How To Spot Someone With Bad Intentions

Imagine if criminals in the 1800s looked different. Early criminal psychology suggested that criminals had facial features that set them apart from ordinary people. They were thought to have thicker eyebrows, protruding foreheads, and other distinctive traits that identified them as criminals. This idea, popular in the Victorian era and often depicted in Sherlock Holmes stories, is now considered outdated. So the question is, how to spot someone with bad intentions?

How to Spot Someone With Bad Intentions

We know now that you can’t identify a criminal just by their appearance. While stereotypes, like gang tattoos, might suggest criminal intent, they don’t actually prove it. Stereotypes are quick ways to process information, but they can also cloud your judgment and hinder your ability to protect yourself. Making assumptions based solely on someone’s looks is a risky strategy.

Today, with face masks and hoodies being common, it’s even harder to spot someone planning a crime. You need to look beyond appearance and pay attention to other clues. Body language is crucial. Understanding someone’s intentions through their behavior is key to spotting potential threats. If someone has malicious intent, it usually shows in their actions.

Only 7% of what we communicate is through words, 38% through tone and voice, and a significant 55% through body language.

Communication is predominantly non-verbal. According to Albert Mehrabian, a researcher in body language, only 7% of what we communicate is through words, 38% through tone and voice, and a significant 55% through body language. People express their intentions in three main ways. Another study by Dr. Jeff Thompson suggests that we can better decipher nonverbal signals by remembering the three C’s of nonverbal communication: context, clusters, and congruence (comparing spoken words to body language and tone). Understanding context means better interpreting the setting. For example, knowing that someone has anxiety can explain why they appear tense during a fireworks display.

Predators evaluate their targets quickly, and their actions often reveal their intentions.

In self-defence, recognising these signals is essential. Criminals don’t just pick random victims; they study them first. Predators evaluate their targets quickly, and their actions often reveal their intentions. So what do we do when we find ourselves in this predicament?


Look for signs like target scanning, nervous behaviour, or making eye contact with accomplices. These are red flags that you should be aware of. Self-defence awareness means being able to read the people around you, predict potential problems, and assess risks. You don’t need to overdo it, but knowing what to look for, staying aware of your surroundings, and adjusting your vigilance to the situation are all vital.

Self-defence isn’t just about fighting; it’s about avoiding danger. The best defence is preventing a confrontation in the first place. Awareness plays a big part in this. Knowing what to watch for and spotting danger cues can help you stay safe. Pay attention to body language and behaviours, and stay alert without overthinking it. Success in self-defence isn’t about winning fights; it’s about avoiding them altogether.


If avoidance isn’t possible, try to de-escalate the situation. If you can’t de-escalate it, escape. If escape isn’t an option, then you may have to fight. We talk about this more in the article, ‘3 Things to Do when Someone Stares at You With Bad Intentions‘. But remember, fighting should always be the last resort. Knowing who’s around you and staying aware can make a huge difference. Put away your phone and focus on your surroundings. The sooner you recognise a threat, the more time you have to respond. Time is your ally in staying safe.


Be aware of your environment, know who’s around you, and take time to detect, recognize, and respond to potential threats. This can be crucial in defending yourself. Try to create as much time as possible to keep your options open. Understanding how people move and behave around you can significantly enhance your self-defence skills. You can have all the fancy techniques, but what truly matters is your ability to spot potential threats. Trust your instincts and be alert. The sooner you notice something amiss, the quicker you can react, giving you more time to stay safe.