Predators seek out the weakest prey, avoiding conflict when they do not know for certain they have an absolute advantage. They search for their prey and learn very quickly the indicators that show their assault will likely be successful.

Criminals are predators. They are watching—constantly on the lookout for easy prey. If you look like you will pose a risk, the predators will seek another target.

So the very first and key element in effective self-defense is to ensure that you do not look like an easy target. This may be much easier if you are 6′ 4″ and 250 pounds, but even someone who casts a less imposing shadow can project an air of confidence and readiness. And never underestimate the importance of the image you project. If you are walking along looking at the ground, showing body language that says you are fearful or unwilling to protect yourself, that’s a big clue to potential attackers.

Walk tall and present an image of a person who knows what is going on in the general vicinity. It’s also good to actually know what is going on in the general vicinity. So be aware. Don’t just look around. Notice things. Make mental notes about possible escape routes, areas of cover, and, most importantly, who is paying attention to you.

Before any assault, a criminal will size up an intended victim. So if someone is paying special attention to you, that might be a clue that you should start making an action plan. Change course and see if the person changes course with you. If you are in a location where you can stop in a store or other shop, do so. Take a few minutes to see if the potential threat moves on. Maybe make eye contact so the potential attacker knows the element of surprise is now lost. Most importantly, don’t head in a direction that gives the person any tactical advantage. And don’t lead that person right back to your home or apartment. Stop somewhere else along the way.

Other tips for not becoming a victim seem to be pretty much common sense: Don’t park your car in dark, out-of-the-way places. If you are carrying a purse or bag, sling it across your body so it is more difficult to grab. Don’t carry items with your gun hand. Be willing to drop whatever you are carrying in order to defend yourself. Don’t take shortcuts; stick to the well-lit areas and areas where other people are coming and going. Criminals typically don’t like witnesses.

It is much better to avoid danger than to deal with it head-on. To fight is to risk death. Conflict avoidance is the best means of self-defense in the world. This does not mean you should become a coward; it means you should be constantly aware of your surroundings and be proactive in your approach to your defense.

When it is time to fight, you should fight without mercy, but unless you are forced to take that action, you should do what you can to avoid deadly situations.