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September 20, 2017

Beyond Security: The Collective Mood and Customer Service

This article was originally written for the International Security Driver Association.

I recently posted an article titled “How Security Leaders Can Influence the Mood at Venue Entrances” discussing how security leaders can improve their ability to protect event sites by creating orderly processes that people move through while entering a stadium and venue. The core lesson was that establishing corridors at entrances and helping people to feel safer and more comfortable during their entry allows for more opportunities to proactively recognize threats and prevent violence. Beyond security applications, however, the concepts have also been used by businesses looking to reduce the number customer service problems they face on any given day and can help close protection professionals communicate with event managers and owners about why to consider changing how people enter a venue.

Even though customer service might not be a close protection professional’s primary concern as they prepare for protective operations, being able to demonstrate to a venue’s management why a change to the entry processes can help to make a business more profitable can go a long way to garnering a venue’s willing participation in making those adjustments. In addition to creating the conditions that allow security professionals to successfully recognize threats, the corridor style setup can be used influence customer satisfaction during an event because it begins to lead them towards comfortable behavior from the moment they arrive. To demonstrate the difference in customer satisfaction and the level of stress present at an entryway, consider the difference in boarding processes between two competing airlines.

Example #1: The American Airlines Model

Take a look at the picture below as an American Airlines flight boards at Denver International Airport. While it isn’t a completely unstructured situation because there are assigned boarding groups, passengers wait in a crowd just beyond the ticket scanner for their boarding group to be called because there is no further order established within each of those groups. The result of this process is a semicircle setup where you have a crowd of people all trying to get as close as they can to the gate attendant so that they can board at the front of their boarding group as soon as it’s announced. Due to a lack of any corridors that clearly separate each boarding group from one another, there is an element of an “every man for himself” mentality where goal-oriented behavior begins trumps norm-oriented behavior as people jostle and push their way towards the plane.

One of the problems with the semicircle setup is that, as the passengers in late boarding groups form a crowd near the entrance, it creates

August 24, 2017

How Security Leaders Can Influence the Collective Mood at Venue Entrances

When seeking to prevent violence and identify attackers before they launch an assault, leaders in the security industry can take steps to establish conditions at the entrances to venues that lead to successful threat recognition strategies. As my co-author Jason Riley and I discuss in our book, Left of Bang: How the Marine Corps’ Combat Hunter Program Can Save Your Life, establishing the baseline for an area so that you can search for anomalies is an essential first step to building a proactive threat recognition process, but what can you do when the baseline isn’t the type of behavior that you’d prefer in that type of situation?  By influencing how safe people feel in an area and creating positive atmospherics, leaders allow professional protectors to recognize anomalous behavior with a greater degree of accuracy and less effort.  If you would like to transition the collective mood at the entrances to your stadiums and arenas from having negative atmospherics to having positive atmospherics, one way to do that is by shifting the component of “orderliness” that people perceive so that your entrances seem more structured.

To help security leaders determine what changes they can make to make people feel more comfortable as they approach stadiums and arenas, we can turn to the findings of an article titled, “Collective Phenomena In Crowds – Where Pedestrian Dynamics Needs Social Psychology,” that was published in the Public Library Of Science’s PLOS One Journal.  In this paper, researchers set out to better understand how the entrances to venues and buildings influence the collective mood. Their research was focused on answering the question, “What is the difference between areas that don’t have a controlled process for entry and those that do?”  When entrances don’t have an established process to get in, the result is a

Lisa Van Horne

April 25, 2017

The Furry Anchor Point: Behavioral Analysis Through a Canine Lens

Let me start by saying that the puppy magnet is real. I get it. You see a dog, you want to pet it. It’s natural. You see a puppy, you want to run up to it, pick it up, talk to it, snuggle it, name it, take it home with you and raise it as your own….

Time to get a grip. The truth is that, just like any environment or situation you might find yourself in on a day-to-day basis, interacting with someone else’s dog is a scenario in which any number of circumstances could be at play that you have to identify and decipher before taking any action.

Think of each dog you may encounter as its own anchor point, a furry, moving, wiggling, wagging anchor point. In theory, there are a limited number of select people who are “allowed” to approach that dog and enter into its personal space on any given day. The criteria for entering that space differs with the personality, temperament, and history of each dog. In my dog’s case, all you have to be is a human with hands that could be scratching him and he’ll let you approach him (if he doesn’t approach you first) with zero hesitancy. However, this is not always the case. Think of service dogs and police dogs on duty who are not to be approached, touched, or pet by anyone other than their owner or handler. Every dog you encounter should be treated as if they have that spatial boundary around them until you’ve gotten a read on the situation and made contact with the owner.

Let’s take the act of dog walking as an example, as it’s the behavior of a dog’s owner that is often the best indicator of whether you will be allowed into the space of the anchor point that is their dog. It’s no different than the scenario of approaching a group of people and using behavioral analysis to determine group relationships and dynamics. Dog walking is a situation that dog owners find themselves in likely multiple times a day, and it’s a scenario where you can use multiple principles of situational awareness to read universal signs of human behavior to be conscious, respectful, and ensure you have a good experience while avoiding potentially dangerous encounters for you and your pet.

