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When your intuition alarm bells start to go off, listen.

When your intuition alarm bells start to go off, listen.

A woman who recently read Sharp Women, sent me these two stories of times she listened to her intuition signals. With her permission, I share them with you as a reminder that you never need to apologize for making your safety a priority. If nothing happens because you heeded your basic survival instinct, you win.

Story 1: I used to travel every month to NYC for work. One night several of us women were walking back to the hotel after a nice dinner. Suddenly the streets were strangely quiet. For no other reason than intuition, I flagged down the next cab and we all jumped in and rode the last few blocks back. NYC streets are never that quiet, it was just weird.

Story 2: Several years ago myself and a bunch of ladies went up north to a remote area for a scrapbooking retreat. Friday night we met at the bar/restaurant across the street from the resort for dinner and a drink. It turned into many drinks for everyone but me. I realized someone needed to drive us all back.  We went to another place that had karaoke as all were in a good mood and having fun and wanted to sing. At one point I noticed two guys paying a lot of attention to one of the women in our group. She was drunk. I sat close to where they were and kept an eye on them. When the bar was closing and I was gathering all my drunk ladies to get them home, this gal wanted to stay with the guy she’d been dancing with. I explained that she needed to go with us, the guys were pretty firm that they’d bring her back to the resort, but something didn’t feel right, and though I had just met her that night (friend of a friend), I was stone sober, and was not backing down on her going home with us. She wasn’t too happy with me, but was too drunk to argue, so I gathered her up  and drove them all home.  The next morning her phone didn’t work and upon inspection we found that it didn’t have a battery in it.  She said she had dropped it the night before, and she wasn’t sure if she picked it up or one of the guys did. I called the bar and spoke to the manager and he had closed up the night before and said there was no cell battery anywhere at the bar.   It absolutely sent a chill up my spine to think of what might have happened to her. Still give me the creeps even now 15 years later. The only thing I probably should have done is filed a police report in case anyone at the bar knew who those guys were, so maybe they wouldn’t do it to anyone else, but that didn’t occur to me then. I was just so freaked out by what could have been if I hadn’t been sober and really watching out for the other ladies in our group. You truly can never be too careful.

The more we talk about the way our intuition sends us warning signals and what pre-threat behaviors look like in the real world for women, the more we can educate each other and build our self-confidence in making our personal safety a priority.

If you have a story you want to share, you can send it via the website. Stay Sharp!

Don’t Wait For Something To Happen

Don’t Wait For Something To Happen

Learning how to be more situationally aware is not about learning a new life skill, it’s about using life skills you already possess, from the perspective of personal safety.

“Having awareness means using your senses and intuition to notice something is off in your environment. Then, understanding what that means to you and your safety. Lastly, taking action to preserve your safety.”

-Kelly Sayre

Last week, there was a bank robbery and hostage situation in Central MN. It started in the middle of a weekday afternoon. There are not a lot of details being shared yet, but two points I felt compelled to write about for this week’s blog.

First, the suspect displayed erratic behavior in the bank lobby before the situation escalated.

During presentations, I stress the importance of noticing anomalies in your environment. A person displaying behaviors that do not match the baseline. Behaviors you would not normally expect to see in the environment. Anomalies can also be objects you would not normally expect to see in an area, but for the purposes of this post, I’m going to focus on behaviors.

Think about what type of behaviors you would normally expect to see while visiting your bank. People are generally quiet, almost in a library-type way. Due to the private nature of personal finances and the importance of security, bank employees and patrons tend to speak in hushed tones. The amount of distance for personal space is also increased, even pre-pandemic. No one wants someone looking over their shoulder at personal identification information or bank account numbers.

Behaviors that would be considered anomalies would be the opposite of what I described above. Someone being loud, getting too close to other patrons of the bank, pacing around instead of patiently waiting to meet with a bank employee.

No matter what type of environment you’re in, if someone’s behavior is an anomaly from the baseline, pay attention. If any of your intuition alarms start going off, leave the area immediately. There is absolutely no reason to stick around to see IF something bad is going to happen. None.

Stay calm and get to safety (leave the environment). Even if you read the behaviors wrong, you’re still safe. If you stay in the environment because you aren’t quite sure the person’s behaviors are threatening, it can get worse real fast. There’s nothing cool or fancy about getting to safety. Hollywood doesn’t make money off showing people avoiding dangerous situations. But real life isn’t Hollywood.

