Friday, September 13, 2013

Our Fear of Conflict (or 'be polite')

Back in the '70s, I was a young, selfish street thug. But I also knew that something was wrong with my approach to life. Getting into a lot of fights was a clue. While it sometimes seemed like trouble would go out of its way to find me, I had a strong suspicion what I was doing might have a hand in the results.

Fortunately, I also liked to read. So I figured maybe that could help me with the other. One of the books I read was How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.

It changed my life.

Now granted it took a few decades before I could pull my head out of my ass enough to truly apply the principles. Still, not just in the end, but all along the process; this cheesy titled book, written in 1936, turned me on to effective ways for positively dealing with people.

Kind of important because often the people I was dealing with would shoot you in the face for fucking with them.

Usually when someone says something's a 'lifesaver,' it's a bit hyperbolic. Not this time. This advice actually works to help keep you from getting shot, stabbed, beaten and thrown through windows. But surprise, surprise, the information in the book isn't just for extreme situations. It works for dealing with everyday people. Where it may not be a life saver, but it is a relationship and career saver.

Recently the kid brought home from the library a newly updated, How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age.

On a lark I started reading it. While staying with the original principles, it's a very good look at what we  -- as a society -- have become. How technology, media, and social media have affected our assumptions, expectations, communications, and where we often go wrong in our interactions.

Sometimes it's hard to see the forest for the trees.

Or putting it in a more updated version, it's hard to see our own habits and patterns that we do in our modern, technological, high-speed 'normal.'

While reading, I came across a particular line that set off explosions in my head. Many have mastered the ironic art of increasing touch points while simultaneously losing touch.

Such a simple statement. Yet it helped clarify something that has been bothering me for a long time. Something I knew was big, Something I couldn't quite define even though I was running into it all the time. Something that just didn't make sense, but made me go "WTF?"

Remember, I teach people how to survive and function in both physically dangerous and emotionally stressful environments. When teaching both personal safety and Conflict Communications, I tell people "be polite."

With a lot of people, you'd think I was telling them to cut themselves and jump into a pool of sharks. I mean there is active resistance to the idea of being polite -- especially while in conflict.

This went a whole lot deeper than "I don't wanna." It often shades into outright hostility to the idea and -- to quote Hunter S. Thompson -- 'fear and loathing.' You'd think, by the reactions, I was disarming and telling them they have to be victims.

If that's the attitude, then there's a serious problem with definitions.

In teaching people to be safe from physical violence and handle conflict, I often run across a whole lot of people who self-define themselves as 'nice.' Basically, they're telling me, "I'm a nice person, but I'm getting threatened by bullies and taken advantage of."  Inevitably with the 'nice person' self-definition there comes the 'how they are conditioned to be polite' argument -- and excuse.

I add the excuse tagline because the next step seems to be: Well gawd damnit being polite doesn't work, so I need to learn how to be an aggressive asshole -- to stop those aggressive assholes.

Now I admit I'm from the Los Angeles Unified School District, but even I can do the math on this. One asshole plus one asshole equals two assholes.

But join me in a much bigger reality break. If you're a 'nice person' and he's an aggressive asshole, he's better at it than you are. He's got more practice time and experience than you do. So try as hard as you will, you're playing catch up with him. He has a head start with that strategy.

In the meantime you're hurting other people because you're now being an asshole too. So much for meeting the criteria of being a 'nice person.'
Unless of course you believe that self-identifying yourself as 'nice' is the same as being nice. (And incidentally we'll get to that in a bit -- especially with what's wrong with people's self-certification of being 'polite.')

I often encounter two 'extremes' with what I teach. One is the person who is afraid of conflict -- so they put up with unacceptable behavior from others.

The other is someone who assumes there's going to be conflict and skips over everything else to physical resolution. They call the resulting shit storm 'self-defense' whether it be empty hand or with weapons. Uhhhh... NOT!

Oh look, forest, trees ...

So how about we take a look at what's happening here?

First and foremost: Where is it written that dealing with other people automatically means conflict?

This especially when it's a disagreement or negotiating how things are going to be. If that's your assumption, then odds are it's going to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. In fact, odds are it's going to be a fast track to it.

Second, have you ever sat down to think about how much of it 'becoming a conflict' has to do with how you approach it?

