Be Like a Gazelle. . .Scout Out the Watering Hole

In his book, No Second Chance, Mark Hatmaker talks about gazelles scouting out escape routes at the watering hole before they settle down to drink.  He then suggests that we, as human beings, do the same with the places we frequent.  Keep in mind that he sees the good citizens of the world as prey animals in comparison to the beasts that perpetrate such crimes as described in his predator profiles.  Whether it is your place of work, your home, restaurants, bookstores, coffee shops, or whatever places you frequent, it only takes a few minutes of your time to make an assessment that could save your life.  He says it is not paranoia, and I have to agree.  It never hurts to plan for worst case scenario, yet continue to live positively in each moment of your life.

You can practice this by taking note or even writing down information about the places you visit often.  How many exits do you see, and where are they located?  If it is a food establishment, can you determine whether there is an exit from kitchen?  What else do you notice about the layout that may help or hinder your departure in case of emergency?

Something else I want to mention about the book is an interesting discussion on running from danger.  He advocates flight whenever it is an option.  You only fight when you absolutely cannot flee.  One thing about flight is that if you are in a crowd, it will encourage others to do the same.  He explains that humans are often sheep-like in a crowd, and if one person initiates some kind of response to a situation, others will often follow suit:

“If one individual, in a threatening situation, makes a movement toward escape, the herd begins to ripple with like-minded activity.”

He argues that it is the very best thing you could do as Joe Random citizen, is to make the decision not to freeze and to run, even though at first blush it may not seem like the most heroic thing to do.  But if there is no way to avoid fighting a threat, then you must fight, and others will probably follow suit, as well.  For instance, you might find yourself in this kind of situation on an airplane.  Kind of hard to run at 30,000 feet.

He always provides interesting food for thought and thinks of things from a different perspective.  I am really looking forward to his bootcamp in May!


Reading Aggression on the Face

Did you know that most of what you say is not with your words—around 90 percent of communication is non-verbal.  Around 55 to 60 percent of non-verbal falls into the category of body language.  Why is this important to mention here?  Because reading body language correctly lends itself greatly towards perceiving aggression and potential violence.

Several great books have been written on the subject of facial expressions, as they are a key place to look for affect display, i.e. emotions.  It’s hard for us to completely hide what we feel, and though we may diligently try, we often unconsciously reveal what is going on in our brains in the form of micro-expressions.  One of the world’s leading experts on facial expressions is Dr. Paul Ekman, who is also expert and inspiration for the TV show Lie to Me.  He literally mapped out facial expressions based on the musculature utilized and catalogued facial expressions.  It turns out that we cannot make certain expressions on purpose—they happen under our own conscious radar.  There is a direct link between emotions and the face, and we are even able to create emotions, working backwards, by assuming certain facial expressions.  Very fascinating stuff.  I say all this to let you know there is a lot of scientific study in this area!  I have yet to get around to Ekman’s book Unmasking the Face, but it is on my to-do for this year.

In other resources, including Management of Aggressive Behavior, I have discovered interesting bits of information as they pertain to the face and aggression.  Smiling, apparently, is akin to snarling in the wild (we are still members of the animal kingdom, after all).  A smile with just the mouth (and not the eyes) looks a lot like primates bearing their teeth.  Tension often shows in the face, as the muscles in the face tend to contract when we are under mental duress.  In addition to tense facial muscles, here are some other possible signs of potential aggression:

  • Teeth clenching
  • Pale skin (also possibly fear)
  • Darkening of skin (anger)
  • Distortion of the face on the left side
  • Bearing teeth (a snarling smile, perhaps?)
  • Lips quivering (anxiety)
  • Lips tensing (anger, high potential for physical violence)

These are just some signs, and as I am discovering in Allan Pease’s book Body Language, we often have to read expressions, micro-expressions, gestures and micro-gestures in clusters to get the full picture of what is going on.  Not impossible to do, but it takes a little practice.  One easy way to practice is to watch people out in public, or even mute shows on TV, and attempt to discover the emotional gist of the situation by reading the face and the body.  Keep in mind that the hearing-impaired have to do this all the time!  Nevertheless, the rest of us rely on it more than we realize to size up situations.

I will be writing more on body language in future posts.

