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

Facing the New, New Normal

Facing the New, New Normal

In the first month of self-isolation during the Covid-19 pandemic, I heard myself say, “I can’t wait to go back to normal!”. In the second month, I realized I had no idea what “normal” even was anymore. As I start the third month, with businesses gradually opening up, it’s been so long since I’ve lived my “normal” daily routine, I’m anxious about facing the change again.

Perhaps you’ve heard that it takes an average of 21 days to form a new habit. That idea comes from a book, “Psycho-Cybernetics” published in 1960 by Dr. Maxwell Maltz. In 2009, a new study showed it actually takes an average of 66 days for a new behavior to become automatic.

It got me thinking-if I start from March 13th (which is the day it started for us), and count the days until today, I get the magic number 58. In our state (MN), the Governor has issued a stay-at-home order until May 18th. If everything opened on May 18th, the number of days we’ve been in self-isolation is 61. So, if you consider the study I mentioned above, we will be just 5 days shy of the 66 days it takes for new behaviors to become automatic.

My next thought was, “Great-I’ve finally gotten to a certain level of comfort with my self-isolation routine and now I’m going to go through the discomfort of figuring out my new normal post-pandemic!”

Ugh.

What will the new normal after Covid-19 look like and how will it affect your personal safety? You will have to establish new baselines in the establishments you patronize, you will need to adjust your readings of body language, and you will need to establish new boundaries for yourself and your loved ones.

Let’s talk about the first item, establishing new baselines. A baseline is what you would normally expect to observe in your environment. For example, the baseline of a coffee shop may be the smell of fresh brewed coffee, a low-level of sound as people are working quietly, and looking around, you would see tables of people reading, working on their laptops, or talking in small groups. What is the new baseline going to look like post-pandemic? For coffee shops, probably not a whole lot of difference. The tables may be more spread out with less available seating. If there are groups of two or more people, some of those people might be wearing masks. Be curious about whatever environment you’re in to establish the new baseline, so you can easily spot the anomaly or something that doesn’t fit.

The second item, adjusting your readings of body language. It makes me think of a funny meme I saw the other day:

 

Before Covid-19, it was very unusual to see people covering their faces with masks, unless they were concealing their identity while committing a crime. Now, a lot of people are wearing masks as well as the criminals. Being able to read body language, is more important than ever. What are they doing with their hands? Does the individual keep touching their pocket or reaching their arm around to their lower back? Those are signs that the individual could be concealing something. Maybe they just stole an item and they want to make sure it hasn’t fallen out of the hiding spot, or maybe they have a weapon and they keep touching it to make sure it’s easily accessible. If you weren’t a people-watcher before Covid-19, consider this your opportunity to start a new hobby.

Lastly, what will your new physical and emotional boundaries be and how will you enforce them? If you are a hugger like me, I need to consider that it may not be as socially acceptable. Even handshakes may be something that will only be allowed after vigorous use of hand-sanitizer. If your personal bubble was 2’ before Covid-19, it has probably increased to 6’. If there’s someone else bagging fresh avocados in the produce area and you have the ingredients for guacamole on your shopping list, you’ll probably wait patiently for the other person to be finished before picking and bagging your avocados. Decide what you are comfortable with BEFORE you go back out after all the stores re-open. Run through mental scenarios on how you will enforce those boundaries and what you will do if a boundary is crossed.

Setting your emotional boundaries will be crucial to your mental health as you re-enter your community. When I first went into self-isolation back in March, I crashed hard emotionally in week 2. I was overwhelmed with having my two kids home with me, I was sad to watch my business stall, and the confusion of information changing daily was unsettling. I continued to try and spread positivity, but my emotional tank was empty, and I was hurting myself trying to give something I didn’t have. As businesses and individuals adjust to re-opening protocols, give yourself plenty of space to decide what you’re comfortable with. If you’re not sure about going back to eating inside restaurants or attending a gathering of more than 10 people, don’t let others force you or make you feel bad about your decisions. Do what is best for you and decide how you will respond to invites. On the flip side, refrain from passing judgement or shaming those who are the first through the door of their favorite restaurant.

As you look forward and contemplate your new normal, take the time to listen to your intuition, and make decisions based on what’s best for you and your loved ones. You got this.

 “We don’t grow when things are easy. We grow when we face challenges.”

-Unknown

 

What is Situational Awareness Anyway?

What is Situational Awareness Anyway?