Kinda like when I was getting into so many 'fights.' Dead smelly fish on the table time: Automatically assuming it's going to be a conflict, usually comes hand-in-hand with an approach issue.

Third, how much of what you're doing -- especially around your politeness -- is touch points instead of being in touch?

That third -- but not last -- point is why the line out of the Carnegie book clicked. You can do the form and totally miss the function.

Start with it isn't that being polite doesn't work. It's that aping politeness -- while thinking to yourself 'what a fucking asshole' -- ain't gonna work.

There's this thing called nonverbal leakage that speaks louder than your words. This is especially true if you're being a condescending, self-righteous snob who looks at the other person like a turd. A turd that you're forced to deal with because HE is daring to infringe on your sacred space.

I see this attitude a lot among people who claim they're being polite. They have the veneer, but not the reality. They lack both the sincerity and the intent. That is what is coming across louder than their word choice. Way louder.

A common variation of this is if you're only being 'polite' to get your way -- especially from a stranger.

In Conflict Communications, I tell people, "Relationships are economies. A healthy and balanced exchange of needs and services." As humans, we're designed to have empathy for and are willing to work with those we have established economies with. We do things for people we have economies with. Others, well, not so much.

The problem is a lot of people approach others only when they're trying to get something.

Wait. They want to get something from a person they have no economy with? Yet they want the other person to go out of his or her way to accommodate their desires? And once that's over, they're done with you.

Wow ... nothing like being used as a cum catcher, then thrown away after the other person has got their nut to make you really want to cooperate with someone.

And yes, it's about that rude

This approach is especially obnoxious when it demands a change of behavior from, or attempts to censor, others. This is particularly common among the 'I'm offended' crowd, professional victims and social harpies.* If you want a screaming example, look at social media. **

When you want to bring about change -- despite what many people want to believe -- just being polite isn't enough. This especially applies to just aping the forms while you're a bubbling cauldron of resentment and/or selfishness under the surface.

Even more appalling is how many people don't even pretend to be polite before they demand others change behavior or censor themselves. They're out and out in your face about it.

Even if you do the touch points if you bring a shitty attitude along with these demands that's what's going to come across loudest. The fact you're being shitty, selfish, and demanding is what's going to win out over you being 'polite.'

Let's take a look at bringing something else in rather than just politeness. Your neighbors are having a party. It's getting late and it's still loud. You go over there, knock on the door.

"Hey Joe. Man, it sounds like you guys are having a good time. That's great. But it's getting a little late, so could I ask you to ask your guests to keep it down to a dull roar? Great. I appreciate it. Have a good time. Night."

Oh, so you don't know your neighbor's name? Because you've never bothered to introduce yourself and establish a friendly coexistence and economy before asking him for something? An economy so you can talk to him as an equal in the spirit of cooperation?

Shame on you.

But even if you don't know your neighbor, now's a good time to introduce yourself. Hell, even apologize for not introducing yourself earlier. And then, chat with him at a later date to keep the economy going. You have to establish an economy to get results.

Before we look at all that's going on -- other than just 'politeness' -- with that version, let's consider the other option.

That's you knocking on the door with a shitty attitude and saying to a complete stranger -- in his own home -- "Would you PLEASE turn that music down."

Really, how's that going to go over?

But, but ... you were polite. You even said 'please.' Yeah? So what? Everything else outweighed the 'form' of being polite. Oh yeah and when you call the cops to 'enforce your will,' he's going to know who did it. Wow, great way to establish a working economy with someone who lives next to you.

Being polite is about more than just following a formula and mouthing certain words. And yet, how many people have been told again and again 'to just be polite?'

This to the point of it becoming a meaningless ritual? To the point you assume that if you perform the ritual -- no matter how sloppily -- you'll get your way?

Truth is, in small stuff, faux-polite works -- like passing someone in the aisle. You say, "Excuse me," they step or lean out of your way. But in bigger things -- like changing behavior -- not so much. The sad thing is, we know this. Turn it around, how well does someone being superficially polite, but looking at you like you're a turd work with you?

Yet not only is this faux-polite a lot of people's main strategy, but they don't know what to do if it doesn't work. Well except to become an asshole too. I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, but 'becoming' and 'too?' I think that last word might be misspelled.

I strongly suspect this failure of faux-politeness is a big part of why I get such resistance when I say, "Be polite." People want politeness to work without having to bother to establish a win/win economy.

