| 21 May 2004 @ 13:39, by ming|
From Ming the Mechanic: I was watching this nature program on TV about small animals and their strategies for survival. What particularly stood out for me was the DikDik, which is a little dwarf antelope, and how it sometimes deals with lions. A female lion was standing around looking for some lunch when a dikdik walked by. It is pretty quick, but would be no match for the lion, and would be a nice piece of lunch. But what the dikdik did, instead of starting to run away, was that it walked sort of sideways, but directly up to the lion and started butting it in the side, like a lion cub that wanted milk. Its body language right away got the lion to change its idea of this being lunch, and instead its motherly instincts took over, and it started nuzzling the little antelope, dashing playfully at it once in a while, and otherwise patiently ignoring it while it is clambering all over you while you're attending to other business. Which of course meant it didn't get eaten.
The strategy is of course applicable in many other settings. Naturally when humans are dealing with dangerous animals. If you're in the water and you run into a big shark, you've better not look like a wounded seal. A scuba diver normally doesn't get attacked, because you don't look like food if you're moving around blowing bubbles. Likewise, a mountain lion or bear is much less likely to jump you if you stand up and wave your arms and yell at it, because that just isn't what you're supposed to do if you're a normal piece of prey.
Likewise in purely human affairs. A mugger only attacks you if you look like a victim. He doesn't usually do stick-ups with his pals or his family or police officers for example. So if you look like something else than a victim, you're off the hook. If the cops stop you for speeding, your best chance is to not look like a law breaker. Standing up and yelling would not help you there - you'd have to be more inventive.
Conversely, a lot of things are possible if you look and act the part that you're supposed to play. The bank will loan you money if you seem like a good and solid person to loan money to. People will vote for you if your body language and tone of voice sounds about right. Doesn't have to have much to do with whether you're actually qualified or not. Just like the lion's behavior isn't primarily motivated by whether you taste good or not. The surface behavior and body language is what is being read first.