After several emails asking for ideas regarding what would be the most important things a person should know or do in order to increase personal safety, I decided that this is a good place to answer.
The fact is that increasing personal safety can be done for most people without ever learning martial arts. However, for my personal choices; I think it is good to be able to ask for peace from a position of strength. I am fully capable of hurting you, but to me, I can also see the value of not hurting you when you are in my face asking for a beating. There are a whole host of issues that I will have to deal with if I smash you, and I really prefer to not have to deal with those issues. This is different from being afraid of fighting. The good thing is that the other person can usually see this difference. Well, it is a good thing that they can see the difference unless you are afraid of violence. Which would bring us back to asking for peace from a position of strength.
Please keep in mind that violence is a complex subject and as such, there are no quick five point lists that will cover every situation. That said; I feel that this list covers some important points as applies to typical social violence that people seem to jump into head first these days.
1. Use good manners
When I was a kid, we were taught to say “please”, “thank you”, “yes sir/ma’am”, “no sir/ma’am”, and so on. Our TV shows had people like The Waltons and not The Kardashians. Manners were reinforced in school, church, and at home. I understand not everyone was brought up this way, but what I see out there is that manners are slipping. People are coming to believe that rudeness is strength.
“Rudeness is the weak person’s imitation of strength” – Eric Hoffer
In attempts to be/look/seem/be seen as cool, people resort to every type of rude behavior imaginable. It is not necessary, and it lessens personal safety.
2. Stop trying to make people see the world your way
Political doctrines, religions, sports teams, best Universities, superior martial arts, quick fixes for societal ills, gumbo recipes – ALL of these are things for which people go into the conversation with their minds already made up. They know the answer, and the entire time that you are trying to convince them to adopt your ideas, they are mentally poking your arguments full of holes which they will then respond to you with whenever you stop talking.
Where this can affect personal safety is in the intense emotions people are so ready and willing to bring in to what could otherwise be a simple conversation. With a little social intelligence, it becomes easy to pick out the people who are going to take things to that level, and this gives you the justification to avoid certain topics around that particular person.
3. Be selective in your choices of where and with whom to spend your time
If you are spending time with criminals you are likely to either end up doing what they do, or at best end up in situations where you are less safe than you could be otherwise. Add to this the way people think of a relaxing evening at home as “boring”, and instead opt to go to a bar and consume quantities of alcohol that the human body is not designed to ingest, and then wonder why they wake up the next morning in a jail cell with horseshoe shaped bruises all over their face, and you can start to see the issue. You have choices regarding where you spend your time and who you spend that time with, be selective!
4. Remember that you really lose nothing from backing down from a fight
The reasons that people usually give for not backing out of a fight typically fall under the category of not losing face. This is deeply set in our minds and as such it is very difficult to overcome the thought pattern. We fail to see that the loss of face is a change in the way that we think other people perceive us. And usually this idea we come up with of what they will think of us is wrong. Often, a guy will not back down from a fight because he thinks that a particular woman will think less of him, and more often the opposite is true – the woman will think less of him for being an out-of-control idiot than she ever would have thought of him for backing out of a fight. This goes back to these conversations we have in our heads about what other people are thinking.
5. Understand the difference between a different opinion and an enemy
And last I would like to point out the disturbing trend of viewing people who hold a different opinion on a given topic as if they were your enemy. Politicians and the news media exploit this human weakness, and it really puzzles me that people do not see through the game more often.
Put simply; a difference of opinion is nothing more than a difference of opinion. There is no need at that moment to classify the individual in question as the enemy. Whatever the subject may be; religion, politics, martial arts, whatever. Thinking that someone who disagrees with you is your enemy is to make an unwarranted jump.
The news media has taught a lot of this behavior with their constant labeling of groups as racist/bigot/sexist/whatever. But the truly disturbing part is the way people so commonly make that unwarranted jump to the conclusion that the media promotes, and so label their friends as racist/bigot/sexist/whatever.
Understand that the only mind you can make up is your own. Adults are supposed to be able to take it when others do not agree with them.
And that concludes my list. Remember, Social Intelligence IS Self Defense.