Who Do You Trust?

Who Do You Trust?

A couple of months ago, a friend asked me if I trust everyone from the start, or if I trust no one until they’ve earned it. My gut response was I trust everyone. I believe most people are inherently good and if you start the relationship on a positive note, it gives the opportunity to create a better foundation.

Her response was she trusted no one until they proved they were trustworthy. It was an interesting conversation starter, but we were both tired from training that day and simply left the conversation with those two viewpoints.

Now, weeks later, I find myself wondering if I truly trust everyone when I first interact with them. I strive to remain curious in my daily life, and that includes questioning if what I believe is something I truly believe, or if it’s been programmed in my head from some social construct.

Do I really trust every new person I meet? What exactly does it mean to trust someone? Are there varying degrees of trust?

After pondering these questions and testing them against my initial response to her, I found that it’s not so much that I trust other people, it’s that I trust my intuition in evaluating others.

Humans, especially women, have unbelievable intuition skills. Women have been traditionally raised to be the caretakers. To be good caretakers, we need to be empathetic. To have empathy for another person, you need to be able to really hear and see and feel what they’re saying. It’s not always what a person is saying, it’s how they are saying it. Reading the other person’s non-verbals are just as important as actively listening to what they are saying. I once heard a speaker describe it as “the audio matching the video”.

Does the person say they’re happy and content with a sad face and droopy shoulders?  If that’s the case, I don’t believe what they’re saying. It takes a lot more effort to fake body language than to fake the words coming out of their mouth.

From a personal safety perspective, it is vital for women to be able to read a potential attacker’s true intentions. The quote by Margaret Atwood, “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them” comes to mind. To me, that statement seems extreme. Have I really walked around my whole life, wondering if every man that crosses my path might kill me?

Yes, I’ve interacted with male strangers that made me leery of their presence. Something about their body language told me they had the potential to cause me harm and I needed to pay extra attention to them and their proximity to me. But most of the time, they were strangers in a public setting. In that instance, I did not give them the benefit of trust. In fact, it was more in line with my friend’s response of “I trust no one”. So, did that mean I don’t actually trust everyone from the start?

That’s where I decided to dig deeper.

I don’t walk around in paranoia, fearful that every stranger wants to kill me. I don’t walk around paranoid period.

I’m alert and aware of the energy of a place and the people in it. I establish a baseline of what I would normally expect to see, hear, smell in the situation, and then I pay attention to anything or anyone that doesn’t fit that expectation.

I watch for anomalies.

If no one appears to be outside the baselines I’ve established, then I trust that they have no ill intent planned and mean me no harm. That falls in line with trusting strangers.

If I see someone behaving outside my baselines, my trust that their intentions are good, decreases. My intuition tells me I need to pay attention to them to gather further information. Even though my trust in them decreases, they could still have good intentions and mean me no harm. I do trust my intuition telling me to watch them and their actions. There’s still a level of trust there. I trust that their body language is projecting their true intentions. I trust that they do mean to cause harm or disruption of some sort. In essence, I do trust them, it’s just not in the harmless sense.

Learning to listen to your intuition and understand what it’s trying to tell you is essential in building your self-confidence. To move forward and live life the way you want, you need to trust yourself first and foremost. It starts with building trust in your intuition. As with most things in life, you have to start with what you have control over-you. By trusting that your intuition has your best interest in mind and the signals of intuition are always in response to something, whether you consciously or sub-consciously recognize the signals, you will build self-confidence in your ability to make smart decisions to keep yourself safe.

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”

-Rumi

Unchartered Waters

Unchartered Waters

This Thanksgiving week looks different.

I toggle between being grateful for the things in my life that haven’t changed in the pandemic (home, family, friends) and frustrated by the things that 2020 has destroyed.

Yes, destroyed is a strong word, and that is exactly what I mean. I don’t need to list my frustrations because we’re all in a place we didn’t expect to be at the beginning of this year. It’s not necessary to compare ourselves to others in order to say, “I’ve had it worse” or “I guess I don’t have it as bad as the other person”. My pile of poo may be different than your pile of poo, but we both have a pile of poo to deal with.

I’ll refrain from pretending this is article is motivational, all shiny and happy, and simply share what I’m focusing on right now. The three words I live by are: Bold, Curious, Kind. Throughout 2020, how I applied those words changed. Considering we are under constant change right now, it’s good to be fluid.