But let's look a little deeper at the goal of politeness -- and what it has to do with our fear of conflict. Let me give you a paradigm shift about being polite.

Because of my past, I always resonated with Heinlein's summations of politeness and manners.

One: Moving parts in rubbing contact require lubrication to avoid excessive wear. Honorifics and formal politeness provide lubrication where people rub together. Often the very young, the untravelled, the naive, the unsophisticated deplore these formalities as "empty,"  "meaningless," or "dishonest," and scorn to use them. No matter how "pure" their motives, they thereby throw sand into machinery that does not work too well at best.

Two: An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life.

The first one should give you pause all by itself -- especially when it comes to people who believe they shouldn't have to be polite. I think Heinlein was cutting such folks a bunch of slack by suggesting that these motives are 'pure.' It's been my experience that behind the rationalizations -- even if they're idealistic and 'empowering' -- there's a whole lot of selfish going on. As in: "Fuck you. I don't have to be polite. My feelings and what I want are more important than you and your feelings."

But I also want you to look at the first one from the standpoint of people watering down their version of politeness until it becomes an empty ritual. Often such folks have been raised 'to be polite' and claim they are. But they've lost faith in it. Or worse, feel it's a burden they must grudgingly bear. As such, they do a real shitty job.

Yet how often do such people still self-certify themselves as polite?  You don't have to look hard to see this. Try standing in a check out line and watch how people treat the checkers. This especially if they're on the cell phone.

Once you start looking for 'touch points, but out of touch,' you'll see it everywhere. There are a number of folks out there trying to get by with the bare minimum -- unless they want something from you.

But what about the second point? Isn't it ... extreme?

Let me speak from having been out in those extremes. First off, when being killed or having to kill someone else is the cost of not being polite, being polite becomes way less onerous.

Oh, getting your brains blown into a fine pink mist is the cost for not finding a way to get along? Uhhhhh ... whaddya say we find a way to get along?

The interesting thing about environment is the 'form' is different. It's not a Ms. Manners type of etiquette. But there are very distinct rules and protocols about how you conduct yourself with others in these places. And the higher the firepower of those involved, the more strictly followed these rules are. While they are different, they are both learnable and serve to avoid keeping things from escalating to physical violence. Here, like everywhere else -- even though the rules are different -- sincerity counts.

But here's a brain popper, even in environments where violence is not uncommon there's a lot more violence that doesn't happen.

How? Through compromise, negotiation, and 'working things out.' And yes, in these circumstances often working it out involves yelling, screaming, threatening, and posturing. It also often uses the intervention of others to keep it from going bad. If that doesn't work, it goes physical. But very few people actually want it to go that way.

Keep that in mind, it's important.

Because it's something people -- who revel in being verbally and emotionally violent, but detest physical violence -- both refuse to acknowledge and rely on.

How's that for a contradiction?

Generally you'll find that rude people rely on others having too much self-control to throw them through a window for their behavior. I put it in this extreme because a lot of people would misconstrue it if I said, "They rely on other people being polite." Polite has little to do with it.

There is a common limitation -- not on part of the rude person -- but the people he or she is affecting. The affected often don't have the people skills to have options other than:
1) suck it up and suffer in silence
2) get offended and pretend to be polite while confronting the person
3) get verbally aggressive and openly confrontational
4) go physical.

Very few people are willing to deal with the hassle of Number 4. And that's what the rude person is relying on.

This is enhanced by the image the rude person often projects that he or she is willing to become violent. The person already has proved he or she is willing to break social conventions. So it's easy to believe that they'll take it that extra step into being confrontational, out of control, and even -- oh mah gawd -- violent.

Oooohhhh skaarEEEE!

Realistically, this lack of options by others is a free pass for the rude person. The worst thing likely to happen to the rude asshole is he or she encounters someone who yells obscenities and postures and poses back. Gee, that's emotionally unpleasant, but in the end that and two bucks will get you a cup of coffee.

In most circumstances, there's no real danger or negative consequences for rude and aggressive behavior. The rude and obnoxious person knows it and relies on it when dealing with the average person trying to be 'polite' and address his or her behavior.

So, in case you missed it, overwhelmingly being a rude asshole is both safe and a 'win' for that person to get what he or she wants.

