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voicing your concerns

In the Self-defense community there tends to be two unofficial schools of thought. That an individual should either avoid or non-verbally deter a situation before it starts or go straight to a full bore gun fight. We tend not to talk about the weird middle ground where walking away may get you attacked and the situation doesn't constitute the drawing of a firearm on your part. I suspect this lack of discussion stems from one of two points of instruction.

One is the police officer who also teaches CCW classes on the side. Typically he/she is use to large amounts of conflict and confrontation on the job. Yet they bear one distinct advantage over the civilian. They have the law on their side automatically, and they have the benefit of rolling back up. Understand this is not a side glancing judgment on my part, rather a police officer's confrontation with an unruly-to-violent individual ends in the arrest. Rarely can a miscreant confront a police officer in a highly aggressive manner and not end up in the back of a squad car.

Meaning: both parties are not mutually deterred by the other.

The flip side of the coin is a civilian instructor who may work in the firearms industry at a local store and is an avid gun enthusiast.More than likely his/her experiences with hackle raising situations-to-confrontation-to gunfight/shooting is either rare or non-existent. This is not about their experiences being inferior, just different.

Focus too much on gun-on-gun resolution we take a valuable tool out of the tool box, our verbal skills and a calm demeanor. If you can't be verbally calm and mentally collected in a verbal altercation, I promise you, you are not going to shine on through when it comes to a gunfight.

Having to engage against a verbally aggressive person who for all appearances is not physically violent requires being smart on your part. One be polite and two be firm. These two are separate but equal. Being polite in a verbal confrontation isn't you being a coward. Rather quite the opposite. The capability to remain polite, unapologetic and firm shows who is in control of the situation.

Being rude or insulting doesn't show that you are strong, it simply points out your lack of decency, capability or both (i.e. you are an asshole just like the other guy). Likewise its not appropriate to be "nice" either. Being nice and apologetic in a bad situation says that you are soft. This is just as unsteady as being rude, and unnecessarily aggressive.

If your BIQ (bad guy in question) is screaming and yelling at you and you respond in kind you just lost all tactical placement in controlling the situation. Because now you have no other levels on the scale to go. Once you're in a screaming match and throwing around threats, YOU either have to get physical or run. And frankly if you're screaming and yelling too. It's your fault.

Conversely being too nice you set yourself up on losing ground mentally. Start off apologizing and backing down trying to de-escalate the situation by blaming yourself appears weak or unprepared and left racing to find the appropriate level of response.

Look like food you will be eaten.

Think Cooper's Condition Colors. Its the verbal equivalent of white and red with no yellow. If you're a hot head and can't control your temper you're likely the same guy who flashes his pistol during rush hour when he gets cut off (yeah its rare...and yeah it does happen). Yet the person who has no self-respect AND a CCW permit will forever doubt themselves of whether or not its the right time to engage unless someone else starts the shooting first.

For a number of years I had the benefit of protecting a very wealthy bachelor who enjoyed night clubs and bars and was always surrounded by beautiful women. At some point an intoxicated individual or a few of them would inevitable decide they resented my Principal's presence and his ability to “take up all the girls”. Some protection agents can go their whole careers and can count on one hand the number of verbal altercations they've had. I could expect several a week.

I had to remain professional and confident and not lose my temper. The same applies to you.

If we look at what causes our tempers to flare it is generally the result of taking something personal. Some cases its perfectly justified, but on the street it's not.


Ask yourself this. Does the overly verbal BIQ actually know you?

If some one calls you “a mother fucker.” You need to realize that in this day and age its more slang than insult, but are you? If you are not then its rather a moot point. If you are then he's right and you need to seek help.

Once early on in my career a very disgruntled individual was yelling some things at a Principal of mine as we walked out of a very nice restaurant (money does not equal class by the way). I maintained my vigilance throughout the situation until she said “fuck you and your fag bodyguard”. My temper flared. I didn't react in anyway other than a nasty look, but a couple of minutes later as we drove off in the Suburban I realized that it was meant for shock value and response, nothing more.

Don't get lured in by words.

Some people go around looking for a fight and they look for non verbal indicators from everyone else to see who to select. Its that simple. Sometimes you get picked, not because you look weak, in fact it may be because you look like a challenge.

If they start it, you end it, but be smart about it. Stay steady in your pitch of voice, maintain eye contact, watch the hands, and say things to them like “Sir”.

In a potentially violent situation don't ask them to do anything. Instruct them.

Don't make open ended statements like “this is the last time I'm telling you.....”. Because then you are faced with what to do when they do, whatever it was they were doing, again.

Don't fall into saying “I will kick-your-ass.” instead respond with a calm toned “do you have five grand for bail money?”

