Tag Archives: common sense

What’s Worth Fighting For?

whats-worth-fighting-for

What’s worth fighting for? Each person’s answer may be different, but that decision should be made before a confrontation ever occurs.

Know yourself and what you’re willing to fight for.  This can’t be a game-time decision…it must involve some soul-searching and personal inventory well before you’re faced with an attacker, an intruder, a mugger or any potentially life-threatening situation.

If you’re suddenly accosted by someone who is trying to take your wallet or purse, you need to know whether to toss it away (YES, in almost every case), or potentially risk your life and personal safety by trying to keep it.  If someone you don’t know knocks at your door, will you open it? What determines your answer?  And if an intruder tries to force his way into your car or home, how will you react?

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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.

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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

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.

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!

Stop checking in!

I like social media as much as the next person, and I use it both personally and professionally. However, when I see someone “checking in” on Facebook or Foursquare, or live tweeting from a concert or other event, it truly bothers me.

Why?  Because anyone  — from angry exes to angsty crushes to absolute strangers — can see where you are…and where you’re not!  Checking in at a restaurant, club, hotel or event gives away a lot of information.

If you use social media as part of your business, that’s one thing.  Check your privacy settings, know who your connections are, be aware, trust your intuition and get on with your life.  But if you’re sitting at home alone and you’re bored, don’t complain about being lonely on social media.  That knock at your door may not be a friend.  And if you announce publicly that you’re away from home, you are creating a golden opportunity for burglars, vandals and more to take advantage of that situation.

Excited about going on vacation?  Don’t do a countdown on Facebook, check in at the airport, check in at your hotel, check in at the ski lodge…you get the picture.  Not only will your friends wonder why you’re spending your lovely vacation time with your smartphone in your hand, but anyone with an ulterior motive can easily find out exactly where you are and what you’re doing.

Wait until you get home from vacation to post your photos and tell your friends about what a wonderful time you had. Those closest to you will already know where you were, and be looking forward to hearing about it and seeing your vacation pics!

Take 5 minutes to check your security settings on your social media accounts (public? friends? friends of friends?), to limit who sees your posts and avoid being tagged in statuses, posts and photos without your approval.

I am not suggesting that you stop posting on social media; it is a wonderful tool to keep in touch with friends and family who are spread across the state, the country or the globe. However, please take into consideration the potential dangers of letting so many people — friends of friends, ex significant others, and even the general public — know where you are and what you are doing.

I have heard stories ranging from people taking a “sick day” off of work, then checking in at the State Fair and posting photos of themselves having a great time (OF COURSE they got in trouble with their employer), to others posting that they were going away for a long weekend and their house being robbed while it was unattended.  Why “check in” and give away your exact location when you could simply post a status or photo of whatever it is you really want to share?

In your online interactions as well as your “IRL” (in real life, for those over 40) interactions, be aware, stay safe, and stop checking in!

pepper-spray-hot-topic

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!