That is until the person runs into someone who has other resources and different ways to deal with the situation than just being faux-polite

This especially means someone who doesn't necessarily believes it has to be a conflict, but isn't afraid of it turning into one -- up to and including it going physical.

Such a person doesn't have to be rude and/or aggressive. In fact, they can be sincere, open to compromise and polite. But that same person doesn't cave in or get freaked out when the other person is rude and aggressive. Which sends a serious message about the effectiveness of that kind of behavior around them. Like getting the rude person wondering, "Why isn't this guy reacting in a predictable manner? Someone who's scared of me shouldn't be remaining calm and polite when I'm huffing and puffing. What am I not seeing here?"

Believe it or not, under these circumstances being legitimately polite becomes a whole lot more effective.

I know it's hard to believe, but when everyone has an equal chance of dying, nobody wants to start that wheel of fortune spinning. When that's the cost of not being polite, manners and politeness make all kinds of sense. In such circumstances if someone is politely offering a chance not bleed, you'll be amazed at how fast everyone wants to be polite.

I take it to that extreme to show you an important concept. People are rude, bullying, and obnoxious when they don't believe that physical violence will be a result. Or if it is, they'll be the 'winner.'

But long before it gets to that extreme, there are lots of other ways to steer things away from it turning into conflict. Yeah, yeah, it's on the table, but what do you say we try something different instead? Trying to establish a win/win outcome for example.

Someone actively working to keep it from becoming a conflict has a lot more options than someone confronting a person with faux-politeness.

The first step in keeping it from heading into conflict is to always remember Hillel's version of the Golden Rule: That which is hateful to you do not do unto others.

To give that teeth, I'm going to pull two lines out of HTWF&IPITDigital Age: At the core of this skill is an understanding of one of the most foundational truths about human nature. We are self-preserving creatures, who are instinctively compelled to defend, deflect, and deny all threats to our well-being not the least of which are threats to our pride.

Stop and re-read that again. It's that important.

Here is the no brainer Yet one people, who only want to invest in the forms, totally miss. If it would piss you off, don't fucking do it to someone else.

The same shit that triggers you, triggers others.

Not specifics, but in general. And the list is pretty simple. Don't disrespect. Don't demean. Don't treat other people like shit. Don't insult. Don't verbally attack. Don't go out of your way to confront.

And most of all don't be a hostile, self-righteous asshole -- no matter how self-righteous you feel.

If that tone of voice would light you up, don't use it. If that look of contempt would infuriate you, don't look at other people like that. If someone being more concerned about their own shit and not caring about you lights you up, don't do the same to others. If people not listening to you flames you, listen to others!

When you put it in this context. Being polite is NOT a sign of weakness. It's a sign of respect, reliability, and the willingness to cooperate with someone. Doing that other shit, says the exact opposite.

This is the fundamental fuck-up people who fear conflict do all the time. I say fuck-up because there's a big difference between a mistake and a fuck -up. The difference is what we do about it. We all make mistakes. But it doesn't become a fuck-up until we refuse to own it and do something about it.

Folks who swear politeness doesn't work
1) are using faux-politeness
2) refuse to believe that's what they are doing.

The problem is that politeness doesn't work with assholes, not that they're turning a mistake into a fuck up.  Don't be that person.

Here's both a freebie and an aside, don't be afraid to apologize if you make a mistake. Well it's actually not that much of an aside. Believing you can't admit a mistake -- for whatever justification -- is often the first step on turning it into a fuck-up.

But here's another version. Many people fuck up about conflict because -- upon hearing about these other options -- they whine, "Why do I have to be the one doing it?"

Excuse me? You're the one who doesn't like conflict. The one who's afraid of it. But now you're bitching about 'having to' develop people skills, investing in creating healthy and working economies with others (so people will want to cooperate with you), having to work at negotiation and compromise? This so you reduce conflict in your life?

If 'why do I gotta' is your reaction take a real hard look about that quote about us being 'self-preserving creatures' because we are talking about pride.

More than that we're talking ego. Even if that ego is coming from the place of shame and terror of not being perfect. Nobody is perfect. And we all have room for improvement. It's called being human.

But way too often, fear of not being perfect is a great excuse to not try. To stay stuck in the same uncomfortable circumstances. If you keep doing the  same thing, you're going to keep on getting the same results.

