When it comes to being able to recognize violent people or criminals, saying that you are looking for “threats” isn’t a good enough definition.  Being able to explain, very specifically, what will make someone stand out from the baseline and being able to recognize those behaviors is the mark of a true professional and someone on the path to mastery.


Additions to the video:

  • Download the cluster cards mentioned in the video to see a list of the indicators that make up each assessment.  You can find them here.
  • Take a look at the book Mastery, by Robert Greene in Amazon by clicking here.
  • One note: One question that we often receive is why are we looking for only high intensity cues during the hasty search when it comes to recognizing the anomaly.  The answer to this question that areas will often have people displaying dominance, submissiveness, discomfort, and comfort in order to accomplish their goal and fulfill their need for being in the area.  As the goal of the hasty search is to simply identify if there is anyone who poses a risk before going into a more detailed search, we begin the process by searching for high intensity displays, and will focus on more subtle displays during the deliberate search.

Transcript Of Video:

In this video, I’ll show you how you can stop looking for threats and start looking for pre-event indicators.

Hi, I am Patrick Van Horne. When we’re working with clients, one of the ways that I will often assess for proficiency when it comes to situational awareness and threat recognition is by approaching the men and women on the ground, those people who are responsible for protecting the buildings and the people in the areas that we are in and I’ll ask them, “What are you out here looking for?” What I’m looking to see is how they answer this question. Very often, they’ll start off by simply saying, “I’m out here looking for threat.” But since that’s pretty vague and that word “threat” might mean different things to different people, I’ll often probe and push to try to get a more specific, more descriptive answer of what they’re actually looking for.

Oftentimes, we’ll hear that they’re looking for a guy with a gun or a person with a knife, or sometimes they use our terminology but do it in too broad and too general of a way. They’ll say that “I’m out here looking for an anomaly,” without being able to define what would make someone stand out from our baseline here in this setup.

And that’s a very important question, because as we look to see how capable we are when it comes to recognizing threats, it starts by knowing simply what it is that we’re looking for in the first place. Every once in a while, we’ll run into a person who will say something along the lines of “I’ll know it when I see it.” They are going to rely on their gut feelings and their instincts to go out and recognize threat.

And while that is certainly a very valid way of recognizing some types of criminals and some types of attackers, whenever I hear that, I always find myself thinking about a line from one of the Sherlock Holmes short stories where Sherlock Holmes is explaining to John Watson how he found a specific clue that broke open a case. He says, “I found it because I was looking for it. I found it because I was looking for it.” And while this specific situation is fiction, there are absolutely ways where this sentiment applies in the real world. If you don’t know what you are looking for when it comes to recognizing violent people or recognizing attackers, you’re never going to be able to do it. Or, if you do, you’re really relying on luck and not the result of a deliberate, intentional process to go out and recognize those people who could cause damage or cause harm to the areas that we are attached with protecting.

And that is a very important concept to kind of lay the foundation for this video where we’re gonna take a look at the hasty search, because when we think about what does it mean to become a true professional in our field, and whether you’re a warrior or a guardian or a protector, when you think about how we are striving for the peak of mastery in our field, we should take a look at the definition created by Robert Greene from his great book “Mastery.”

He defines mastery as the fusion of the intuitive and the analytical, because for the same reason why it’s not good enough for a person to rely solely on their instincts, it’s also not good enough for a person to be able to define what a threat is and not be able to go out there and perform and not being able to go out there and really put it into practice. And as we look at how we can blend these two pieces of what it becomes or what it means to be a master, our intuitive decision-making and our ability to do this analytically and thoroughly and deliberately, we can start by taking a look at the hasty search.

The hasty search is the first thing that we do when we walk into a new area. It’s our first establishment of an initial baseline. And by establishing this first baseline, it’s also going to provide us some very specific things to begin searching our area for that are going to cause a person to stand out. The hasty search is made up of four distinct steps that we go through very, very quickly to get to the baseline so we can begin our hunt for anomalies within the first few seconds of walking into a new area. The hasty search is made up of the fourth pillar of observable behavior, how we assess the collective mood.

And the first step in the process is where we start to assess what we label as the other indicators, the cluster cards. And you’ll be able to download the cluster cards on that link below this video. But what we’re looking for here are cleanliness. Is the area clean or dirty, showing whether people take care of it or if it’s just kind of left on its own? The noise level, is it conversational or confrontational? Is it quiet because it’s a calm, peaceful quiet, or is it a forced quiet that you see when people don’t want to talk because there’s other people around them, and other people and hear them? And is the area categorized is having a sense of orderliness, or is it pretty disorderly and pretty chaotic?

And the way that you assess these other indicators are, first, things that you pick up on very quickly, but they help you realize if you should have a general sense of safety or…excuse me, if the area as a whole, has a sense of safety or has a lacking sense of safety. If an area is clean, has a conversational noise level, and is fairly orderly, we are looking at areas that have a positive atmospheric. If the area is dirty, if it has a confrontational noise level, and is pretty chaotic and pretty unorganized, we are looking at places that have a negative atmospheric.

Once we make this first assessment about the collective mood using these other indicators, we move to the second step of the process where we have to confirm our initial baseline. And the way that we are going to do this is by observing individual people. If the area has positive atmospherics, what we should be observing on people, generally speaking, are that they are in a comfortable cluster. As the comfortable cluster represents the type of body language that we see when that stress and that threat response has not been initiated, that makes sense in an area that has positive atmospherics, a place that has that sense of safety and security.

