Tag Archives: awareness

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? Continue reading

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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.

Continue reading

listen-to-yourself

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.

sparring-is-not-fighting

Sparring is Not Fighting

Amateur and professional sports events such as Mixed Martial Arts, boxing and professional wrestling, as well as Taekwon-Do, Jiu-Jitsu, Karate and other martial arts classes, have led the general public to view these sporting matches as “fights.”  These talented professional and amateur athletes also contribute to the misnomer, hyping the events with rivalries, wagers and taunts.  However, there are several important differences between these sporting events or tournaments and actual fights.

Athletes have weeks or months to train for the event.  They know the day, time, and location it will be held.  Athletes know who their opponent will be, and have agreed to meet that opponent in a fair match on equal footing. They know what the stakes are – a title, a belt, a medal, a coveted match with a specific contender, or even a hefty payday. Athletes know which weapons, if any, will be allowed in their competition. They wear required protective gear such as gloves, mouthpieces, and groin protection, and can rest assured that a referee will be watching for illegal techniques and assessing penalties for infractions. Athletes know that the event will last only a specified amount of time, and that in the event of a serious injury, their coach or the medical staff can stop the match. Athletes know that the event will be held in a well-lighted area, the rules won’t change mid-event, and that no bystanders will join in to gang up on them.

A fight may occur in any place, at any time, and for a myriad of reasons. There may be multiple opponents, with makeshift weapons or even knives or guns. The attacker(s) may be angry over a perceived slight, impaired by drugs or alcohol, or simply thrill seekers out to prove their dominance or increase their standing with their peer group. There In many cases, only one person knows that the fight is about to happen.  There is often no one to intervene, offer assistance or call police until the fight is long over. Fights are not fair. Sand is thrown, hair is pulled, eyes are gouged.  Any possible advantage is taken and exploited.

Avoid a fight if you possibly can. If you can’t, protect yourself (and your loved ones) as best you can, and escape as soon as you can.  Don’t waste time thinking,”This can’t be happening,” or rationalizing your attacker’s reasoning.  The altercation could be over by the time you make sense out of the situation.  Trust your instincts and take action, whether that means running, taking cover, arming yourself, assuming a defensive stance (hands up, body turned sideways to be a smaller target), or striking out at your assailant.

If there are bystanders, ask for their help: “You in the red shirt! Call 9-1-1!”  Clearly and loudly communicate your desire to avoid a fight by saying, “I don’t want any trouble,” or even, “Don’t hit me!”  Your words may figure heavily in a lawsuit or police report if bystanders are asked what they remember.

If you can’t avoid an attack, be sure to go get checked out afterward.  You might have a concussion or internal bleeding if you’ve fallen or been struck.  Worse, what feels like a hard punch or kick could wind up being a stab wound. Don’t take chances…and be sure to file a police report as soon as possible.

Stay safe!

online-safety-identity

Is It Really You?

Fortune tellers do it.  Identity thieves do it. Phishers do it. Salespeople even do it, to a certain extent.  Taking a little bit of existing information and making an educated guess, trying to establish rapport and “fill in the gaps” is a common practice.

We give away information about ourselves all the time, and unscrupulous individuals can find a way to take advantage.  Knowing who you’re dealing with is absolutely essential in today’s online world!

I recently received an instant message from a longtime friend, and it just didn’t feel right.  She had never IM’ed me before, although we frequently exchange phone calls, text messages and even snail mail.  We exchanged greetings, then I asked, “How is your new puppy doing?”

When her response read, “Great,” I knew immediately that I was not talking with my friend.  I was expecting something more along the lines of, “Have you lost your mind?  I don’t have any pets, let alone a puppy!”

The person on IM kept chatting, and I played along, staying engaged until I found out what he/she wanted (bank info) before “outing” them, whereupon the message window closed and the account itself disappeared.  I called my friend immediately to let her know about the hacker so she could take the appropriate steps.

There are many ways to hide behind a computer screen, and many scammers trying to take advantage of those who are uninformed, unaware or overly trusting.  Take a moment to review your privacy settings on your social media accounts. Make sure you actually know who is seeing your posts and photos, and keep your private information private.

Stay safe!

Stop Giving Away Information!

It is impossible not to give away information about yourself.  The way you talk, the clothes you  wear, the vehicle you drive, and even the conversations you have in public tell others who you are.