There are some simple, but profound, truths in this article. Truths I had to spit blood to learn. Prove that you're smarter than I am and don't wait unti  your blood is the price before you start applying them.

But here's the real question. If you really don't like conflict and you want to reduce how much of it there is in your life are you willing to break certain habits and ways of thinking? This in order to both reduce conflict and come up with better solutions?

It's really that simple.


*Social harpies -- the virulent shriekers who swoop down on anyone who dares to question certain dogmas, asks uncomfortable questions or has a 'wrong' opinion.

** Hell, often on the internet, if you were the change liberal/conservative to a ethnicity, what you see them calling each other would qualify as hate speech. This behavior is seriously not impressive coming from people who not only swear they're intelligent and open minded, but also that they're nice and polite.

© 2013 all rights reserved

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Will he use that weapon?

A doctor friend came up with the term 'Internet Intelligence' Short version, someone who doesn't have the scientific, technical or educational background reads something on the internet and says, "I understand this subject." No, you don't. Because if you did, you'd know why what you read on the internet is out to lunch.

In my line of work I have a similar problem in that people ask 'simple questions' without having the background understanding. Specifically of why, that's not a simple question. Nor is there a simple answer.

I was asked about a home invasion robbery and the guy asked how do you know if the guy is going to use his weapon -- even after you've complied. Simple question right? Should have some simple things to look for right?


Short answer, it depends.

And huge parts of what it depends on is what you do -- and more importantly -- DON'T do. Because your version of 'complying' may involve you pogo-sticking on your dick.

Here is the long answer

The answer to this is in a weird and different direction than you might imagine.

Ever seen a movie where you know what is going to happen before it does?  Hell just for laughs, I used to predict when the standard clichés in action movies would happen. Usually within 15-30 seconds of them happening.

Some fast yada, yada, yada points. First, no reflection on your sex life, but every night you go to bed with a human, a monkey and a lizard. These are the three levels of your brain. The Monkey is your socio-emotional conscious brain. It tells us how to act, how to behave and what is expected of us given our social status. For the record most 'violence' comes from the Monkey
and this is very important for recognizing the presence of the Monkey

That's one set of background to help you understand this statement -- The Monkey LOVES stories.

In fact, scripted, roles, stories and predictable social rituals guide an overwhelming majority of our interactions with other people.

Another yada, yada. Fundamentally there are two different 'types' of violence. Social and asocial.

Different types, different goals, different reasons. Social violence can be broken into many different categories (rule enforcement, status displays, monkey dance, educational beat down, etc). A simple, but important concept is this kind of violence is over things you can't put into a wheelbarrow. You can't put your pride, feelings or social status into a wheelbarrow. But that's what a lot of social violence is about.

Asocial violence can be broken down into two main categories -- resource and process.  Resource violence is either over gaining or protecting tangibles. These are things that CAN be put into a wheelbarrow

Two critical points about both social and resource violence. One, they usually come with instructions how to avoid it. These instructions are simple and non-humiliating (although we often interpret them as such). Take for example 'shut up or I'll kick your ass.'  All you have to do to keep from getting your ass kicked is stop talking. However, people's Monkey often tell them that the best response to that is mention the guy's testicles on his mother's chin.  Notice this is NOT following the instructions on how to avoid violence.

Two is that these 'scripts' are incredibly predictable. The problem is most people don't know the script OR they try to apply another script to the situation (this includes what I call violating 'the five' )

Predictability in resource predation is easy. That's because the criminal is operating along certain guidelines. Take for example in the US, during the commission of a felony forcing a person to take even one step is kidnapping. Kidnapping is as seriously prosecuted as murder. So an experienced robber isn't going to tell you to go to a secondary location. The 'script' for a robbery is he approaches, threatens you, you give him the goods and he leaves.

Anything that goes 'off script' is where things can-and-do go bad. There are however, two main ways things go off script and violence happens.  

First is keep your fucking mouth shut. Your Monkey is going to want to talk shit to this asshole to show him who he's dealing with and to get your pride back. I know of no better way to get shot in the face than lipping off to a guy with a gun. And if you think about it, you know it's stupid. But, the Monkey will be screaming at you to do it.