If the area has negative atmospherics, a place where there’s a lacking sense of safety and security, then what we’re oftentimes looking for is the uncomfortable cluster. As the uncomfortable cluster represents when that flight response has been triggered, has been initiated in the body, that’s going to let us know that people in the area are either feeling stressed or feeling threatened. And this is going to establish for us an initial baseline.

And that’s the third step of the process where we are simply stating what the baseline is. If we assess the other indicators as having a negative atmospheric and we observe that most people in the area are displaying the uncomfortable cluster, then we state our baseline that the baseline for the area is the uncomfortable cluster. If we observe the indicators that lead us to assess positive atmospherics and we confirm that using the comfortable cluster, then we state that the baseline is that people here are going to be, generally speaking, comfortable.

If you’re ever in a situation where the other indicators and the behaviors don’t match up, we oftentimes recommended that you prioritize the behavior, as that’s oftentimes a more accurate indicator. But whenever there’s a discrepancy between these two steps, you have to take a step back at some point and try to figure out why and try to figure out what the real collective mood is for the area.

But once you have stated the baseline, we can quickly move into step four of this process where we are looking for high-intensity displays of those anomalous clusters. So if the area has positive atmospherics where our baseline is the comfortable cluster, what we are searching the area for is high-intensity dominance and high-intensity discomfort. That is it. If the area has negative atmospherics where our baseline is the uncomfortable cluster, we are searching the area for high-intensity dominance and comfort as the indicators that are gonna cause someone to stand out from that norm.

And so when we look at what does it take to answer that question, what are you looking for here, the hasty search lets us get down to very specific indicators very, very quickly. So if you are in an area that has positive atmospherics and someone asks you, “What are you looking for?” your two answers are very clear. You’re simply searching for high-intensity dominance or high-intensity discomfort. And as you think about this process, instead of just relying solely on our gut instinct, which, again, we don’t want to discount, but in situations where that criminal or that attacker isn’t doing something so obvious that it attracts your attention, we have our processes that we can fall back on. And the hasty search is just the first process. We would expand on this in the deliberate search, which is something that we’ll talk about later. But it helps us to find very specifically for this environment, for this area, here is what I’m looking for.

And when you look at the difference between what we’re searching for with positive or negative atmospherics or what’s going to make someone stand out, it’s always important to go back to the beginning and remember that being an anomaly is always a relative term. To stand out, you have to stand out from something, and that something is the baseline, which makes determining whether the area has positive or negative atmospherics, very, very important.

If you’ve ever been taught that what you’re looking for to recognize threats are behavior that you might have heard as being shifty or anxious or nervous or jittery, those behaviors which we would group into the uncomfortable cluster, those do make someone stand out, but they only make someone stand out if the baseline is one with positive atmospherics.

If you are searching an area for uncomfortable cues in an area that has negative atmospherics, you’re going to have a problem. You’re going to have a room full of false positives. Everyone is going to be displaying or most people are going to be displaying that behavior that you thought was going to attract your attention as a criminal.

And the other downside of that is, because you are looking for uncomfortable people in an area with negative atmospherics, you’re also now not searching for that behavior that would cause someone to stand out. You’re not searching for comfort, which is the baseline in one area can make someone an anomaly in the other area. So it’s always important to go back to the very beginning, establish the baseline so that you can recognize those anomalies.

And, finally, by defining behavior this way and defining the search and defining what it is that’s going to make someone stand out, we can answer one of the most frequently asked questions that we hear, “How can I take this from the book, from “Left of Bang,” or from one of your training programs and take it back and use this to develop the people in my organization?” This helps us very, very specifically identify for those people we are training, what do you want them to learn how to observe? Let’s say you’re doing a scenario, and you have access to role players and some actors and people that you can use to control behavior in the area. Instead of simply having your threat be a person walking around with a gun or a knife or something very obvious, you can make sure that person you’re training to hold security can recognize each of these four clusters.

If they can recognize dominance, submissiveness, discomfort, and comfort, you can put one role player in that group of however many role players that you have and have just that one person display indicators from either the uncomfortable or dominant clusters if we were to recreate a situation where the area had positive atmospherics. And you might never have that person display a gun or a weapon or a knife or anything. But if that observer, that security provider can look out and recognize the dominance, then you know that not only can they define what they are looking for in the situation, what those anomalies are, you can also prove that they can do it, which is, at the end of the day, the ultimate goal, being able to blend both the analytical and the intuitive to get to this point of mastery where we can make sure that every security provider knows specifically what they are looking for and has also proven that they are capable of doing it.

And when we look at how we can continue to raise not only the ceiling of our profession and not only raise the bar that we’re striving towards, but also raise the floor and make sure that each individual member is performing at a higher and higher level, simply defining for people what the baseline is, teaching them how to work through the hasty search and, eventually, the deliberate search can constantly, you know, elevate us one little piece at a time to make sure that we’re focused on what’s accurate and also making sure that we can perform.

And so let’s stop looking for threats. Make sure that the people that you work with or yourself are out there looking for those specific indicators. And that’s going to continually help us get us further and further “left of bang.” Until the next time we talk, get left of bang and stay there.