Bold.

An author I follow posted a status over the weekend that smacked me upside the head. To paraphrase her post, 2020 has been a year of “wait, what?” so why not make some ridiculous goals and crazy plans? WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO LOSE?

Absolutely nothing.

I could hunker down and play it safe with my goals for next year, or I could be bold and put out to the universe that I’m not going to play small. What big, hairy, audacious goal (or goals) can you set?

Curious.

As humans, we can be selfish. “It’s all about me! My life sucks! I have it so hard!” I’m not here to tell you you’re wrong. Your perspective is your truth, and back to my earlier comment, we all have our own pile of poo.

I could either stare at my pile of poo and complain about its size and smell, or I could stop having tunnel vision and be curious about what’s in my peripheral view. What areas of your life could you focus your curiosity on instead of having tunnel vision on your pile of poo? What’s something you’ve always wanted to explore, but never focused on before?

Kind.

So. Much. Hurt.

I’m hurting. I see others hurting. I see people hurting each other. There’s a lot of people walking around without noses because they’ve cut it off to spite their face. Figuratively speaking of course.

It’s dumb.

The biggest lesson 2020 has taught me is I can only control myself. I know, I know- that mantra has been around for a long time, but 2020 FORCED me to feel it in my bones. You can rah, rah, rah at me all day long like a motivational speaker from stage, but when you’re done talking, my response is “that’s cool, but I’m gonna go back to trying to control everything because that neural pathway is firmly established”.

I could continue on my path of insanity (you know, doing the same thing and expecting a different result), or I could start being kind to myself. Focusing on myself may seem hypocritical of my early comment mentioning how humans are selfish, but it’s not.

In the past, I’ve only thought of kindness as it relates to the way I treat others. Through my work with #500rising training and surrounding myself with amazing humans at Violence Dynamics, who I’ve let myself be raw and vulnerable with (like legit ugly cry in public-not my usual M.O.), I’ve realized the person who needs the most kindness right now is me. What can you do to be kind to yourself today?

The upcoming weeks and even months look differently for DAG. I’m having to let go of a lot of things and with that comes some grief. It feels like loss. I wish I could tell you what it will look like on the other side, or even when I will get to the other side, but I can’t. That would be my old neural pathways of trying to control everything and I’m currently destroying those old habits. (maybe I CAN learn new tricks! 😉)

I don’t know what the future holds for me or DAG, but what I know is I’m going to be Bold, Curious, and Kind.

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

-Mary Oliver

Shifting Perspectives

Shifting Perspectives

I love to read. This habit has helped me gain tons of knowledge on how to hone my situational awareness skills. One thing I realized, are the skills that help keep me safe, are the same skills I use in business.

How are they the same? Consider these specific skills for a moment. In business, being able to communicate my thoughts effectively, read body language to understand non-verbals, and being able to adapt and respond to changing dynamics of a situation, are the keys to success.

If I can show you how to use skills you already have, in a way that improves your personal safety, it greatly shortens your learning curve. You can make small changes in your daily habits that will have great impact immediately. I want to help you see these skills from a different perspective, so you have the confidence to live life on your terms.

Not only are the skills universal, the warning behaviors that signal something is wrong, are universal in personal and professional relationships.

Consider this sequence of events:

  • Evaluating you as their target
  • Testing your boundaries
  • Learning your vulnerabilities
  • Gaining your trust
  • Slowing manipulating the relationship to gain control
  • Gaslighting your concerns to disguise their intent
  • Denying your evidence of wrongdoing to avoid personal responsibility

Which leaves the following options:

  • They end the relationship suddenly to avoid persecution

And/or

  • You are forced to walk away with nothing to escape the toxic relationship

From your perspective, what am I describing?

  • An intimate personal relationship?
  • A friendship?
  • A business partnership?
  • A co-worker relationship?

The reality is, I could be describing the patterns of toxic behaviors in any of those relationships.

Society is set up to recognize abuse in silos. Being abused greatly impacts our mental and physical health, and healing can take months, even years. Depending on the relationship of the people involved, the warning signs they are taught to look for come from that silo’s tunnel vision. In my opinion, advocates get so specialized in their silo, they can’t help survivors learn to recognize similar behavior patterns in other areas of their life.