The Warrior Leaves No Opening

Brian Willis’ writing is so thought-provoking.  Though his post is geared towards the law enforcement community, the same things apply to civilians interested in self-protection and training.  I was talking to my brother this weekend and he made a statment about being able to learn something from just about everyone.  Brian echoes that thought here about most trainers having something to offer, but that we must not allow ourselves to get caught up in hero worship, which I have observed so many times over the years.  Check out Brian’s post:

Effective Speaking and Conflict Management

I recently blogged about conflict management and the utilization of active listening.  I truly believe that listening to people, in the majority of conflict situations, helps to de-escalate things considerably; we all want to have confirmation that we have been understood.  We can help guide an interaction in various ways.  Many of us, because we are already tapped out from our busy lives, often choose the easy, and I’ll go ahead and say it, the LAZY route with people, even if the “resolution” is not the ideal.  Sometimes we want to wrap things up as quickly as possible, and that is not always the most advantageous route, especially if we’re dealing with angry clients or co-workers.  Just as active listening is important, so is effective speaking.  How many times have you gotten in an argument and spewed out hateful words, only for those words to come back and haunt you later?  It truly takes a humble man or woman to accept a tirade calmly and redirect it down a path towards collaboration.  It’s not an easy task, and those who are effective in conflict/confrontational management are creating art when they smooth things out.  Some people seem to have an innate ability, or fantastic social intelligence and display adeptness at diplomacy in pre-school.  Nevertheless, it is something we can all learn, practice and improve upon!

Choosing the right words in a situation can make all the difference.  Granted, most of what you say is non-verbal, but a careless word can still incite rage and cause grief forever.  When you are trying to resolve an issue, state the problem carefully without focusing too much on the fact that there is a problem.  Everyone is painfully aware there is an elephant in the room, which is why the conflict arose in the first place.  Show respect to the other party and speak for yourself.  Try using open statements that encourage dialogue, as closed statements, or very definitive statements tend to shut things down quickly.  You might try opening your observational statements with phrases like:

I would say. . .

I think. . .

I believe. . .

I feel. . .

I consider. . .

In my opinion. . .

It seems to me. . .

Do you know someone who speaks with exaggerated words all the time?  Do they use these words to describe something you have done?  Does it make you angry when they do?  It does most people.  It’s very irritating to be told, “You always do this. . .”  Avoid using these kinds of terms: every, everyone, always, never, only, everybody, all, as they tend to distort your meaning and throw a monkey wrench in communication.  Try using words that soften your message like: hardly ever, frequently, rarely, mostly, usually, in general, almost.

Avoid using words that command others and have a way of forcing compliance and conformity.  Especially avoid these in conjunction with the word “you”: must, have to, ought, should.

In addition to choosing effective words and sentence structures, it is SO important to make your non-verbals match up with your verbals.  Use speech volume, rate, tone, pitch and inflection; how you say what you say it is just as important as saying it.  Even more so!  Did you know that if folks get a funny feeling about the words that are falling out of your mouth, they will fall back on the non-verbals as the “proof” of what you are saying?  Make your way of speaking congruent with what you are saying.

In the midst of what is hopefully not an all-out argument, be flexible with your communication.  If you find that your messages are creating defensive and/or adversarial reactions in the other party, don’t be afraid to try another tactic.  No sense in beating a dead horse.  You want to keep the communication going and this doesn’t happen if you shut them down (and they might resort to stonewalling, sulking and end up resentful).

I read a great little rule of thumb for effective speaking:

Say what you are going to say, say it, and say what you said.

This should help get your point across.  If not, it’s time to shift gears, of course.  De-escalation takes sensitivity and finesse, and inside you may feel like initiating the all-out beat-down.  Nevertheless, cleverness can get you out of tight spots in managing conflict and aggressive behavior, and any time you can do that instead of fighting, it is usually the most desirable choice.

Article on Controlling Fear

Here is an excellent article on controlling your fear and preparing the proper mindset that is needed to function under the stress of a lethal encounter.  He is specifically talking about carrying a firearm, but the same principles apply even if you are not allowed to carry a gun where you live.  Mindset, mindset, mindset–it cannot be stressed enough.  And, mind you, there is nothing wrong with fear.  Fear can be a very useful thing, but we cannot allow it to paralyze us.  Courage is only the decision that something is more important that fear, and getting the job done.  After mindset, comes training.  He says it should follow the three R‘s: Relevant, Realistic and Recent.  Is the training relevant to self-protection?  Is it realistic with those same parameters?  How recent is it?  Think of your skills as perishable and stay sharp.  Anyway–enough of my yammering: