense is, again, NOT to engage in conversation.  The next stage is to record the incidents, hopefully with actual sound and video recording so that the police have evidence to act on.

People receiving a prolonged interview are often not aware that they are being interviewed.  The criminals may appear very innocent. They might even have their own kids with them, while they are looking for break-in, robbing or assaulting opportunities.

I once had two guys knock on the door of a house that I was renovating.  They were asking for work and one of them was holding a baby.  A few weeks later, when I was working late, one of the previous visitors, with a new friend, entered my building and started poking around.   When they saw me coming down the stairs (with a crow bar), they promptly ran out the front door.

If you have a bad feeling about someone, regardless of who they are with, trust your own judgment and avoid them.









[1] MacYoung, M. Pfouts, C (1994) Safe in the City. Paladin Press, Boulder. Pp.vii-xii,

[2] For an in-depth explanation, watch the video Safe in the Street by Marc MacYoung.

[3] Actual conversation with a Winnipeg panhandler in 2000.

[4] 15 years later, at 40 pounds heavier with seven years of kick-boxing, I pummeled two guys who attempted a similar approach.

[5] Barnes, R.E. (1971) Are You Safe From Burglars? Simon and Schuster: Richmond Hill

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.