Once with the aforementioned Principal we were in a bar and a intoxicated individual was mouthing off and eventually walked over to our area. I placed myself between him and my Principal, the BIQ a little over arms length away. His threatening tone was blather but that didn't mean he could be ignored. I noticed a knife clip sticking out of his pocket and said “Is that a Benchmade?”, he gave me this cross-eyed look for a second and I continued with “yeah yeah yeah it is, I carry an Elishewitz Stryker myself”. The man stumbled over his words for a second and I said to the bar maid “hey get this guy a beer” then turned around and said “Seriously, nice blade man. Hey gotta get back to work though. Take it easy.” He beemed and said thanks went back over to his buddies and there was no more problems.

For $2.75 I avoided a physical altercation, police reports, and a potentially liable situation for myself and my Principal.

My client's friend, an out of town executive told me later that I handled that very smooth I simply said that I get lots of practice. And I still do.

I get it in the car, in the shower, waiting in line. It's called "the What If" game. I constantly look at situations around me and think "if this individual responds this way I will in turn do this." I then think of any other scenario that could happen and problem solve may way through. Everything from an irate person in front of me to multiple gunmen walking in.

Instead of practicing some witty remark to say if you ever have to pull your gun, work on what to say in order to prevent it.

Think it through and break your statements down. Are they feasible? too long an tongue tying? inflammatory?

Its not about memorizing the right thing to say, its about practice. Just like going to the range.

Practice serves to make you familiar with what you are doing and to build muscle memory so you know the appropriate response, build confidence. Bad guys don't wear t-shirts with bulls-eyes on them, that we all know. However it's nice to know that you can put a magazine or two through an ever increasingly ragged hole at the range.

People watch. When two people interact poorly and you witness it, think how you would have reacted initially, then stop think it over and think how you could have desolved it. Maybe it's by ignoring them all together, or maybe its by responding firmly and calmly.

Why is this so important. Because you may face a guy who is unarmed while you are carrying and he may be willing and very capable in hand to hand fighting where you are not. And you not being capable in that arena doesn't necessarily mean you have the right to lethal force.

Play the what if game, study your appropriate level of verbal response anywhere. Given that people are people you certainly won't lack opportunity.


Tom Greer said…
great. this contradicts everything I just said to a class two weeks ago. Me thinks you need to start teaching the teachers.
Anonymous said…
Nice. I'll have to play the What-If and think up some verbally firm one liners. Thanks!
Anonymous said…
..very worth while article/blog.
Pym said…
Fantastic post with a lot of great points. The angle of not letting verbal attacks provoke you into anything can be applies broadly, too. Don't let them control you if it's stopped as simply as ignoring it.
Robert said…
My one and ONLY beef with your blog is that you tend to post once a week. And then I read your posts and see all the thought and planning put into them. Its like waiting for your favorite TV show once a week.

Straight Forward in a crooked world=QUALITY READ
Dregan said…
I've been reading your blog for ~5 weeks now, and this is absolutely your best post.

Themadlemming said…
Another excellent post. Much of what you covered in this post I learned working as a bouncer years ago. Many (potentially) violent drunks have no way of coping with firm, but polite, language and many situations were defused with no violence at all.
threadbndr said…
Excellent advice.

The "What if" is a good mental game. I play it while driving, too - for evasive and defensive stragegies both. It's probably saved my life on the freeway at least a couple of times.
Missouri Judge (Ret) said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Megan said…
Wonderful article! Very well thought out and well worded. ANYONE who works in customer service, or works with people in general, should read this.

Matt said…
Another fantastic post for a fantastic site. I truly truly enjoy reading everything on your site and I regularly check your site for a new posts and I can't wait for Dark Arts for Good Guys Part II!
Steve said…
Thank you for the great article. Got here from Hell In A Handbasket.

Your advice sure would have made our Home Owners Association shouting match much more manageable :)

I often while away the commute time by playing the what if game.

Thank you for your willingness to share well thought out articles. I second Robert's judgement that your blog is a quality read.

Anonymous said…
An excellent, excellent post.
tgace said…
Another great post!

As an aside, your post brought this to my mind...

Something I have always noticed in my line of work is how many people "stick around" when they probably shouldn't. I remember fighting with a suspect in the storage room of a business year back..yelling, knocking stuff over, banging into walls, rolling on the floor. After it was all over, and Im dragging the guy out in cuffs, all the housewives and their kiddos are STILL in the waiting area next door with the "oh crap" deer in the headlights looks.

If you are not directly involved in a dangerous situation that appears to be going down nearby, its time to decide between getting involved and simply leaving.
Kimp said…
How viable is your stuff for women? Years ago (like 25) I was with my little baby daughter at a local laundermat; it was packed. A guy came in with two others and walked right over and flirted with me, picked up my daughter and stood there. I panicked. I said ' she might be wet' and got her away from him, put her in the car and rapidly put all the wet clothes in as well. I was shaking. The cops told me is is a local miscreant - yet none of the older people did anything (he had a visible knife in his pants). I look at is as God protecting me and never went there again. What could I have said to him to disarm and not be afraid? I often think of that and wish i did something bolder.
Thomas said…

Don't let ego cloud what was a smart and effective response. You and your child got away safe. THAT is all that matters. The rest is about "feeling good about yourself". THAT is what causes many people to make the wrong decisions.