A Nice Guy, or a Good Guy?

man-male-happy-face-guy-portrait-198949My friend was talking about a man who had stalked, restrained and physically attacked a woman we knew when she said, “But he’s basically a good guy.”  Shocked, I clarified:  “No, he’s a nice guy.  Definitely not a good guy.”

A nice guy, or a good guy?

We both knew this person.  He had been a guest in both of our homes.  He was attractive, charming, likable and a great conversationalist, making him very pleasant company.  However, beneath the surface, his niceness paled in comparison to his aggression, threatening behavior and willingness to put others at risk.

Yes, we all have bad days. We all have triggers that can cause us to behave unlike our better selves.  But someone who deliberately intimidates, terrorizes or attacks another person?  That’s not a good person.

There’s a big difference between being a nice person and a good person, and this is an important distinction.  Sometimes, social pressures dictate that we soften our message by adding a disclaimer such as “but he’s a good guy,” “he tries hard,” or simply “bless his heart.” (Hat tip to all the Southern ladies…)  When you hear these disclaimers leave your tongue, consider the reason behind your need to soften your words.

  • Are you afraid of offending the person to whom you’re speaking about the individual or event? If so, why?
  • Are you concerned that your harsh words might be repeated, or get back to the person of whom you’re speaking? Is this a social concern, or a concern for your own safety and wellbeing?
  • Is softening your words a type of “trial balloon” to gauge the other person’s reaction to your thoughts? Remember, you have a right to think what you think and feel what you feel.  No one else in the world has your exact experience and knowledge base, and these things constitute the seat of intuition, your greatest advocate!

Gavin de Becker wrote in his excellent book, The Gift of Fear: “Intuition is always learning, and though it may occasionally send a signal that turns out to be less than urgent, everything it communicates to you is meaningful.  Unlike worry, it will not waste your time.”  De Becker nails it…intuition always has your best interest at heart, so to speak, if you’ll only listen.

Perspective will give you the information you need to stay safe:

  1. How do you know the person?
  2. How well do you know the person?
  3. How long have you known the person?
  4. In what situation did you meet/interact with the person?
  5. And the bottom line:  why do you feel the way you do?

Author Bob Samples wrote, “Albert Einstein once spoke of intuition as a sacred gift and likened rationality to a faithful servant. Our basic purpose was to shift the tendency to worship the servant and ignore the sacred.”

Trust your intuition, don’t rationalize actual danger signals, and take action to keep yourself out of harm’s way.

Stay safe!

Believe Them the First Time – 6 Questions to Help You “Hear” Your Inner Voice

When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.When someone shows you who he is, believe him the first time. Don’t wait for him to show you again.  If we’d all actually believe our eyes and ears and listen to our gut feelings, we’d avoid a lot of pain and heartache.  From business relationships to dating, and from online communications to in-person meetings, you can believe what people tell you…if you know how to listen.

I met someone recently I liked and felt comfortable with almost instantly.  This is rare for me, and was almost a “red flag” in and of itself.  However, when I considered what I knew about this person, that added context increased my comfort level, as did his willingness to answer questions directly and share relevant historical, professional and personal information.  We discussed appropriate topics, he respected my personal space, and allowed me to set the pace of our meeting.

What’s the context?  How long have you known this person? How did you meet?  Do you have shared business associates or friends, or did you simply meet by chance or through a shared activity or common location?

What does the person want?  If he is asking for too much, too soon, that should serve as a warning.  Is a new coworker asking you to cover for him?  Is a first date expecting to spend the night with you? If he’s asking for more than you’re willing to give, say no and be prepared for further rebuttals.  Whether he’s asking for money, a ride, to hold your baby, to enter your home, or any favor you’re uncomfortable granting, trust your intuition and stand up for yourself.

Does he have something to hide?  Perhaps he avoids certain topics or diverts your attention any time you get too close to a particular subject.  Watch for someone who embellishes too much, can’t keep his story straight, or is unwilling to share information that’s generally considered “normal.”  Be sure to consider context here as well.

Does he insinuate himself into your life?  Whether it’s a coworker casually joining a conversation or meeting where he doesn’t belong or an acquaintance showing up at your home or work “by coincidence,” trust your gut feeling.  Don’t let social pressures (I don’t want to be rude) cause you to put yourself in danger or at a disadvantage.  Don’t let someone into your home that you wouldn’t have invited anyway, especially if it’s an unexpected visit.

Does a stranger or acquaintance use “forced teaming” as a manipulation?  Say you and another person are walking from a store to the parking lot and it’s starting to rain.  He turns to you and says, “We’d better get those groceries loaded fast!” and moves to help you put your things into your vehicle.  Remember, you don’t know this person and you didn’t ask for his help.  If your gut tells you “NO,” then firmly decline and be vigilant until he leaves.