Think of all the things you can surmise about a 20-something woman who gets out of a Prius with a college parking sticker on it, wearing an OU Sooners sweatshirt, worn-out jeans and a silver necklace.  She’s carrying a Coach purse, talking on an iPhone and has manicured nails.

Someone who wants to earn the trust (however brief) of a potential victim may need only to distract her a moment for a theft or assault…or might attempt to forge an “acquaintance relationship” by complimenting the target or enlisting her help.

Possible opening questions:

  • Your nails are gorgeous! Where do you have them done? (Where’s that? Are they gel? Is it expensive?)
  • I love your bag! My mom gave me one just like it, but zipper on the inside pocket broke immediately and I had to exchange it.  Is yours okay?
  • Hey, I think that guy just dinged your car door! You’d better go check.  I’ll get his license plate.
  • Is that an iPhone 6? I have a 5, but I’m thinking of upgrading. Do you think it’s worth it?
  • Can you tell me where Murray Hall is? I’m supposed to give a speech there but they didn’t give me directions and I’m late.
  • I’ll bet you get amazing gas mileage, don’t you? I’m thinking of trading…is it worth it?
  • I think you dropped $20 (either pointing to where it was allegedly dropped, or holding out a bill) when you got out of your car.
  • And the easiest one of all: Do you know what time it is?  (You look away, at your watch or phone, giving a stranger a moment of opportunity.)

Remember, context is everything.  How long have you known the person in question?  How did you meet?  How well do you really know him or her?  Consider these things when you let someone in your personal space, your car, or open your door to them.  When you engage in a conversation with someone, remember that it is a two-way street.  If you feel like you’re giving a lot of answers but not learning anything yourself, it may be time to cut that conversation short.

It’s become a cliché that we “open up” to certain people and share things we generally wouldn’t:  hair stylists, bartenders, seatmates on airplanes, and as a general rule, “people we’re never going to see again.”  Why do we do that?  Perhaps we’ve built rapport (or they have), we’re attracted to the person, our inhibitions are lowered due to alcohol, or they’re a “friend of a friend.”

Watch your words.  Keep your private information private, and don’t give away important information like your travel destination, hotel name or room number, children’s names, where you bank, your pets’ names, or where you went to school.  It is your personal information, and your choice whether or not to share it with a stranger.  Why should they care what your kids’ names are, or what grade they’re in?  (Honestly, I don’t even give my own name when asked in a restaurant.  The hostess or cashier doesn’t care, it amuses me, and I don’t have my name announced publicly for all to hear.)

Be careful when you encounter someone new with whom you have something in common.  Just because you both share a passion for the same type of music, you’re reading the same obscure book, or you’re on a flight to the same place doesn’t mean they’re not still just a “familiar stranger.”

Listen to your intuition, and remember your context.  Until next time…stay safe!

The Difference: Target or Victim?

Although you may be the target of an attacker, a stalker, a mugger or a rapist, you do not have to be a victim!  In many cases of self defense, those who escape a violent assault exhibit two traits:  a) they are cautious and aware of their environment, and b) they are mentally and physically prepared to put up resistance.

What makes a potential target desirable for an attacker?  Unless the attacker is a predator stalking a specific target, he (or she — although for the sake of convenience, I’ll use the male pronoun) likely will seek an opportunity with a high likelihood of success. He may be seeking a person who is unaware of his or her surroundings, seems meek, hesitant, lost, distracted, shy, impaired in some way, gullible or overly trusting.  A person who acts or reacts predictably may also be a desirable target for an attacker.

Success, for an attacker, could be anything from intimidating you into giving up your purse or wallet to isolating you so he can beat, torture, rape or kill.  While you may not know the type of level of threat you are facing, it is important that you realize the potential for your situation to escalate dramatically.  Attacks and abductions happen in seconds, not minutes.

We are taught from a young age to be polite and courteous, and these are important social skills.  However, these very habits can put you — women and children especially — in a compromised position if you aren’t vigilant.  Fear of embarrassment, hesitating to draw attention to yourself or ask for help, and denial, thinking, “This isn’t happening to me,” can put you in a very dangerous situation.

Be aware, stay alert, listen to your intuition and act on it.  If you find yourself the target of one or more potential assailants, act quickly!  Use your wits, your voice, and then your physical skills.