When someone is a survivor of domestic abuse, in hindsight, they may see the early behavior warning signs from that relationship.  Advocates and therapists will help them do the work to make sure they don’t find themselves in another abusive relationship. But if they are only looking through the lens of an intimate relationship, they may not recognize abusive behaviors in a professional work environment.

Who will teach them to recognize early signs of dominant behavior in the workplace? If their knowledge of warning signs only pertains to intimate partners, they may miss the warning signs of dominant behavior in a new boss. The submissive responses they created as a coping mechanism to survive, may start happening subconsciously with how they respond to the boss.

What do I mean?

One aspect of the Violence Dynamics training that had a great impact on me is the focus on building principal-based, physical self-defense skills. The instructors preach that if you focus solely on learning technical skills, when you are facing a real and potentially violent threat, technical skills may go out the window and do you no good.

Real predators, intent on causing you harm, are not reading from a Hollywood script.

(Predator is found lurking in the dark shadows of the alley, waiting for the victim to appear, while ominous music plays)

Predator: Hey Victim, I’m going to throw a right hook, followed by a shoulder grab, pulling your chest to my upward thrusting knee. Got it?

Victim: Okay. I’m going to dodge your right hook by leaning back slightly and to the left, which also puts my shoulders out of your reach, while I send a left jab to your kidney.

AND ACTION!

Real violence is scrappy. There are no rules and predators fight dirty. If you think having perfect technical skills are the end all, be all to your self-defense training, I recommend reading “Facing Violence” by Rory Miller.

What does my segue story have to do with how patterns of toxic behavior are siloed? If society is only teaching the technical skills of recognizing toxic behavior through a silo’d lens, based on the relationship between the individuals involved, we are failing. Dominating behavior is dominating behavior. Gaslighting is the same coming from a partner or a boss.

There needs to be a change on how we educate society on recognizing warning behaviors in other human beings. We need to stop creating silos of knowledge based on the relationship label we attach to the individuals involved.

It’s much easier to dismiss what your intuition is telling you because the person exhibiting the warning signs and toxic behaviors is your co-worker, not your friend/partner. Just because it’s your boss that demeans you and constantly says your work is shit, doesn’t mean it’s not abusive behaviors.

Whether your intuition alarm bells go off from your significant other, your new business partner, or that creepy co-worker, focus on their behaviors, not who that person is to you.

“I can’t control your behaviors; nor do I want that burden…but I will not apologize for refusing to be disrespected, to be lied to, or to be mistreated. I have standards; step up or step out.

-Steve  Maraboli

 

Victim Selection

Victim Selection

Most of us go about our daily lives NOT thinking about being attacked. Sometimes it’s simply because we don’t have the mental capacity to think beyond the task in front of us. Other times, it’s because we have a false sense of security. The mentality of “it won’t happen to me” or “I live in a safe part of town” or “no one would target me for sex trafficking because I’m older”.

Here’s the thing- no one wakes up thinking, “I’m going to be a victim today”.

The definition of “victim” is: a person harmed, injured, or killed as a result of a crime, accident, or other event or action.

We’ve all practiced fire drills since we were kids. Most of society knows what to do if they smell gas in a building. There are checklists and guidebooks on how to survive natural disasters. Those survival skills are taught early on and normalized so it’s not fear mongering.

In our society, tragedy sells. Headlines are created to attract clicks and downloads. To talk about an attack after it happens, and then arm-chair quarterback all the things the victim should have done differently, only serves to discount the traumatic event experienced by the victim. It also helps us separate ourselves from the fact that it could happen to us.

What we need to do is study why the attacker chose the victim and the methods used to gain access to the victim, to commit a crime.

How victims are chosen:

  1. Being distracted

First, there is no such thing as 24/7 perfect situational awareness. Have you ever driven from point A to point B, and upon reaching your destination, realized you don’t remember parts of the drive? We’ve all done it! If you’re going to continue reading this article, let go of perfection. It’s about getting better every day, not becoming an awareness master overnight.

When you’re going from one place to the next, whether that’s walking or driving, refrain from using electronic devices that will distract you. I’m not saying you should NEVER send a text or answer a call when you’re walking down the street- because well, life happens. What I’m saying is work on waiting to use your phone until you’re safe to do so. In reality, there are very few people whose response time means the difference between life and death for another person.