Are you seeing a distinct change in behavior?  If an acquaintance, a familiar stranger or even a friend suddenly displays erratic behavior, ask yourself why.  What’s causing the sudden change, and how does it affect you?  Perhaps you’re in the car with a coworker who begins driving recklessly because he’s angry.  It’s important that you speak up and don’t rationalize his behavior, risking an accident.  Or maybe a dependable friend begins “flaking out” on lunch dates or other activities, and drops off your radar.  Take the time to check on him…he may have concerns you don’t realize, need assistance, or simply want a listening ear.  Again, trust your intuition and don’t put yourself in danger by taking it for granted that the situation is safe.


  • Pay attention and be alert.
  • Trust your instincts.
  • Don’t make excuses or rationalize.
  • Consider everything you know, put it in context, and act accordingly.

If you enjoyed this post, please follow me to receive notification of new blogs as they’re published.  Questions? Drop me a line at redrivertkd@gmail.com.

Image: Quotefancy.com


6 Reasons Parking Garages Are Scary

img_7976More people have asked me about parking garage safety than any other topic.  For several reasons, these structures especially strike fear into the hearts of women.  Parking garages are actually a convenience, as well as a land-conservation device, intended to protect users and their cars from the elements and avoid having to walk across acres of open parking lots.

So why are parking garages scary?  Primarily because of our imaginations and what we’ve seen on TV and at the movies.  Here are the top reasons given to me over the past 15 years:

They’re dark.  True, most parking structures aren’t lit up like the midway of a state fair, but that isn’t inherently dangerous.  Combat the darkness and give yourself a landmark by parking under or near a light, and carry a small flashlight in your pocket, purse, or on a keychain in case of power failure.

You can’t see people coming.  I interpret this to mean both people on foot and in vehicles.  Due to the nature of parking garage design, there are blind curves, lots of vehicles, intermittent activity and traffic, and people not paying attention.

If you’re concerned about vehicular traffic, try parking on a higher level or in a less popular location and using the elevator or stairwell.  If your concern is that people might hide with the intent of doing you harm or stealing your car or belongings, that’s a more complex issue.  Try to stop thinking like yourself, and instead consider the best way to injure, abduct or steal from someone in a public place.

First, you’ll want privacy, which means low traffic and/or isolation (you’re the bad guy now, remember?).  Next, you’ll want to be able to make a quick getaway, so you’ll want to avoid security guards and keep your target from drawing attention. You’re also more likely to be successful in your heinous deed if you intimidate or even injure your target.  However, petty theft has a much lesser penalty than armed robbery or aggravated assault…two different types of criminals.  The basic solution is multi-part:

  • Keep your vehicle locked until you are ready to exit it
  • Be aware of your surroundings, and choose your timing (don’t get out when you’re all alone, or someone shady is hanging around)
  • Keep your dominant hand free, preferably with pepper spray or your keys in it
  • Be alert, make eye contact with others, and show that you are aware and unintimidated
  • Walk with a group if possible to avoid isolating yourself
  • Lock your vehicle, and check it out before re-entering (tires okay, nothing under the car, backseat empty, everything looks fine)
  • Don’t park next to vans with sliding doors

I have to walk out by myself.  If there is a security guard, ask him or her to walk with you. If you can’t avoid walking to and from a parking garage by yourself, be prepared.  Let someone know where you are: “I’ve just walked out of my office and I’m heading to my car now.”  Don’t stay on the phone while you walk to your car; it’s an unnecessary distraction.  When you get to your car, check it out, get in, lock your doors, and call your friend back.  “I’m in my car, heading home. Thanks!”  I once forgot to call my check-in partner after going running, and I caught hell for it.  That’s the kind of accountability partner you want…one who will call YOU after just a little too much time has passed.

I’m isolated when I’m in the stairwell or elevator.  This can be hard to avoid.  If you can’t walk with a group (and personally, I’d rather be alone than with one or more strange men in an elevator), then remember that if you’re truly alone, there’s no real danger.  Staying alert and situationally aware will go a long way toward your safety.  Further, I suggest swinging wide around all corners to avoid startling someone or giving an opportunist a close-quarters advantage.  If there’s no traffic, why not walk right down the center of the aisle, giving yourself plenty of room to see between cars?  Be present and vigilant, taking in your surroundings, and use your ears to help warn you of approaching people or vehicles.

I can’t find my car.  Parking garages are generally fairly large and uniform in appearance, even if there is a numbering system for the floors and rows or sections.  To a disoriented or stressed traveler returning from a multi-day trip, a parking garage may seem like a nightmare labyrinth.  Pay attention when you park, and take a photo of the closest sign indicating where you’ve parked (Level 3, Row 22A) or park somewhere that’s easy to remember (“everyone wants to B 21”).