Interactions with other dog walkers and their canine companions is perhaps one of the biggest wildcards that can come up during a walk. When a dog and their owner is approaching, think about the four clusters of human behavior

March 3, 2017

Choosing Your Conversational Style


Since getting to present at the 2015 WINx Conference, I’ve really come to appreciate the amount of time and effort that Roy Bethge and Brian Willis put into creating this excellent event each year in Lisle, Illinois. With the goal of helping police officers continually elevate their performance and achieve excellence in their field, the 18-minute long videos on the WINx site are certainly worth the time and attention of law enforcement professionals looking to be inspired. While the 2017 conference is just over a month away, I was recently re-watching the talk above by Chelly Seibert that she gave at the 2016 conference.

In this talk, Seibert highlights the need for police officers to adopt different conversational styles while responding to calls depending on the type of situation they find themselves in. Referring to the different conversational styles as characters to be played, she showed how officers might find themselves portraying one of three characters in any given situation. They might take on the behaviors of “The Enforcer,” “The Compassionate Consoler” or “The Composed Stabilizer” in order to get to a successful outcome in the encounter. By taking the time to consider and develop the ability to display the type of body language, tone of voice, facial expression and other non-verbal and verbal styles of communication to fit your character’s behavior and the situation, you can begin to take control over the way that other people see you.

Before I talk about how these three main characters listed above tie in with our approach to situational awareness, threat recognition and behavior-based conversations, here is how

July 6, 2016

The Collective Mood and You


Here at The CP Journal, a lot of our work centers on personal safety and security and is geared towards professions such as the military, police, and security. However, many of the concepts that we teach our clients can be easily transferred to the civilian world for anyone to use.  In two recent posts, I outlined the four clusters of observable behavior that we teach our clients and broke down the first two pillars, which are the individual and groups.  I applied a common sense language to both pillars so that they can be easily applied to everyday life.  As a follow-up to those posts, I will now walk through the next pillar, the collective mood, and explain what it is, how to recognize the mood around you, and how to use that information to make more informed decisions for your own personal safety and to improve your overall communication with other people.

The collective mood of an area is best described as the social or emotional atmosphere of an environment, situation, or place.  By assessing the collective mood in your everyday routine you will be able to set a baseline for all of the places you visit on a daily basis and then be able to more accurately assess the individuals and groups that don’t align with the given situation.  These misalignments, or anomalies, can help you recognize potential threats or people that are present with intentions other than the norm for the area. The two mutually exclusive assessments for the collective mood are positive or negative, and you can determine the collective mood by either thinking about it from a

January 22, 2016

Everywhere You Go There are Groups

I recently posted a piece that outlined the four pillars of observable behavior (individual, groups, the environment, and the collective mood) and walked through how to break down the first pillar, the individual, in your everyday life.  In this post I will tackle the second pillar, groups, pointing out how often you come in contact with them and how to ensure your own confidence in personal group situations you find yourself in.  I will walk through the four group assessments, point out what to lookIMG_0227for to make assessments and then how that information can help you better understand what your own body is saying to other people you come into contact with. This will help you quickly assess what everyone else’s body is saying to you and will offer you clues on how to respond.

Group assessments are made by observing the amount of physical space between two or more people in any setting. There are a couple of things that are important to remember when observing and assessing groups.  The first is that, because we do work with organizations from all over the world, the group relationships that I will outline apply everywhere, but the spatial distances may vary based on cultural and societal norms for the area in which you live.  For example, while traveling in some foreign countries, I have noticed that some cultures interact with others with very little space in between them, while others maintain a significant amount of special distance.

The second thing to remember is

December 15, 2015

Why The Submissive Cluster Does Not Come From The Freeze Response

As students go through our Tactical Analysis program, there is a question that often comes up during the portion of the course when we teach how to read and assess the behavior of individual people. The question is usually framed in this manner:

“If the dominant cluster is manifestation of the fight response to a perceived threat or stressor, and if the uncomfortable cluster is the body’s manifestation of the flight response, and if the comfortable cluster represents the absence of the fight or flight response because no threat is perceived, then wouldn’t it make sense that the submissive cluster is the body’s manifestation of the freeze response?”

While this train of though suggesting that the submissive cluster might originate out of the freeze response is certainly logical, the answer to the question is no. The submissive cluster is NOT how the body displays that it is experiencing the freeze response to perceived stressors or threats.

The definition that we use to define what the submissive cluster represents is as follows

October 14, 2015

Applying the Pillars to Your Everyday Life

In the work that we do with our clients here at The CP Journal, we teach a process of observation that we categorize using the four pillars of observable behavior: individuals, groups, the environment, and the overall collective mood.  Much of the training work that we do is with clients in the security world, but we have also spent a good deal of time helping organizations in other sectors that aren’t focused specifically on security to grow their businesses, improve their customer service strategy, and increase their sales, using these same pillars. As we continue to work with non-security-related organizations, understanding these pillars in non-security terms and explaining how to recognize them is crucial. One of the easiest ways to begin thinking about this in your own life is to consider personal examples of how that information can help lead to more informed decisions in everyday circumstances. In this post, I will outline the first pillar that we teach, the individual, explain what exactly you should look for while observing, and offer some examples regarding how this information can improve your overall level of confidence in any interpersonal interaction.