“You don’t have to be right, but I’d hate for you to be wrong.”

-Tammy McCracken

Second, when there is an active situation where lives are in danger, do not GO TO the scene to spectate.

In today’s world, real-time information and updates are shared immediately and broadcast all over the world via the internet. As someone who spends a good chunk of time studying violence and pre-threat indicators, I understand the curiosity when a situation is happening. I talk about the importance of being curious about your environment in order to stay present and notice anomalies. But that’s when you’re already in the environment. Being curious does not mean you should stop what you’re doing, get closer to the scene, and take a seat on the grass. (Yes, there literally were gawkers at the bank situation).

As I mentioned above, when a situation is happening in real-time, it can get much worse real fast. Law enforcement should not have to worry about keeping “spectators” safe. Victims of a situation don’t want to feel like people are watching events unfold, while eating popcorn and drinking a soda, when they’re having one of the worst days of their life. And, the suspect or suspects, may actually feel motivated to cause more damage to increase the perception that they are a “badass”.

Situational awareness is being present, staying curious about your environment, and taking action to get to safety the moment your intuition tells you it’s time to leave.

You already have the life skills needed to keep yourself and loved ones safe. Don’t fight your intuition because you want front row seats to the action. You may end up being a victim to that action.

“This life’s hard, but it’s harder if you’re stupid.”

-George V. Higgins

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

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

What If They’ve Had It All Wrong?

What If They’ve Had It All Wrong?

Last week I had the opportunity to close out an inspirational day at the first annual S.O.A.R. (Seize Opportunity And Rise) conference for women. Every speaker shared their story of overcoming adversity, facing fear head-on, and striving to live life following their passions. When it was my turn to get on stage, I felt like my message about challenging the status quo on women’s self-defense was going to seem out of place…

…and that’s exactly why I couldn’t wait to share my story.

I had three key points I wanted them to walk away with; how carrying themselves with confidence, communicating effectively and using mental preparedness, plays a crucial role in their safety. Those three points are synonymous with the message of most leadership development seminars. We talk about these topics when it comes to career success all the time. What women haven’t been told is that these are the same skills they can use to stay safe.

Carrying Yourself With Confidence

How you walk into a room or around a conference expo floor can have a great impact on the impression you give potential clients or future business partners.

Communicate Effectively

To be an effective leader or team member, you need to be able to communicate with clarity. Whether it’s advocating for a promotion or why your solution to a challenge is the way to go, you have to be able to clearly explain why you think your solution is the best choice.

Mental Preparedness

When you discover a problem at work, you mentally visualize how the different solutions will play out. Being able to utilize this skill can help you avoid options that aren’t the most viable.

You’ve probably experienced these exact scenarios or something very similar over and over again and at every level of your career.

Look At Those Skills Differently

Let’s change out some of the words to make them apply to self-defense.

Confidence On The  Street

How you walk down the street or around a store can have a great impact on the impression you give an attacker looking for their next victim.

Communicate Boundaries

To create and maintain healthy boundaries with others, you need to be able to communicate your boundaries with clarity. Whether it’s letting a stranger know they are making you uncomfortable or telling someone you know their behavior is unacceptable. You have to know what your personal boundaries are and clearly explain they need to respect those boundaries, or you will leave.

Visualize Victory

When you read a story about a woman being attacked, you shudder and wonder what you would do if you were ever in a similar situation. Hopefully, you literally put yourself in that situation and visualize what you would say and do. Or you picture yourself fighting back against the attacker with everything you’ve got.

What’s Different

Notice that none of these scenarios involved a specific martial art or weapon.

Does having experience in the martial arts or handling of weapons help you in a physical confrontation with an attacker?

Absolutely.

Do you need to start with learning those skills in order to keep yourself safe?

Nope.

Start A New Conversation

In my opinion, the conversation on women’s self-defense has started with the wrong topics. When most people hear “self-defense”, they think of physically fighting. How to kick, how to hit, and how to do a mean karate chop. Being able to physically defend yourself is a critical life-skill, but what about learning to spot a potentially dangerous situation BEFORE it happens? Isn’t that just as important-if not more important to learn?

“Success isn’t about the end result, it’s about what you learn along the way.”

-Very Wang