(BTW, Rory Miller is correct in his assessment of the Five are critical elements in the de-escalation of social violence, but they don't work to deescalate asocial violence. He is correct with his observation that the five won't stop asocial.  #1 Asocial violence cannot be deescalated, it can only be deterred. #2 Violating the five WILL however, make asocial violence much, MUCH worse. Want to know the fastest way to provoke a robber to use his weapon? Insult him and show your contempt.)

The second way things go wrong is when the guy with the weapon starts going off script. One of the absolute worse 'this isn't going according to script' is telling someone to move to a secondary location.

Short version... no frickin' way do you let that happen. That's kidnapping. And if he's going to get charged for that, why not...?

Which brings us to process predation. The 'other' asocial violence. Unlike other types of violence, with process, violence IS the goal. With the others, the threat of violence usually is way more effective. Follow those instructions and no violence. With asocial, those instructions are a lie. Asocial is the big bad monster everyone fears. But in it's own way it's just as predictable and easy to spot when that's what you're dealing with.

Final dada, dada. There can be overlap with these. A process predator can be hiding his shit under the guise of social violence. Or he can be hiding it in resource. It's how much of a 'mix' that is the important thing to spot. Venn Diagrams can give you the idea of how they can overlap.

Home invasion 'robberies' are bad news. First, they're breaking the script of how robberies normally happen. Second, they're already in a secondary location -- a particularly isolated one. So you're a whole lot closer to bad shit happening, not because you do  anything wrong, but other way.

Thing is home invasion robberies are the new and big boogie man -- especially among the shooting world.  Many are pressing the idea 'you need to have guns every where in the house.' One tacit-cool cowboy really stepped on his dick by suggesting having a gun safe in the kids room -- with reporters in the room. (I have a totally different set of problems with this idea because, I don't believe in drawing fire towards the people I'm trying to protect ... DUH!)

Copula's points about home invasions, yes they are really bad news. Yes they do happen. And yes, they are a primed for shit to go really bad.

Oddly enough people who are most likely to have them happen are drug dealers -- and this includes your kids doing shit they shouldn't be doing. Then people from cultures/ ethnic enclaves that don't trust banks or the cops (e.g. merchants who keep large amounts of money in their homes). Then you get follow homes from the stores and nighttime invasions. But for the average person in a nice neighborhood? Not that likely.

And BTW, if you're really concerned, it's really easy and cheap to get a camera/intercom/doorbell unit. Gee there's three dudes standing on my porch... probably shouldn't open the door.

So how do you know if the guy is going to pull the trigger? Well the short answer is it's going off script.

The problem is that most people don't have any other resources except to follow the script. Or they fuck up and try to use social scripts -- including 'fighting'. Those are really fast ways to get the guy to use his weapon on you.


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Dealing with the "I'm offended" attacker

Yes, I very specifically used the word 'attacker'  in the title. That's because when you strip away all the ideology, humanism and pseudo-sensitivity, certain people use being offended as a flat out act of aggression.

First a list of foundational yada, yadas. Humans are social primates. We're designed to function in groups. A big part of this is empathy for and cooperation with those 'inside' our group. Since our 'survival' is based on the support and cooperation of our group, pretty smart design that.  But, those same considerations to those outside our group? Not so much. In fact this can go so far as to 'othering' people, but mostly we just don't give a shit. This:
1-- is an important element of functioning in a city environment
2 -- if you can get past humanistic 'egalitarianism' caring for our own first makes sense in a Darwinian, 'survival of the fittest' kind of way.

Another set of yada yadas. Dunbar's number suggests we can only really handle between 100 and 250 stable relationships (our circle or group).  Past that, we get into shades of 'you're not really someone I care about' and superficial social scripts or interactions. Again, really important in a city environment. While 'roles' and scripted behaviors appropriate to that role change, a big part of 'what's involved' is the nature of the relationship. You don't treat a stranger like a family member, e.g., you don't kiss a cashier like you do with your spouse upon arriving or leaving. (Here's a fun look at this and some other issues: )

Final set of yada, yada, yadas. Think of relationships as 'economies.' Specifically an exchange of goods and services. In a healthy, long-term relationship, things balance out. In closer relationships the 'coin' means very much more than just money. Here is where we loop back to being social primates, empathetic and caring about others -- especially in our own tribe.(Again, a fun look into these ideas: )

All of that is foundation to point out that there are people, who have learned to gain power over others by exploiting empathy, unconscious social scripts, and relationship 'economies.'

