Becoming Bulletproof is part memoir, part self-help by a former US Secret Service Special Agent, Evy Poumpouras. She is a recipient of the Secret Service Medal of Valor Award for her heroism on 9/11. She wrote Becoming Bulletproof after leaving the agency to pursue a career in journalism. Branching from her enforcement roots, she covers topics on national security, law enforcement, and crime. It’s easy to see why Becoming Bulletproof is gaining worldwide popularity due to its vital content.
The book starts off with Evy’s personal account of what she witnessed and experienced on 9/11. The heart-wrenching chronicle was not easy to read and even harder to bear knowing that she was on ground zero when the tragedy happened. 9/11 is a good example of how a catastrophe can catch us off-guard. In Becoming Bulletproof, Evy Poumpouras teaches her readers how not to get caught off-guard with such ‘inconveniences’.
By ‘inconveniences’, I mean things like fear, everyday risks of living life, or falling victim to any type of crime or scam. Becoming Bulletproof explains the layers that need to be built within a person to be able to face the adversities of life. Thus, this book is divided into three sections that make up the layers for a person to become bulletproof.
The chapter opens with the limiting influence fear has on us. The debilitating nature of fear can hinder us from experiencing the simple joys in life. Imagine refusing an offer to continue your studies just because of the location of the institution? Or rejecting a life-altering opportunity because of your fear of failure? It may seem odd but fear can be paralysing if we don’t control it.
Besides that, the author makes it clear that panic is the worst thing that can happen when facing an unpleasant situation. That said, being aware of your 3F mode (Fight, Flight, or Freeze) is the first step to improving your chances if faced with unwanted circumstances. Once you are aware of your 3F mode, then comes the need to practise your 3F mode so that it would benefit you. For example, if you tend to freeze then you need practise ways to untangle yourself shall you find yourself in bad situations i.e robbery, verbal accusation etc. Practise helps acquaint yourself to possible situations so that you know how to react accordingly.
The author also warns against purveyors of placidity who invite you to avoid stress. That’s because we need stress to become stronger. In Becoming Bulletproof, the author invites us to expose ourselves to intentional microstressors to help strengthen our minds. This way, we have a clearer view of the accurate reality assessment of our state. Instead of avoiding stress and seeing the world through rose-tinted lenses, presenting ourselves with challenges every so often is part of the layers of becoming bulletproof.
About Reading People
I would say that this section of the book is the most interesting. Learning to watch people and to listen actively are skills that are taken for granted. Usually, when we choose to give attention to those who are important to us, we rarely observe their baseline when we have the chance to do so. According to Becoming Bulletproof, the only way we can tell if a person is a hiding something from us is if we knew the person’s baseline when they are calm, relaxed, and feel safe. Therefore, take the chance to become active observers of a person’s baseline when you’re in a relaxed setting. This way, we can catch the red flags when we need to.
Becoming Bulletproof also explains that in our quest to detect deception, we must always remember that the truth is sometimes more complex than a yes or a no. This means that we may not get to the bottom of the truth as quickly as we would want to. The author was a human polygraph for the US Secret Service and she wrote that most confessions happen when there is no violence involved. In order to read people and allow them to be truthful to us in return, we must first establish trust.
On Influencing Others
The closing section of the book talks about the power we have in influencing people when we know how to read them and when we know how to protect ourselves. Surprisingly, once you mastered how to protect yourself and how to read people, you only need to know how to use words to your advantage to influence others. The power to influence others with your presence is the kind of power that country leaders have. FYI, the author had served a list of US Presidents during her service.
Becoming Bulletproof narrates of the author’s observation on the affect the preseidents had on the people that work with them. Her observation concurs with the theory that influential people knows how to give undivided attention to the people they’re talking with. So keeping the phone away when you’re talking with someone important is one of the many ways to make the other person feel valued. Besides that, letting the other person talk more so that you can listen actively is also a way to empathise with the person.
There’s so much talk about empathy nowadays but rarely do people talk about empathy as means to shift a person’s opinion about a situation. The author suggests that keeping our egos in check and to only speak when we have something relevant to say builds our rapport with the person we want to influence.
I find Becoming Bulletproof a useful and entertaining book that would benefit its readers for life if put into practice. I would recommend this book to women, teenage girls, and even to law enforcement officers. This is the kind of book that I would revisit when I feel less than good about myself or when I need to lift myself up.
The most beautiful thing about this book is that it not only teaches you how to read people, but it also teaches you how to become unreadable. And, not only does it teach you how to influence people, but it also teaches you how to not be influenced by others.
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