The basic street smart definition is being aware of your surroundings and making wise decisions based on your senses in urban environments.

   Street Smart Defined

That is essentially it except for that fact that you don’t need to be in a city to apply street smarts. You can also be in the suburbs, a rural area, or anywhere else for that matter when you need to apply your street smarts in order to stay vigilant and optimal.

The “streets” should be considered the wilderness – populated with the world’s most dangerous animals, also known as homo sapiens.

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Street Smart Examples

The Bar

Think of your street smarts as a defense weapon. It’s how you prevent trouble by sniffing it out ahead of time. For example, let’s say you’re supposed to go out for drinks with a few friends but when you arrive at the location, you notice that the clientele makes you feel uncomfortable.

Most of the people going in and out are drunk and they’re acting wild and boisterous. You know this means it will be even worse once you’re on the inside. At best, you’re not going to be comfortable. At worst, you’re going to end up in an altercation.

If you end up in an altercation, it’s usually going to lead to one of two things: getting beat up or going to jail.

Therefore, it would be wise to avoid the situation altogether. If you sensed this scenario playing out prior to entering the bar/club and chose not to enter, then you were being street smart.

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The Parking Lot

Here’s another example. This can take place in a city, the suburbs, or a rural area. Let’s say you and a friend want to stop at the drug store for a couple of Red Bulls. You had been working outside all day on little sleep and you need a little pick-me-up. This is nothing out of the ordinary. However, everything changes after you get your Red Bulls, go back to the car, chat with your friend for a minute before leaving, and a big Cadillac parks next to you but leaves less than four inches between his car and yours. This immediately seems odd, but you plan to leave anyway so no big deal.

The guy driving the Cadillac looks to be about 300 lb. with a farmer’s build and devil and fire tattoos on his neck and arms. As you begin pulling out of your spot, a Hummer on the other side of the Cadillac had already started pulling out and you have to wait. This is all while you and your friend laugh about something that happened earlier that day.

While waiting, and as the Hummer passes by and exits the parking lot, Mr. Angry Tattoo exists the Cadillac, stares right at your friend in the passenger seat and says, “What the hell are you laughing at?”

Your friend does his best to handle the situation, which begins with being nice, but when that isn’t effective, your friend tells Mr. Angry Tattoo that he might want to calm down. This is NOT the right path and it only leads to Mr. Angry Tattoo walking closer to your car. This is where you and your street smarts need to step in.

You lean over to look out the passenger side window and say, “What’s the problem?”

Mr. Angry Tattoo says, “Why the hell were you looking at my license plate when you were backing out?”

You say, “I’m not on duty, I don’t need to look at your license plate right now. At least not yet.”

You’re not a cop, but lying is a justifiable action when you’re being threatened and applying street smarts.

Mr. Angry Tattoo stands there, a little dumbfounded. You seize the opportunity to defuse the situation by adding, “We weren’t looking at your license plate. We had to wait for the Hummer to back out before we could leave.”

Mr. Angry Tattoo changes tone and says, “Oh. Okay. My bad then. Sorry. Have a good day.”

Just like that, you avoided confrontation. Always remember that the greatest weapon known to man is his brain.

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The Alleyway

Here’s another street smart example. Let’s say you and a friend are walking around New York City at night. It’s 7:45 and you’re supposed to meet friends at 8:00 at a bar that’s at least a 20-minute walk. You see an alley and attempt to take a shortcut.

When you’re approximately 10 percent of the way down that alley, a hooded man with a hand in his jacket pocket turns in behind you and begins to follow. Your gut tells you something very bad is about to happen. It’s time to take action, but not physical action. Remember, your brain is your biggest weapon.

You stop, turn to your friend, and say, “We forgot to pick up the pizza!”

It might not be the best line, but it’s effective because it gives you a reason to turn around and head back toward the lighted and busy streets while you’re still visible to those passing by.

You just avoided getting mugged.

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The Pizzeria

Sticking with the pizza theme, let’s say you’re in a tough neighborhood to get your car fixed at a repair shop. While waiting, you walk to the pizza shop down the street. After eating your pizza, you exit the pizza shop and you’re approached by a gang of five. The head of that gang is twice your size. He’s heavy, not muscular, but he’s still twice your size and you can tell he’s not the nicest fellow. Not Nice Fellow blocks your path and tells you to run your jacket, which means he wants you to give him your jacket at no cost.

You immediately say, “You’re not getting my jacket.”

This tells Not Nice Fellow that you’re not an easy target. This is important, but it’s not the primary objective. As the situation continues to develop, you’re slowly angling your steps so you’re in-line with the pizza shop window. Once directly in front of the pizza shop so employees and patrons can see you, and after Not Nice Fellow asks for your jacket for a third time, you say, “Like I said, there is no way you’re getting this jacket, especially now that everyone can see you.” You point to the window to your left and the onlookers.

Not Nice Fellow says, “We’ll squash it then” and aborts mission.


If you really want to define street smart, it means being aware of your surroundings and quickly and calmly thinking of solutions to avoid conflict or engaging an adversary. Pay attention to everything you see and hear and put the pieces together.

– The best street smart examples are those of the scenarios of everyday, ordinary life on the streets.

[OPTICS : Undisclosed, Hong Kong]