ARTICLE | BLOCKING THE VERBAL ASSAULT | by Orjan Pettersen
‘Hey, what are you looking at?!’
A crucial element in social violence or predatory violence is where the assailant is actually not only looking to seek status or gains by ‘winning’ a monkey dance or by getting your possessions, but is actually intending to hurt you or cause damage to you as part of the process.
When this happens, they are often looking for ‘excuses’ to do this. Something to justify their own actions in their twisted minds. Something you said. Or didn’t say. Something you did. Or didn’t do.
These ‘excuses’ are used by the criminal as something to psychologically enable their own actions or even as a part of the ‘story’ they can tell about the violence to make it interesting or justified.
Common mistake: Do not approach this conflict situation as a value or ethics problem. That is, you try to state logic, to rationalise or reason your way out of it by ‘converting’ the predator to your point of view. This is not a work meeting, debate class or a board room discussion. You’re already on different ethical platforms. Don’t try to find a common one. It’s too difficult and the cost of failure too big.
Don’t argue. Be short. Act reasonable. Be relaxed. Don’t deny or attack anything.
Let’s play some tips out in conversation:
‘Hey, what are you looking at?!’
(Do not say: ‘Nothing’. Next will be: ‘BS. You looked at me!’ Are you calling me a liar?! I’ll beat the sh*t out of you!’ The aggression and excuse is now set up).
Say: ‘Very sorry. Didn’t realise I was staring. Just a bit tired. Are you ok?’
(No anger, no fear, no disagreement, no defensiveness. Even a bit concern for the other guy).
‘F*ck off. Don’t stare because you’re just tired!).
(The bad guy persists. He’s still singled you out as the punch bag for tonight).
‘Yeah, you’re right. No reason to. But it can happen to the best of us. What do you think?’
(Dragging a conversation out, especially with questions serves a dual purpose. Firstly, male adrenaline peaks dissipate quickly so talking, dragging out time, is to your advantage. Secondly, questions stimulates different thought processes than just anger, forcing the brain to engage somewhere else).
‘Not to me. What’s wrong with you? Want a fight?’
(Not giving up, this guy. It’s still you in the cross-hairs).
‘You sound angry. What’s wrong?’
(Keep him talking and thinking. Time is your friend, if you can’t leave the situation).
‘I don’t like the look of you, ugly bitch!’
(Persistent attacks on you are designed to trigger the response to be used as the justification for violence. Don’t fall for it. You’re still in control - as long as your monkey brain is taken care of and silenced).
‘Hmmm. Doesn’t sound right. I’m not important enough to make you angry. Maybe it’s something else? Tell me about it?’
(The conversation flows. No aggression. No excuses to act given. Time is still on your side).
‘Just don’t like your ugly face...’
(Look after your monkey brain. Don’t react’).
‘I can see you want me to get angry. Not an angry person, really. Why do want me angry?’
(Play the time, engage the brain. Make the think).
And so on.
These tactics do not work with the predator already in assault mode, for example in a sexual assault situation or other serious bodily harm or murder scenarios.
They only work where there is an audience present, which is part of the purpose for the ‘game’ played out. There’s no need to build up a justification where there’s no audience to validate it.
Remember, your intellect, acting abilities and emotional controls are key parts of your self defence repertoire.
Use them wisely. Where you can. And as your first layer.