“How do you win a confrontation?” It’s the classic question. The answer: “Don’t be there in the first place.” Indeed, the best way to win the confrontation is to avoid it entirely. That gun on your hip or in your purse isn’t the best tool to win any confrontation. The best tool is your own situational awareness.
Untrained people usually show poor situational awareness (SA). What’s worse, today we have all manner of electronic devices contributing to task fixation, further rendering us less attentive to our surroundings.
Gas stations, for instance, present all manner of attention-grabbing input to customers. Credit or debit? Rewards member? Car wash? Additive? Enter your zip code please. Select grade. Is it any wonder gas stations are one of the three locations the average person is most likely to become victimized?
To illustrate this, play a little game when you’re out and about. You can do it next time you’re at the mall, Walmart or any other public place. It’s the “Who would I victimize today?” game. Watch people around you and pretend you’re a criminal attacker. Pick out the most ideal candidates to victimize. Then ask yourself, “What physical attributes or characteristics are they exhibiting that make them an easy mark?”
At this point, do some introspection to see if you share any of these ideal victim traits. Ditto for any loved ones. If you – or they – exhibit these victim characteristics, it’s time for a heart-to-heart intervention in order to avoid membership in the “Future Crime Victims of America” club.
The four primary levels of Situational Awareness
Condition White is a state of obliviousness. It used to be the college coed jogging with her ear phones on after dark in a desolate area. Today, they call ear phones “earbuds.” We can see the smart phone task fixation plague everywhere we go, especially among younger people.
Condition Yellow means you’re aware. You know where you are, who’s around you and where the exits are. Your eyes are open for potential threats – including, but not limited to things and people who fall outside the baseline of normalcy for your environment.
Remember that “baseline of normalcy” concept. Burn it into your mind. It varies depending on your environment, but anyone or anything way outside that baseline bears further serious scrutiny. The quiet, angry-looking person in a crowd of otherwise happy, cheering people is a potential problem. As is a shouting lunatic in a public library. The same goes for the guy in a trench coat with a heavy backpack at the mall on a hot summer day.
Condition Orange: you’ve seen something that doesn’t look right or your spider senses warn you something is wrong. You scan for more information and maybe add distance or obstacles (or exit altogether). You’re formulating a plan in case things go sideways.
Trust your intuition here. Your subconscious processes information much faster than your conscious mind does. If it senses a threat to your well-being, it alerts you with that feeling of danger. Two things to remember about your intuition before you even consider dismissing that feeling:
1. Your intuition always has your best interests at heart.
2. It is seldom wrong.
If it doesn’t feel right, it’s not right. Leave the area or take other action.
Finally, Condition Red is when things have gone sideways. You are (re-)acting: fight, flight or submit.
We should try to live in Condition Yellow, even to some degree at home. If you practice awareness regularly, after a few weeks, it becomes second nature.
Bad guy behaviors
One big bad-guy behavior anyone can spot, even from a long way away: loitering or moving without a sense of purpose. That might as well be a big sandwich board hanging from their shoulders that reads “predator”.
Then there’s the OODA Loop and its role.
People, both good and bad, process information in an OODA loop. We observe something, orient ourselves to what’s happening, decide on a course of action, and then act.
If you break out of a bad guy’s OODA loop in victim selection anywhere along the continuum before he acts, you’ve won that confrontation. He looks for the next target. You walk away unmolested.
Example: Did you exhibit good situational awareness and carry yourself with confidence so the bad guy looked right past you to the person wearing earbuds updating their social media status on their phone? You won.
Advanced situational awareness comes in handy in recognizing behaviors of bad guys who have moved past observe and orient in the loop and on to the Decide stage. They’ve identified you, decided on a plan to attack you and are moving to close the distance to “Act”.
Bad guys “leak” tell-tale signals and behaviors unconsciously as they go about their business. They can’t help it for the most part.
Here are some bad guy behaviors that should serve as huge waving red flags: they will follow you, bracket (or flank) you, and they may communicate with fellow bad guys, either verbally or non-verbally. Sudden appearance and concealed hands stand as two more tell-tale indicators of potential trouble. If these potential aggressors are dialed into you, it’s time to take action.
The primary aggressor(s) will close on you in a classic straight-line approach. Once at conversational distance, the suspect(s) may engage you verbally in an “interview” of sorts to test your submissiveness. They may also use a ruse to continue moving further into your personal space.
If they get to within six to nine feet of you, they can strike with a blade or club before you can react. They can tie up your ability to draw your sidearm if you’re foolish enough to attempt it without creating distance. If it’s a really bad day, the bad guy(s) may tie up your draw while poking you with their blade.
Respond to that “interview” with steadfast determination, a steel nerve and an assertive voice. Put on your big boy (or girl) panties and tell them to “GET BACK!”. Got a light? NO. GET BACK! Got the time? NO. GET BACK! Can you…I CAN’T HELP YOU! GET BACK!
While you’re telling them to “GET BACK”, watch their hands. Make sure they’re visible and empty.
If they’ve gotten in close, there are a host of behaviors almost universally exhibited immediately prior to an actual attack. Things like grooming, rehearsing, target glancing, loading, blading and so forth. Why is this important? If you see some of these behaviors, it’s time to strike pre-emptively.
Serious fighters have an old expression they always deliver with a smile: no plan survives getting punched in the face.
Seriously, the first person to strike an effective blow in any confrontation puts themselves at a huge advantage to “win” the conflict. If you see signs of a physical attack, you don’t have to wait until Mongo the Massive pulls a blade. Make the transition from passive to aggressive and strike first as appropriate.
In short, the best way to avoid being victimized is to carry yourself with an air of confidence, with your head on a swivel while maintaining good situational awareness. Use common sense about what you do, who you do it with and where you do it. If you look like a hard target, bad guys will bypass you in favor of a softer, more inviting target. Should they manage to get close to you, take action to confront them, maintain your space and defend yourself.
In any event, stay aware of your surroundings and you’ll stay much safer out there – and win confrontations by avoiding them without even realizing it.