People who pride themselves on being 'nice' are especially vulnerable to this from of manipulation.

A fire alarm warning signal is when someone-- who is either a complete stranger or someone you only vaguely know (e.g., on FB) -- tries to start an economy by demanding the same considerations, reactions, and behavior you offer to a person you have a deep and ongoing 'economy' with.

The alarm gets louder if said person does *not* do so with the strict etiquette protocols that we usually use to deal with strangers -- especially if asking for something. While we all have to ask things from strangers, etiquette is a big thing.

A sub-point of this is watch for faux-etiquette. For example, there's a big difference between a sincere, "Excuse me. I don't mean to bother you, but the ketchup bottle is empty on my table, may I use yours?" at a restaurant and a sneered "*Excuse me, your cigarette smoke is bothering me. Please move" while outside waiting for your tables. (Hint, politeness is not just in the words, pitch, tone, and non-verbals are important.

Where you not only get klaxons, but flashing lights and sirens is when the economy is started out with your 'ledger' already in the red. Not only are they demanding that you exhibit the same empathy, consideration, but a change your behavior that only a person you're intimate (or have an established economy) with warrants.

But take a look at this from a different direction. Do you really want to start such a relationship? This new economy already has you at a disadvantage. You are wrong, bad, mean, and hurtful. Whereas, these people are being so benign to offer you a chance to be a better person by apologizing and changing your behavior to suit them.

And if you don't take that opportunity that is the green light for them to attack. I mean full on 'social harpy' mode. To vent their spleen about what a horrible, awful, petty, and mean person, who is representative of everything that is wrong with this world. You 'orrible, 'orrible, little man you ...

So here we have a 'wait a minute' question. If you don't have a relationship with this person why should you give a damn if they are offended? Or, do you really want to start a relationship with someone who the first requirement of that economy is you are wrong?

The answer is most people don't. And while they subconsciously know this, they don't want to be as rude and obnoxious as the 'offended person' is being. This is why it's important to consciously recognize that -- while it is couched in 'I'm the victim here' -- often, an offended person is the on the offensive. It's not that a situation can turn extremely hostile if you don't give the proper grovels and apologies to the offended party. It's already aggressive, your not groveling is just the excuse to turn up the volume.

I personally have fun pointing out the social standards and scripts such people are trying to exploit. Something as simple as, "I'm sorry. You don't know me well enough to talk to me that way -- much less ask for me to change my behavior/way of thinking to suit your agenda.'

Why is this both fun and effective?

First because most of the scripts they are exploiting are subconscious.

While we don't know exactly what is wrong with the situation, we know something isn't right. "You don't know me well enough ..." points out that they are trying to overdraw on the empathy and consideration economy. As in 'we ain't got one yet, so why the fuck should I care about your feelings -- especially when you:
1- don't care about mine
2 -- care about your own not only enough for the both of us, but throw in everyone else in the room too.

Second, pointing out they are the ones violating this behavior is like walking over and picking up the dead fish when everyone has been trying to figure out where the stink is coming from and saying, "This is what is stinking, and nimrod there is the one who brought it into the room."

Now, all eyes are on him or her in a 'you're the one who should be embarrassed about your behavior' kind of way. (Damn, they're the ones who get to be judgmental about others, not the other way around.)

Third, while acknowledging all kinds of monkey issues and agendas, by remaining polite you're not allowing your monkey free rein. In other words, your monkey can get it's licks in, but it's not turning you into a raging asshole. So everyone else doesn't see two asshole monkeys.

Fourth, it does a fine job of setting boundaries. At the same time, it shows, "I know what you're doing. Now everyone else does, too. So knock it off." And it does so without you coming across like an asshole.

Play this one right, and you'll not only scare them away (although it will often manifest in their storming off in a huff) but they will steer clear of you.

Often such behavior results in absolutely nothing else happening. But even -- let's say in a work environment -- if the person runs off to tattle, you have a defensible (and articulatible) position.

Now granted this advice is predicated on the assumption that you weren't actually breaking policies, laws, or seriously screwing the pooch.


Monday, April 8, 2013

Blaming the Victim

It seems that shit comes to me in groups. Yesterday I was accused of 'blaming the victim' when it comes to danger recognition, then someone else got upset with me over my answer to the first person (because the second person passionately believes in women's rights) and this morning -- on Allexperts -- someone asked me about blaming the victim of a crime --especially rape. Here is my full answer:

I'm not an insurance company or a lawyer... I don't give a fuck about 'blame.'