  1. Perception of weakness, weaker than the attacker

An attacker chooses their victim. It’s the 7-second rule of first impressions, but with a criminal undertone. We have all heard about the importance of making a good first impression in meeting new friends, potential future in-laws, and in the business world. The same can be said about making a first impression on a potential attacker.

How you walk down the street, how you walk in to the room, and how you carry yourself as you go about your normal life, sends a message to any predator looking for their next victim. Projecting strength isn’t only a physical attribute. Have you ever heard someone described as, “she’s so sweet and 100 lbs. soaking wet, but I wouldn’t want to be on her bad side!” Projecting strength is also a mindset.

  1. Overtly nice, submissive

Depending on the crime the predator plans to commit, they may test your boundaries not only physically (seeing how close they can get to you before you say something-COVID19 and social distancing is a great tool to deploy in that scenario), but verbally.

“Hey pretty lady, what are we doing tonight?” (I just met you, there is no “we”.)

“You’re right, the likes of you would never talk to someone like me.” (after you’ve told them you’re not interested in further conversation)

“I see you’re a fan of that author too, I bet we have a lot in common!” (when you are simply trying to enjoy a quiet moment reading)

I get it ladies, we have been raised to be kind, to be nice, not to judge others, and all the other caring traits reinforced since childhood. What has helped me deal with this, is to separate their actions from them as a person. I heard the term, “manipulating kindness” in this Crimes Against Women podcast episode and it helped me recognize the tactic and handle it accordingly. It’s not rude to want to be left alone.

How NOT to appear like a target:

  1. Head up, scanning your surroundings in a relaxed, curious way

In my classes, I let everyone know they may find themselves feeling hyper-aware, almost to the point of paranoia, immediately after class. Going back to what I mentioned earlier, there is no such thing as perfect situational awareness. If you are so worried you’re going to miss noticing an anomaly, the true messenger of intuition telling you something is off, won’t be able to get through the noise in your head.

Stay alert by being curious about your environment. Practice your observational skills by picking one descriptive thing about each person in the room. Listen to your environment and pick out five distinct sounds. Does the environment have a particular smell? Is it what you would expect to smell (roasted coffee in a coffee shop, grease and oil at the mechanics garage)? The bonus to implementing these habits is you will be more present and mindful throughout your day.

  1. Stay off devices

Our electronic devices have robbed us of our creativity. Do you remember long car trips that didn’t involve screen time? You had to read a book, write in a journal, or stare out the window at the scenery. When was the last time you were bored, and let yourself be bored?  I’m guilty of going on Pinterest as a distraction when I’m bored. It’s a tough habit to break!

Create perimeters around your device usage. When you’re walking from your car to a store/your home/work, commit to keeping your device in your purse or pocket. When you arrive at your destination early, spend time making observations of your surroundings. Where are all the exits? Where are the restrooms?  The next time you are using a ride-share service or public transportation, sit quietly and mentally go through “what if” scenarios.

  1. Create a mental plan bank of ideas

What would you do if someone knocked on your door at home, when you weren’t expecting anyone? What would you do if you were shopping with your kids and someone was following you? What will you say if that co-worker casually video calls you to gossip, when you’ve got so much work to do? How will you respond if that friend of a friend continues to show up at your door unannounced because, “they were in the neighborhood”?

Unfortunately, women are attacked every day. Most of the time it’s by someone they know, from acquaintances to someone very close to them. Having a mental plan bank of what you would do in different scenarios BEFORE you find yourself in those situations, will help you stay safe. You do not want the first time you’re deciding on your boundaries, to be the moment someone is trying to cross those boundaries.

Just like practicing fire drills and learning about disaster preparedness, learning how to use all your senses and intuition to avoid a potentially dangerous situation, does not increase the likelihood of something happening to you.

You already have all the life skills needed to be situationally aware, I guarantee it. What I teach through The Diamond Arrow Group is how to look at those skills in a new way, to keep yourself and loved ones safer. It’s about perspective and mindset. Commit to having the mindset that your life matters. Your safety is your priority, and you deserve to live life on your own terms.

