CAUTION: Criminals don’t think like you do!

by Dean Rieck

A couple years ago, I attended a 3-day handgun class at Tactical Defense Institute in West Union, Ohio. One of the many ideas that stuck with me was what the training center’s owner, John Benner, said in the classroom portion of the training:

“Criminals don’t think like you or me. Their minds work differently. They want what they want and all you are to them is an object in their way.”

That’s pretty chilling when you really think about it. John is a veteran police officer and comes at his know-how from practical experience. But there’s research to back up the idea that bad guys just don’t think like normal people.

Inside the Criminal Mind, by
Stanton E. Samenow Ph.D., makes the case that criminals think in stark, black and white terms that leave no room for reason, negotiation, empathy for victims.

Here’s an excerpt from this book posted on

The criminal does not know what moderation is! In his thinking and behavior, he more frequently than not goes to extremes. It is critical to understand this aspect of his psychological makeup. Failure to do so can endanger a person who interviews, attempts to counsel, or in other ways interacts with a criminal.

In his mind, the criminal must be number one or else he counts for nothing — an intolerable situation. You can see this even when he is a child. If others don’t play by his rules, he refuses to play at all. If he is not recognized as tops in any endeavor that matters to him — e.g., sports, academics — then it isn’t worth doing. Even in a menial task in prison such as buffing a floor, it must shine. If someone steps on it before he has completed the job, he becomes furious. He is indiscriminate in this view that everything he does must be tops and recognized as such by others. Everything has the same importance. This is not a quest for excellence but a result of his own pretensions.

The criminal demands that others recognize him as “number one” when it comes to work. If he walks into a restaurant seeking a job, he believes that he should be the manager, not a “lackey” who has to undertake tasks that he regards as beneath him.

In even the smallest interactions, the criminal is determined to prevail. Thus, he does not know what a discussion involves. He is insistent on proving his point, not exchanging views. Only what he thinks and says matters. Others disagreeing with him he interprets as threatening, even on a trivial point.

People are either for him or against him. There are no in betweens. If you don’t go along with what he wants, support his position, agree with what he is saying, he will ignore you, try to verbally beat you down or, at worst, attack you physically.

Clearly, this black and white view of the world leads to a criminal’s expectations being constantly thwarted. Constantly, he is perceiving that he has been put down or diminished by others even when no offense is intended. This is a factor in the constant anger that the criminal experiences because he frequently does not receive the response from others that he desires and believes he is due.

While no one in their right mind
wants to harm another human being, you shouldn’t allow yourself to make the mistake of assuming that a threatening criminal can always be “talked down” or reasoned with. What may seem reasonable to you or me, such as telling him to calm down or suggesting that you work things out, might be completely misinterpreted.

So it’s not just aggressive behavior that poses a risk. It’s the fact that when you find yourself facing violence from a criminal, you may be dealing with someone who simply doesn’t see you as worth talking to or dealing with. You see him as a bad “person.” He may see you as an inconvenient “object” to eliminate.