Growing up, I thought it was so cool when people could “read” people and know what they were thinking or what they were going to do, before they did it. I believed it was all Hollywood special effects or a skill only super-secret CIA spies had. I didn’t know it was a skill all women are born with.

Have you heard,

“You need to be more aware of your surroundings!”

Which made you look at the person and say,

“Aware of what?”

“What am I looking for?”

“If I DO see something, what should I do?”

“And then what?”

“And then what?!?”

Throughout my life, I’ve had to take responsibility for my personal safety without consciously thinking about it. When I get asked what started my fascination with situational awareness, (basically asking if I’ve had something  tragic happen to me), there isn’t one specific event. I’ve had lots of little situations where I knew something wasn’t right. Situations I’ve looked at differently because I’m a woman.

From an early age, girls are told all the things NOT to do, in order to avoid being a victim to the scary boogeyman, who will jump out of the bushes and hurt you. Stranger danger! But here’s what’s wrong with that message…

We tend to have this preconceived notion that an attacker will be a stranger and will dress a certain way. Ted Bundy was considered charming and attractive. He didn’t LOOK like a cold-hearted killer.

What I’ve realized is being situationally aware is simply looking at life skills you already have, in a different way.

Women have unbelievable intuition skills. We notice when a loved one is “off”. We feel the vibe or energy of a place. We have amazing instincts that help us take care of others. We’re traditionally raised to be kind, gentle, caring, and nurturing. We know EXACTLY what our kids need, even before they can talk.

We joke that the term “momma bear” is a sweet way of saying we would rip someone’s head off if they harmed our children or someone we cared about. Why is it so hard to use those skills to keep ourselves safe?

Because there are very few instructors out there who look like us, who have looked at life the same way as us, helping us see those skills in that way.

A great example I use is running outside. If I want to go for a run, I need to think about the time of day and if it’s a public or private route. I tell someone the route I plan to take, I think about what safety tools to carry, and I how I’m going to carry them. If I’m attacked, I need to consider how fast help can arrive. We can do everything to stay safe and still have some creeper try and mess with us.

My husband on the other hand, only has to decide if he wants to go for a run.

Have you taken a self-defense class? Was it with a male instructor? I’m not saying anything against male instructors! I’ve talked to lots of men in the self-defense industry who truly want to help women. But when they teach self-defense, they don’t have the life experiences women have and it can come across like man-splaining. They don’t realize the nuances we think about that have never crossed their mind.

Women are attacked every day. Not only by the boogeyman jumping out of the bushes, but by those we love and trust.

If we bring the conversation out in to the open, it brings light to things that really happen and the way they happen. We need to talk about the behaviors of PEOPLE in general, not just strangers.  It doesn’t matter if it’s the stranger at the park or the creepy uncle, the red-flag behaviors are the same.

Have you read about a woman being attacked and mentally walked through what you would do if you were in the same situation? This isn’t victim blaming and saying, “she should have done this” or “she should have done that”. This is asking yourself, if that situation happened to me, what would I do?

Try practicing right now. What would you do if someone snuck up behind you and put you in a choke hold?

It’s uncomfortable to think about. Your heart might start beating faster, your palms might get sweaty, and you might hold your breath. I want you to do it anyway. Visualize kicking his shins, stomping on the top of his feet, elbowing his sides, biting his arm, scratching his face, poking his eyes, and anything else you could do to fight back.

Wouldn’t you rather go through all of that visualization in a safe environment, than freeze up in an actual attack?

Your body can’t go where your mind hasn’t. In a situation, every second counts. If you’ve mentally gone through a scenario, you will be able to respond quicker if it actually happens.

We all have fears. We feel it when we become first-time moms, in our careers, or in running our own businesses.

What if we changed the perspective on fear? If fear gets you to take action to improve your life, it’s a good thing. If fear of not being able to defend yourself gets to you be more aware of your surroundings, that’s a good thing. If fear of someone breaking into your home gets you to add motion lights to the exterior of your home, that’s a good thing.

I don’t want you to ever stop living the life you want to live, or go the places you want to go, because you don’t have confidence in your personal safety skills.

Learn how to keep yourself and your loved ones safer. Take a self-defense class, figure out what self-defense tool you feel comfortable carrying and actually carry it. If you don’t want to take an in-person class, find something online.  If you have a question, you can email me any time.

Take the first step.

The Diamond Arrow Group exists to help women gain the confidence to move forward and live life on their own terms. I want all women to live their life, exactly the way they want to.

“Fear is your ally. She’s the caring messenger and supportive friend-and she’s always got your back.”

Marie Forleo