Predator or Prey?

In this third installment on the “ABC’s of Self Defense,” we’re going to look at communication.  Communication plays a critical role in prevention. It can also be used strategically to de-escalate a situation, or provide an opportunity to improve one’s position.

Being the social creatures we are, we communicate constantly. While we are generally aware of what we say when we speak, we oftentimes overlook what we’re communicating non-verbally. Our posture, our gaze, how we dress, walk, and talk, all tell a story. The story can be one of awareness, strength, and confidence. It can also be a tale of distraction, weakness, or fear.

Predators pick up on these subtle nuances. In this regard, they are avid readers. They are looking for victims; people who’s story, or profile, says, “pick me, I’ll panic, and submit to your terms without much trouble.” If they suspect a person is going to resist, they are more than likely going to look elsewhere. They are looking for the easy prey.

Just as we need to practice our tactical breathing, so too should we take the time to consider how we present ourselves. What habits and/or characteristics do we need to develop, or change, in order to not fit the victim profile? Standing tall, walking with a purpose, being aware of those around you, and paying attention to one’s surroundings are the traits of a strong, confident individual. Slumped shoulders, and a downward gaze signal a lack of confidence. The distant, glazed look of someone lost in thought, or being glued to a smartphone both represent a person who could be caught off guard, and shocked into submission.

Our verbal response to confrontation must communicate the same message. The words we use, and the tone we speak with, should convey strength and assertiveness, but not aggression. This requires speaking in a deliberate, but not angry/fearful tone, and using very clear, direct words. Here are some guidelines for verbally communicating in the early stages of a confrontation.

  • Make statements in a strong, confident voice. This helps control one’s emotions as well as the tone of the engagement.
  • Don’t scream, call names, or use foul/abusive language. Not only does this increase our autonomic response (remember why breathing is so important?), but will likely escalate the situation.
  • Speak in the first person. This helps avoid blaming, judging, or attacking the other person, which can again increase tensions. For example,  “I don’t want you coming any closer.”
  • Name the specific behavior that is offensive. For example, “I don’t want you to speak to me like that, it makes me feel bad.”

Developing all of these tools through thoughtful study and practice can help us be more safe. The knowledge that we have properly prepared ourselves, in turn, leads to more confidence. This decreases the odds of ever being accosted in the first place, and gives us a greater ability to de-escalate the situation in the event we ever are.

Are you training to be a Lion, or a lamb?