What is a behavioral baseline?
There are several descriptions for what constitutes a baseline level of behavior, however, the accepted understanding is the frequency, duration or intensity of a behavior.
Alternatively, Psychology Dictionary describes behavioral baseline as, “a state of behavior which is steady in form or frequency.”
When using the term baseline behaviors, these are a measure of what is within a “normal” range for person when not under particular stress, anxiety, but how they function day-to-day.
If you’re measuring the baseline behaviors of your partner or friend, you know what is normal for them, especially in terms of their emotions, their physical gestures, and their tone of voice.
Whether you realize it or not, you already know how to spot baseline behaviors, because you catalog them daily in your interactions with friends and family.
Determine the Baseline Behaviors
Baseline behaviors include non-verbal communication. Pay attention to what people are saying through facial expressions, emotions, and body language.
You probably don’t realize that you naturally are reading someone’s body language as part of interacting with them.
Take note of how someone acts, the way they hold their body, how they sound, their facial expressions. Once you know the basic cues, you can pay more attention to their emotional state and gestures.
If you see a change in the behavior, tone of the conversation, more pronounced gestures, this may indicate agitation, or stress.
What is a Red Flag?
Red flags are warning signs.
Remember the time you thought, “His voice didn’t sound right,” or a chill went down your spine, and you thought “It was nothing” or perhaps even, “They didn’t mean it.”
Red flags can manifest in a number of ways including, controlling behavior, lack of trust, invasion of privacy, physical abuse or bodily harm, emotional abuse, financial or mental abuse, narcissism, anger management issues, substance abuse, and codependency. Keep in mind, this is not an exhaustive list.
What is Predatory Behavior?
Depending on your situation or relationship with an individual or stranger, predatory behavior can have a fairly broad definition. Generally, predatory behavior may include, stalking someone to assault them or cause harm, to perpetrate violence upon someone, or even to rob them. Some predatory behaviors may also be crimes of opportunity and toward targets of convenience, such as a stranger attack.
In a more intimate relationships, predatory behavior may present as your partner claiming to be the victim, making emotional displays to influence you, isolation and gaslighting, intimidation, pretending ignorance, fake sincerity, disrupting your natural rhythms.
Predators will say or do anything to get what they want, mainly power and control, of a person, a situation, an environment, a relationship.
Trust Your Intuition
Intuition is often mocked by people for being unreasonable or inexplicable, and many don’t take it seriously.
However, your gut feeling could save your life, if you listen to your intuition. Consider the times you ignored your instincts, or waited until the fear of violence forced you to listen.
Perhaps you shoved down the feeling, accepted the help, the advice, the hand. That little voice in your head is called a survival signal, intuition, your own voice of reason.
The signs you might have ignored (this is general in nature):
- They offered to help you carry something.
- They mentioned having a pet.
- They told you stories without you getting in a word.
- They come toward you, talking the whole time.
- They said, “Don’t be too proud, it’s ok to ask for help”
- They bargain with you, explaining they don’t stay long, or don’t want much from you, or only want to help you.
Think back to that moment, and recall, did you sense something? Did you listen to that intuition?
What Can I Do?
Let’s learn how to spot some baseline behaviors that may help you in the future:
- If they use “we” language, often called “forced teaming” or an attempt to create a bond with you.
- Charming or “nice language” or “love bombing”
- Offering too many details in their story
- Making you feel a sense of obligation to them
- For example: “I’ll help you carry the bags and leave right after. I promise.”
- Not listening when you say, “No.”
- They minimize your no and resistance, often called a wear down.
These are some of the general baseline & toxic behaviors to look for with toxic people, abusers, and predators.
Some other steps you can take include limiting contact with the person, telling others about your experience, increasing your personal protection, improving your home security, and protecting your personal information.
Predators are incredibly good at blending in, and learning to spot them is a process, especially when people have told you that you’re imagining things, or they don’t see the person who caused you harm, hurting others.
What a predator or toxic abuser presents to others in the world is not necessarily the face you see. Predators are duplicitous and manipulative by nature and they hide in plain sight.
Getting to know warning signs, red flags, baseline behaviors and predatory patterns is one of the best ways to spot them in the future.
Try to protect your mental health along with your physical well being, especially if you’re currently in the middle of relationship, or recovering from a situation with an abuser, toxic/difficult person, or predator. These situations are incredibly stressful, physically and emotionally. Do your best to take care of yourself, and give yourself grace.
Please remember, your situation may vary from some of the scenarios presented here, and ask for help when you need it.
If you need immediate help, please reach out to an organization such as Safe Escape (https://safeescape.org/get-help/) who can provide resources, guidance, and victim services on removing yourself from a domestic violence or harassment and stalking situation.
Additionally, Victim Connect Resource Center is an excellent hub of resources to find advocates, helpline, and resources local to you. https://victimconnect.org/
If you need more resources, you can find them here: https://www.lockdownyourlife.com/resources/
Sources: https://psychologydictionary.org/behavioral-baseline/; The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker