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Best Way to Get Attacked
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We have a dear friend named Peyton Quinn. He was one of the pioneers of Adrenal Stress/scenario training. Peyton is a curmudgeonly genius who lives in the wilds of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. As we each approach the subject differently, we all have had many a long conversations until dawn's early light with Peyton about crime, violence and what it takes to survive. These conversations aren't "You're wrong about this subject." Nor are they "Yes, but..." conversations, they are more "Yes, AND ..." in nature.
There is however, a major difference between us and Peyton. This difference is that Peyton can take incredibly complex and detailed issues and reduce them down to simple and concise points. These are not soundbites, clich? or gross over-simplifications that sound great in training, but will get you killed or put into prison if you use your training. Once you have these fundamental points to guide your behaviors they will keep you out of most trouble.
But just because Peyton can put them into bullet points, doesn't mean they are simplistic. The fact is, the more advanced stuff and complications we talk about (and pretty much anything you've been trained in) really only work if you haven't already shot yourself with what you're about to read here.
Here's the drawback of that though. Peyton's ability to sum up is
beneficial only, if you understand
If you don't understand those, then they're just another bag of sound-bites. And the problem with sound bites is misinformation, stupidity and fantasy thinking make great sound-bites too. And the kinds of sound-bites are often a whole lot more appealing to the uninformed and biased.
This is good -- simple -- information that can not only save your life, but save you from all kinds of social conflict
Having said that, let's talk about all the ways you can screw up.
Where Peyton's summations won't do you any good is if
The above listed points are the most common reason why people violate what we are about to tell you. Frankly, that list of screw ups is damned near reflexive for many people. That's why knowing these rules isn't enough. You have to be able to follow them in a stressful (and yes, dangerous) situation. The rules are simple, but if you can't control your emotional monkey brain, you'll violate them every time ... with predictable results of the situation will escalate.
The absolute worst is the person, who after looking at the five points to avoid violence says "I know that" and then proceeds to do it anyway!
They do this because they think they are doing something else, but are actually violating these rules. We tell you all of this because what follows is a very concise summation of how people routinely provoke other people to attack them. Once you know about them, you can see why a situation is escalating and almost set your clock by when violence will happen.
Violence would NOT have happened if they hadn't violated the
So there you are...
You've found yourself in a conflict that could go violent. Your adrenalin is pumping, you're scared, upset and angry and you just want this person to just go away.
Generally speaking what people in these circumstances do is what is called a Threat Display. In a nutshell, this shows the opposition that you are too big and bad to be safely messed with. However, a threat display is also very much an action predicated on showing the other person just how serious you are (e.g. I WILL use this if you don't change your behavior).
It is during threat displays that these rules are most commonly violated. First we're going to give you the rules, and then we are going to explain why they will greatly assist you from having to pick up your teeth.
Don't Insult Him
You may think it's a threat display that will cause him to back off, but it's an insult. An insult that a violent person will have to react to because you've just crossed the line from being assertive to being aggressive ... what's more is now you've invaded his space. A violation, against which he is going to have to retaliate.
The problem is most people trying establish dominance over a situation don't understand the nature of power or Alpha/Beta behavior. Therefore while trying to prove how unsafe they are to attack, they leave the attacker no other option BUT to attack in order to save face.
Don't Challenge Him
Coming in a close second is the -- now dead -- actress Nicole du Fresne who, in NYC, looked at the muggers and said "What are you going to do? Shoot us?"
Sitting calmly in front of your computer you might say to yourself, "I'd never say anything that dumb!"
However, in an adrenalized state and desperately trying to find an effective threat display to a) chase away this big, bad, scary person ... b) in the middle of an argument to prove to that person that you're just as serious and that his threat display isn't going to get you to back off because you are right... it is VERY EASY to unwittingly make this kind of challenge.
In the grip of emotion, adrenaline and fear we are not only really stupid, but we tend to engage in magical thinking when we are in this state. We believe "If I do this, he will do that." An example of this is "If I show him that I'm not scared of him, he'll back off). Unfortunately, outside of the limited options you -- in your adrenalized emotional state -- can see, there are all kinds of other things he can do. Including attacking you because you've challenged him to act, which is what happens when you are dealing with certain personality types.
Don't Threaten Him
However, after enough people came to him complaining that his system didn't work --then after questioning them what happened -- Peyton realized that there are a lot of people who need things explicitly spelled out.
Oh yeah, speaking of that, telling him you're going to call the cops also constitutes threatening him.
If you do have to call the cops: A covertly dialed 911, followed by your location and his description is far more effective.
Don't Deny It's Happening
There is however, a big difference those two lifestyles. People from lifestyles where violence is common immediately recognize when it is happening and react accordingly. All other priorities fall away.
In a very Zen way, they are 'in the moment.'
Whereas people for whom violence 'doesn't happen' or they haven't
been in a physical conflict since they were kids, there is huge denial
factor. This comes in three main ways:
What we've just said is that denying it is happening is going to manifest in one of three ways. One, you're going to freeze. Two, you're going to walk right into it. Three, you're going to get flattened while trying to find some way not to fight.
Now you may wonder how this applies to provoking an attack. First off, this denial encourages attack by someone who is accustomed to using violence to get what he wants. He's ready to go and you're not. But the reason we include it in provoking an attack is that most people choose to do #3 in the form of a threat display. A threat display that they usually end up insulting and challenging him ... oops.
Give Him Face Saving Exit
We cannot stress enough how important it is to: Let him back away with some semblance of pride! This is one of the most common mistakes people make. What's worse is that until this rule is violated, violence was not going to happen. We cannot tell you how many times we've seen someone react to an effective threat display and decide to back off -- only to have the other person just "have to get in a last lick" or "teach him a lesson." This isn't just having the last word, it's rubbing someone's nose in it.