I’m confused and distracted.  With cars coming and going, pedestrians, blind corners, and sometimes competition for parking spots, a parking garage can be a stressful place.  Once you’ve entered your code or taken your ticket at the garage entrance, be sure to roll up your car window for your safety and the security of your vehicle. Remember, you have as much right to be there as the other patrons, so don’t let social pressures push you into a bad situation.

Parking garages don’t have to be scary, if you stay mindful and plan for your safety.  Do you have a concern about parking garages that I didn’t address?  Drop me a line!

Contact the author directly at redrivertkd@gmail.com.


10 Reasons Your Mom Should Take a Self Defense Class

Common sense for self defense

Self defense really is for everyone. You don’t have to be in shape, have martial arts training or any special skills…just a desire to stay safe!

Self defense is simply the right combination of situational awareness, safe choices and behaviors, and physical/mental readiness that enables you to avoid, evade, escape or survive an attack.  Note that I don’t say “a person” when I write…because I’m talking about you, your mom, your daughter, your friend, your neighbor…not just “someone.”

Why should YOU take a self defense class?  Here are my top 10 reasons:

  1. You are unique. You’re the only you in the world, and there will never be another.  You have value and worth, and it’s not okay if someone tries to harm you.
  2. Growth. “A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.” Step outside your comfort zone and try something new.
  3. Muscle memory. Just like you’re able to ride a bike, type without looking at the keyboard, throw a ball, or any number of things you’ve trained your body to do…delivering a solid strike or performing a release move you’ve learned and practiced will come right back to you.
  4. Basic training. When you’re suddenly faced with a potential attacker and experience the “adrenaline dump,” you’ll revert to your lowest level of training. It’s up to you what that training might be.
  5. Good times! Self defense classes are fun. No, really…they are!  The instructor(s) work hard to provide you with useful information and tools you can use, in a comfortable and safe setting.
  6. A safe place to learn. Self defense doesn’t equate to sparring, grappling, or any of those other things you’re afraid of. Don’t worry that you’re going to wind up pinned beneath some sweaty, hulking stranger, boxing with a pro who has a chip on his shoulder, or trying to identify and recall obscure pressure points when you sign up for a self defense class at your YMCA or dojang.
  7. Empowerment! Learning new skills, pushing your boundaries and meeting new people is a great confidence builder.
  8. You might get to hit things or break stuff. A fun, memorable confidence builder for some people is actually hitting or kicking target pads…or breaking pine boards or “rebreakable” plastic boards (“green,” plus they provide a consistent break every time)!  The instructors will teach you how to do this safely and successfully.
  9. Safer behaviors. Changing just one or two unsafe habits could avert an attack, a break-in, or worse.
  10. Better odds. Statistics indicate that one in three women in the U.S. will be assaulted during her lifetime.  If you had one-in-three odds of winning the lottery, wouldn’t you play?  This is a lottery you don’t want to win.

I encourage my students (and their moms) to take every self defense class they can.  Every single instructor has something to offer you, regardless of your skill level, personal fitness, and past experience.  Don’t put it off…invest in your safety today and enroll in a self defense class, whether it’s a one-time seminar, a hands-on class, or an ongoing academy.  You owe it to yourself and to those who care about you.

Interested in a self defense class or have questions?  Contact the author directly at redrivertkd@gmail.com.

Can a Book Save Your Life?

The Gift of Fear - self-defense“This book can save your life.”  Although that’s what the cover of my favorite book asserts, I disagree.  Neither this book nor any other book can prevent you from being assaulted, attacked or killed.  What it CAN do – and the reason it is my unequivocal favorite self-defense book – is cause you to think differently, make more informed choices, increase your situational awareness, and ultimately reduce your chance of being in a life-threatening situation.

The Gift of Fear, by Gavin De Becker, is a must-read for women of all ages, as well as anyone who is interested in increasing his or her safety and awareness.  De Becker’s unique claim that “fear is a gift” is proven true repeatedly throughout the book.