Own your space in this world.  Live life with abundance and joy. Be bold, be curious, and be kind. You got this.

“What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

-Mary Oliver

Words Matter: 5 Tips on Setting and Enforcing Boundaries.

Words Matter: 5 Tips on Setting and Enforcing Boundaries.

Have you ever said something with one intention, only to have the listener get a different perception of the message you were trying to relay?

The definition of “perception” is: a way or regarding, understanding, or interpreting something; a mental impression.

Words matter. The words you choose to communicate your feelings, what you want or don’t want, especially when it comes to setting and enforcing your boundaries, are so important. Being clear and using words that don’t soften what you’re actually trying to say, are foundational to your personal safety.

  1. Set your boundaries

Do you know your own physical and emotional boundaries? We all have boundaries, but if we haven’t consciously decided where they are, we won’t be able to effectively communicate them to others.

How much space do you need between yourself and the person you are talking to, to feel comfortable? There will be a different comfort level for a person you have a good relationship with (friend or family member) and a complete stranger. Those are your physical boundaries.

Your emotional or mental boundaries are different and can be more difficult to set. Women tend to have a desire to be liked and to show kindness to others. There is nothing wrong with this, AND it’s important to maintain balance between other’s needs and our mental health.

  1. Enforcing your boundaries

Now that you’ve taken the time to decide where your physical and emotional boundaries lie, practice enforcing them. If a casual acquaintance is standing too close to you, how will you let them know? It doesn’t have to sound aggressive; I personally use humor to communicate my boundaries.

“I know my perfume smells good, but I don’t want you to burn your nose hairs!”

I say this while physically lifting my arms to create distance between myself and the other person.

Enforcing your mental boundaries can be more of a challenge. It’s probably why more people in today’s society prefer to text a change of plans instead of calling on the phone. If you were looking forward to a nice, relaxing evening at home and someone invites you to dinner or an event, it’s perfectly alright to say, “not tonight, thanks!”. It seems easy, but what if that person is persistent, “come on! I haven’t seen you in so long!” or “it’s going to be so much fun, I don’t want you to miss out!”. They are using a subtle guilt-trip to get you to change your mind. Context matters, this person may truly want to spend time with you, but it doesn’t mean you have to oblige them.

Knowing yourself and being cognizant of your energy levels will help you enforce your mental boundary. Don’t let FOMO (fear of missing out) push you past your boundaries.

  1. Being firm and polite

If another person discounts your “no” or “no thanks”, that says more about them and their respect (or lack of) for you. If the person is using guilt to try and push past your boundaries, call them on it.

“Why are you trying to make me feel guilty? Normally I would like to go to dinner, but I don’t feel like it tonight.”

The response you get from them after that statement will tell you a lot about their intent. Someone who truly respects you and values the relationship they have with you, will understand. They may even apologize for making you feel guilty.

If the person keeps pushing the issue and trying to get you to back down on your boundary, it’s a sign you need to re-evaluate the relationship.

  1. It’s not me, it’s you

In my opinion, this is where most women glitch. What do I mean by “glitch”? A glitch is an internal fork in our decision-making process. Traditionally women are raised to be kind, to be nurturers, to put the needs of others before our own. This can be a blessing and a curse. Women are excellent at taking care of those they love, but we glitch when it’s an acquaintance or stranger. In our heads, we question if we will be seen as rude or selfish if we put our needs first.

If the other person respects you, they will respect your boundaries. If they don’t respect you, letting them guilt you into doing whatever they want you to do, tells them their behavior is acceptable to you.

  1. Check your behaviors too

You want others to respect your boundaries. How are you at respecting their boundaries? It’s the golden rule of “do unto others as you would have done to you”. When someone tells you, “no thanks”, how do you respond?  Remember, our words and actions show others how we expect to be treated.

Knowing your physical and mental boundaries BEFORE you find yourself in a situation where you need to enforce your boundaries, is key. If you haven’t set those boundaries and you glitch at the decision-making fork in the mental map, you are more likely to default to doing something you don’t really want to do.

Your physical and mental health are important. In order to function throughout your day effectively and in a positive way, you need to take care of yourself.

I want you to have the confidence to live life on your own terms, by having clear and firm boundaries. You are worth it.

“When we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we feel used and mistreated.”

-Brene Brown