(Special note to women: Men and women are different psychologically. One of the bigger issues that women tend to be more verbally vicious than men when they fight each other. What we about to tell you is an important safety tip, and that is not hyperbole, we have seen any number of women beaten over what we are about to tell you. A common male behavior is to turn and walk away from a verbal conflict. Simple stated if your man does this, YOU'VE WON! Let him go and don't say anything else until he cools down.
The reason for this -- and this is hard for women to understand because of how they fight with one another -- is when a man does this, he has decided to walk away rather than become physically violent! He isn't sticking an emotional knife into you and running away before you can respond. He's trying NOT to become violent! It is a recognized male behavior to allow for a cooling down period. He doesn't want it to go violent, and by walking away he is trying to avoid it from happening. This is a HUGE gender difference between men and women. And you need to know he isn't insulting you by walking away.)
There is a critically important point to understand about violent people. They are trapped in a world that is all about them. By this we don't just mean they are egomaniacal, they very narcissistic in their world view (up to and including Narcissistic Personality Disorder among other things). All the average person sees is the violence. What you don't see is the intense self-loathing, chronic anger, warped perceptions, fear, paranoia, blaming behavior and other demons that drive these people. And the reason you don't see this is because they are either deeply hidden beneath layers upon layers of self-rationalization or because, at ground zero, you're too busy experiencing the blast to see it clearly.
Now knowing this, it should be easier to understand that to such a personality how one "looks" if even more important than life itself. By looks, we don't just mean physical appearance. We are talking how one appears in the eyes of others. Others who are -- at least in the violent person's worldview -- always waiting to prey upon the first sign of weakness. If that person displays weakness, in his mind, he's next on the dinner plate. As such they are hyper-sensitive to insults and loss of 'face.' Truth is, this program is always running, whether there are witnesses or not. However, if there are witnesses, this program is given an octane boost. In certain lifestyle, a 'man getting his props' (proper respects) is more important than his life.
This is why if you do not allow such an individual a face saving exit, in his mind, you will have left him no option but to attack you. In his world if he 'crawls' away, his life is over anyway.
This also applies in less drastic circles. Nobody is really interested in engaging in violence where they could lose their life. And the truth is, this same reservation applies to fighting and risking serious physical injury. Face saving exits allow someone to find a reason NOT to fight. That is a key element of de-escalation.
And if you don't feel that you can allow someone to save face and back away, then don't come crying to us when someone rams a knife in your guts. Because people like we described don't just fight dirty, they flat-out cheat.
Don't Imperiously Command Him
I've seen someone trying to keep from having to give Peyton credit call this "Don't order" in his modified list. I both liked it and simultaneous had problems with it because "stay back" "let me see your hands," and "don't come any closer" are very much necessary orders and communication in potentially violent situation (especially in developing rape and robbery).
Sure they can be toned down. For example: "I think it's time you step back," "Do me a favor and keep your hands in plain sight" and "That's close enough. What can I do for you?" (2) But, communication to put a stop to dangerous behavior is a critical part of pre violence (both to avoid it and remove doubt when– despite your best efforts– it's going to happen so you can mentally prepare to do what's necessary). This prior communication is also critical evidence for your claim of self-defense in any dealing with the police and courts.
The problem with imperious commands is they blend insult, threats and challenges into one ugly and demeaning ball of ugly. You don't have to add pejoratives or vulgarity, your tone of voice is provocation enough. A whole lot of contempt and threat can be rolled into a simple sentence.
Perhaps the best way to describe what we mean by "Don't imperiously command" is don't scold him like an uppity busboy (whose job you'll have for his actions.) Way too people give orders like "Get away from me" in tones that would appall even the most elitist, entitled and snobbish society matron. That much contempt, mixed with ordering him like he's a dog, will humiliate the person. But instead of tucking his tail between his legs and slinking away, he'll have to lunge for your throat. Your humiliation of him – in his mind– leaves him no choice.
And to think, you thought it would intimidate him into leaving you alone. Wrong.
Simple, But Profound
We're not talking Ph.Ds or therapists either, we're talking the professionals who regularly deal with, contest and contain violent individuals. In other words, people who know their actions and words can provoke or prevent a violent encounter. When violence professionals agree it is good, it is well worth your time to think about.
If you want more information on how to achieve the first two goals we recommend you read our page on personal and shared space, as well as our page on assertive vs. aggressive behavior.
As and overview on attitudes that lead to these common mistakes, we also recommend reading the high risk page in the rape section of this site. For the third goal we recommend you read the five stages of violent crime. Although tailored for civilians, the concepts can be easily tweaked for officer safety.
Another section we highly recommend you read is Kinds of Violence
1) The irony of the five points is that there used to only be four. The reason we gave you the list of personality traits and behaviors that can screw this system up is found right here. The original four were: Insult, challenge, deny and face saving. However, Peyton rapidly discovered people's ability to self-rationalize that them threatening to kick someone's ass was somehow NOT challenging him. They'd come back and complain that the system didn't work. No lie. No BS. We REALLY wish we were making it up. Return to Text
2) In police work there is an established patter of "Ask. Tell. Order." This allows the officer to justify using force because it shows both clear and repeated communication on the officer's part. It also shows a persistent and escalating pattern of non-compliance on the part of the other individual. "That's close enough. What can I do for you?" leads to "I said that's close enough," which leads to "BACK OFF!" There's no way the attacker can claim he wasn't warned about his behavior. Better yet, you can explain to the police what you did to not antagonize him. Return to Text