Category Archives: Uncategorized

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!

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


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


Pepper Spray:  a Very Hot Topic!

During my self defense seminars, someone invariably asks for my recommendations regarding Mace/pepper spray.  My unequivocal recommendation is this:  pepper spray is great, if you HAVE it and CAN USE it when you NEED it.

If you’re going to buy pepper spray and let it roll around in the bottom of your purse for 6 years, don’t bother.  If you get a keychain canister, but don’t carry it because it’s big and inconvenient, forget it.  If you go for a run but have your pepper spray zipped up in a pocket or otherwise stashed out of reach…you get the point.

Some common objections:

 “I don’t know what kind to get.”  True, you have a lot of options.  There are large canisters, which are more often used by law enforcement, or to deter animal attacks.  Keychain canisters are much smaller and more convenient for carrying on a regular basis.  Some have breakaway clips so that, for example, if your key is in your car’s ignition, you can quickly and easily disengage the pepper spray without turning off your vehicle.  Pepper spray is available with a belt clip as well.  There are pepper spray containers that look exactly like a tube of lipstick, if you’re self-conscious about carrying it or need a very compact size.  Some canisters offer a retractable cord so you can attach a clip or button to a purse or pocket and easily find and deploy the pepper spray if needed.  Consider how you’ll be carrying it and how you want to deploy it in a self defense situation.  Do you want something with a “safety” on it?  A button on top you can easily depress?  A switch you can slide forward?  The bottom line:  Get something that YOU are comfortable carrying and using.

“I don’t want people to think I’m paranoid.”  I get that.  A potential rapist or abductor doesn’t want you to think about fighting back, either.  Pepper spray and other personal defense items exist for your personal defense.  Carry them when appropriate (not in the airport, please), when you’re prepared to use them (test-fire, anyone?), and don’t let social pressures sway you.  Better safe than sorry!

 “I don’t know how to use it.”  Well…pepper spray is very affordable, and available at almost any sporting good store.  Buy one or more items to test fire.  OUTDOORS, PEOPLE.   It is important that you know whether it sprays, streams or shoots a gel…and what the range is.  If you already own pepper spray but haven’t test-fired it, do yourself a favor and clean the nozzle before doing so.  If the nozzle is blocked, you’ll get to “enjoy” the blowback when you test-fire it.

Like any item with propellant (hairspray, sunscreen, WD-40), it has a shelf life and an expiration date.  The pepper spray you bought 10 years ago?  Please replace it…you wouldn’t trust a can of corn that was a decade old, so don’t trust out-of-date pepper spray either.  It’s a small investment that can pay off big time.

My longtime friend Janis Tanksley is president of Defense Angel LLC.  I recommend their products;  they offer four kinds of personal defense sprays.  Check them out here!

What are YOU willing to die for?

I ask every student, whether in a private lesson, a Taekwon-Do class or a large self defense seminar:  “Make a list of all of the things you are willing to die for.”  Five seconds later, I ask if they need more time to make their list.  No one ever does.  In all of the years I’ve asked this question, I have received only three different responses:

  • Family, loved ones, friends (sometimes including beloved family pets)
  • God, Jesus, my faith, my beliefs, my church
  • Patriotism and love of country

The next obvious question:  Why would you risk injury or death to keep someone from taking your purse, your wallet, or even your car?  Why would you put yourself at risk to avoid offending a stranger, to keep from appearing rude, or to gain the approval of someone who clearly does not have your best interest in mind?

If someone tries to take your purse or wallet, use your best judgment.  Don’t risk your life to save your “stuff.”  Is your assailant armed? Are there multiple assailants?  Is help available?  If you’re going to give up the item, toss it away from you and quickly go the other direction.  If the assailant grabs the item and leaves, call the police.  If he advances on you instead, you will know instantly that you have an entirely different problem.

If you’re alone in an elevator and someone gets in who makes you feel uncomfortable, get out!  Trust your instincts and take action!  You may briefly delay their progress, or appear rude…but your “radar” is going off for a reason, and you likely will never see the person again.   When someone comes to your door, you are under no obligation to open it.  Don’t give an opportunist the chance he seeks.

In every situation you face, remember:  take care of yourself, for no one else can.  Use your wits, your voice, and your physical skills to avoid/deescalate a conflict, escape a possible assailant, or fight for your life.

Stay safe!