Why should YOU read The Gift of Fear?  Here are my top 10 reasons:

  1. It’s full of great information, and it’s an easy read.
  2. It’s affordable and readily available in hardback, paperback, audiobook and e-book.
  3. Full of real-life accounts from De Becker’s clients, The Gift of Fear is very real. Some stories may shock you.  Some stories may hit close to home, while others may exist outside the realm of possibility in your life and work.
  4. It’s exceedingly well-organized. Concerned about domestic violence?  Chapter 10. Receiving threats? Chapter 7. Obsessions, death threats, stalking, child abuse, workplace violence and terrorism…it’s all in there, organized topically.
  5. Chapter 1, “In the Presence of Danger,” tells a compelling story of how one of De Becker’s clients survived being attacked and held captive.
  6. Parents can use this book as a discussion/teaching tool for kids, helping them develop their own threat assessment and personal protection skills.
  7. It’s not full of scare tactics. De Becker backs up his examples and assertions with extensive research and years of experience, and he provides the reader with context and alternatives.
  8. You’ll look at things differently. From assessing your online presence to determining who is a friend vs. a “familiar stranger” and evaluating the risk associated with a potential choice, you’ll congratulate yourself on applying your new knowledge in a practical way.
  9. Start simply. I ask my students to read Chapters 1, 2, and 4 and let me know what they think.  I’ve never had negative feedback from a single reader, and in every case, they gave examples of something they read that hadn’t occurred to them previously.
  10. I’ve been teaching Taekwon-Do and self-defense since 2002, and I’ve read a lot of “self-defense” books. The Gift of Fear is far and away the single best self-defense book I’ve ever read…and it doesn’t teach you how to deliver a kick or block a punch.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re out of shape, uncoordinated, or have no intention of taking a self-defense class.  This book can make a difference in your personal safety and awareness, and that can save your life.

Contact the author directly at redrivertkd@gmail.com.


Don’t Go In There!

Self defense begins with making safe choices for yourself and those for whom you are responsible.  Sometimes habit or emotion gets in the way, but staying aware and alert can go a long way toward keeping you safe.

My good friend recently arrived home to find her front door standing open a bit. She knew she had closed and locked the door when she left for work, but there it was…open. She is a smart person with life experience and has taken at least one self defense class, but habit and emotion kicked in, and with a fit of righteous indignance, she walked in and began searching the house.

Fortunately, the intruders had left, taking some of her belongings with them.  What if they hadn’t?  Was she prepared to defend herself against a startled and possibly armed person who was breaking the law, escalating a burglary into a robbery or even an assault or rape?  By isolating herself inside the house, she potentially gave an intruder all the opportunity needed to commit further crimes against her, and took away her own escape route (get in the car and/or leave) and sources of assistance (neighbors).

Our homes are indeed our castles, and contain the majority of our possessions…but it’s still just “stuff,” and not worth losing your life.  By entering her home instead of calling the police, my friend unthinkingly exposed herself to serious risk.

Of course she felt angry; her home had been violated.  Of course she was incredulous; she had locked the door, but it was standing open.  Of course she felt safe; it was her home, where she has lived for over a decade.  It’s hard to process that a formerly safe place or situation can suddenly become anything but safe.  Being open to new information (my door is open, so someone could be inside), listening to your gut feeling and intuition, and finally, acting on that information will do more toward keeping you safe than anything else you could do.

No matter how good your intentions, if you zone out at the wrong moment or are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, you could be the target of an assault or other crime.  Be prepared mentally and physically to fight back, escape and call for help.  You may be a target, but you don’t have to be a victim.

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Listen to Yourself!

“Would you just listen to yourself?”  Although this sounds like something your best friend might say when you’re being unreasonable, or even an admonishment from a frustrated parent, it is the best safety advice I can give.  If you will allow yourself to listen to – and hear – your own true voice, and act on what it tells you, you can avoid many dangerous situations.

We’ve all had “gut feelings” before.  It’s very easy to explain your gut feeling about something or someone after something happens, but often very difficult to explain it beforehand. You may feel uneasy being alone with a coworker, or get a “weird vibe” from a guy at the gas pump across from yours.  You might even walk into a store, get a panicky feeling, and simply leave.

We are the only living creatures on this planet who rationalize away fears, worries or instincts. We do this because of social pressures, fear of embarrassment, or the inability to articulate or explain what we are feeling.  A cat or dog can go from being startled and defensive to being calm and affectionate within a few seconds.  They are unconcerned about what their peers think, or whether they should be embarrassed for overreacting to a false threat. Don’t let your internal monologue (“this can’t be happening to me” or “I’m sure he didn’t mean that” or “this will turn out okay”) keep you from acting on your intuition – your gut instinct.

As Gavin de Becker writes in his outstanding book The Gift of Fear, “When it comes to survival signals, our minds have already done their best work by the time we try to figure things out.” De Becker also writes, “…when it comes to danger, intuition is always right in at least two important ways: 1) It is always in response to something. 2) It always has your best interest at heart.”

Listen to yourself.  Trust your instincts and act on them! Stay safe…and while you’re at it, make an investment in your safety and read The Gift of Fear.  It’s available in hardback, paperback, digital and audio versions.