Of the four pillars of observable behavior, the first pillar is the individual. Within the individual pillar we use four clusters to categorize any human being at any moment in time.  Each person you see out in the world can be categorized as being comfortable, uncomfortable, dominant or submissive. These four clusters are the universal results of

August 18, 2015

Are We Looking For One Cluster or Two?

A question that we frequently get asked during our classes here at The CP Journal is whether a person can be displaying two clusters at the same time. In other words, can a person be both “dominant and comfortable” at the same time or “uncomfortable and submissive” simultaneously?

The short answer to this question is no, a person can’t be displaying two clusters at the same time. The dominant, submissive, uncomfortable and comfortable clusters used to assess a person’s current state are mutually exclusive because they each represent a different survival response that the brain can choose from in threatening situations.. Since your brain makes the decision to either fight or run when a perceived stressor or threat presents itself, you can’t be displaying the dominant cluster, the manifestation of the fight response, and the uncomfortable cluster, the manifestation of the flight response, at the same moment in time. It is by the same logic that a person can’t be displaying the dominant cluster and the comfortable cluster concurrently. As the comfortable cluster is the type of body language displayed when no flight or fight response has been triggered, a person can’t be displaying body language that is associated with the stress response and body language associated with the absence of a stress response at any given point either.

It is important to remember that the body’s responses to potential threats are not permanent decisions. As a situation

March 11, 2015

Identifying people who are familiar and unfamiliar with their surroundings 

This video analysis is part of our recently released training center content.

What Is The Setting?

We are going to do this in Grand Central Terminal in New York City.  Why GCT? Because we aren’t on the practice field anymore.  With over 700,000 people passing through the station each day (the traffic exceeds a million people during the holidays) and the constant terrorist threat to mass-transit stations, there is no better place to use as a training ground.  We will continually use this as setting for our observations because if you can establish a baseline for Grand Central, observing people smaller areas and areas with less people will become increasingly accurate.

The Way It Will Work

Here is how it will work.  The first video is going to provide an overview of the terminal.  This is your “baseline” time and a chance for you to attain a certain degree of context and understanding of the area as a whole before we focus on a specific section. Think of this as the time spent observing a marketplace from an observation post for a short amount of time to establish a baseline before you patrol in.

The baseline video clip is one minute long, so feel free to watch it as many times as you like to begin establishing the norm for the station before we shift to a more confined area.  Don’t worry about details or specifics just yet, begin with the big picture and observations from the domain of Atmospherics.

Step 1: Watch the video and establish the baseline before reading on.

Overall: I would assess this is as having

March 11, 2015

Identifying Anchor Points and Insiders With Violent Intent

This video analysis is part of our recently released training center content.

The dynamic of territoriality and how that concept leads to the creation of anchor points plays a critical role in the professional lives of our nation’s protectors.  Anchor points are the areas where we keep the things that are important to us and, therefore, they require the most security.  For observers, understanding how two key characteristics of anchor points – how they are created and how people interact with them – provides the opportunity to make objective assessments and predictions about the people within the places you visit.  The first characteristic, how people establish ownership of an area, empowers our military and police forces to locate the areas that criminals, insurgents and terrorists use to plan their operations and strike them in their own backyard.  The second characteristic, how people interact with established anchor points, allows all members of the security and defense industries to better evaluate the people attempting to access restricted areas.

Before we can take this concept of identifying anchor points from theory to tangible real life scenarios, the initial requirement is to understand what differentiates anchor points from habitual areas. We will do this by analyzing two video clips. The first video is taken inside the entrance to a Target store and the second clip is focused on the people entering a Costco.  Start by watching each of these clips through one time to get a basic understanding of the behaviors we will be discussing.

Target Entrance

Costco Entrance

We should start by realizing that both of these stores are very similar as they both offer customers a wide variety of food and household items to shop for. However, the difference between the two lies in the customers who are

March 11, 2015

UC Santa Barbara Shooter – Video Analysis

This video analysis is part of our recently released training center content.

In case you haven’t seen it, here is a 7-minute section of the video that was released showing the shooter before he opened fire on unarmed people at UC Santa Barbara on May 23, 2014.  You can find the Wikipedia overview of the attack here.  (In case the video doesn’t play, please contact me since I assume YouTube will take it down and we can find another way).

For an analysis, I want to show how his behavior changes depending on what topic he is talking about.  These changes are what we talk about in our classes as the “repeat topics” that we are looking to identify as we move through a contact.  These shifts and changes in behavior reveal topics that we would want to follow up with because they are causing a response in the person talking.  How you would incorporate these observations into your job depends on what you are tasked with and what you are looking to get out of a conversation, but regardless of your role, we can improve our ability to recognize these shifts by going through this video systematically.

Before you watch the video, anticipate what behavior you expect to see, knowing that this is a justification for why he is about to conduct an attack.  Once you’ve got that, watch through the 7-minute video once in order to get a general feel for the topics and his behavior.

My anticipated behavior was