Both of those have a financial interest in placing blame. I'm about teaching people about staying out of the meat-grinder -- and how what they do overwhelmingly has direct influence on the speed setting of the damned meat-grinder.

Not always. But in a overwhelming majority of the time, what YOU do has a serious influence on whether you're in the meat-grinder, if it's turned on and how fast it is set for.

At the same time, I am the first to tell you: There are monsters out there. Monsters, who are walking  meat-grinders on a high speed setting and they will just grab people and throw them in.

But they are way, way less in numbers than people think. Ordinarily, the person DOES have control over climbing into the meat-grinder and turning it on. They sure as hell have control at what speed it's going to be set on.

Blame no. Kick that fucker to the curb. 'Actions having predictable outcomes because we are human beings' is what it's called.

The complexity of this, however, goes beyond just the immediate situation; it tracks back to all kinds of levels/lifestyle choices/comfort zones/socio-economic 'world views.' Here's a big one -- and since you asked in the context of rape --I'll answer that way.

I often tell women that forcible rape is viewed legally as 'grievous bodily injury.' That means the woman is legally allowed to blow his fuckin' brains into a fine pink mist. They can ram a knife into his heart and twist and -- from a legal standpoint -- it can be summed up as 'he needed killing.' Hey you know what? Gouging out an eyeball, tearing his throat out with her teeth or biting his cock off -- also on the table. (And very much something that the responding officers will have a hell of a hard time keeping a straight face over it happening to a rapist.)

Oddly enough there's a direct correlation to women who are willing to do this and the chances of them getting raped. Like odds are WAY low. Conversely, a woman who is NOT willing to do this has a much higher chance of being raped. Why? Because she's a safer victim.

Both crime and violence are INCREDIBLY predictable this way. This regardless of the person's sex. Safe victim yes. Not safe victim, no.  Pretty much a no brainer regarding violence.

Here's where it can -- and does -- get complicated. My willingness to commit extreme violence allows me to pass through (and function in) some extremely dangerous environments. Predators take one look at me while I am shopping in a shithole and say 'Uhhhh no. Let this one pass.'  (Not a safe target -- a term I prefer over 'victim') But there are a lot more factors involved -- especially my behavior and the circumstances.

Conversely, just because I'm willing to commit extreme violence will not --I repeat NOT --keep me safe if I'm being a complete asshole -- especially in their territory.

If I walk into a biker bar and loudly proclaim "You're a bunch of dickless pussies!" it's going to hit the fan. No matter how ready to commit violence I am, odds are good, I ain't gonna get out of there in one piece.  Me, meat grinder. Putting myself there. Flipping it onto high. DUH!

But, let's say I did that and bad things happened -- as they are wont to do. What would be the normal reaction if -- someone started advocating for me by telling anyone who brought up what lead to that bloodbath as  -- "You're blaming the victim! Marc had every right to walk into that bar and do that!"?

People would laugh in that person's face.

Because in essence, it doesn't matter how much of a bad ass I was, commonsense says you don't do that and NOT expect bad shit to happen. More than that, (assuming I survived) I would not be 'cleared' of the deaths and injuries I had committed while ~cough cough~ 'defending myself.' Not just because I had the power to withdraw, but because I'd participating in the creation and escalation of the incident.

Regardless if I lived or died, did the bikers commit a crime? Oh yeah. Does 'blaming me' make it less of a crime? No. Well at least not in states that don't have a fighting words doctrine. And even then it might be dropped from murder to manslaughter -- but convicted for manslaughter ain't the same thing as them walking free.

But -- and this is where 'blaming the victim' drives me up the wall -- the conviction is the result of what happens in court (i.e. how good of a lawyer they've got vs. how good the prosecutor is.)

It is NOT about society 'blaming the victim' Would folks think I'm a fucking idiot for what I did? Oh yeah. But 'them blaming me'  is not a free pass for the bikers. This issue is 'was a crime committed? Did they do it?" THAT is what the prosecution must prove (burden of proof). And if there's video of the event SODDI* isn't gong to hack it for the defense. So damned straight, the defense attorney is going to go after my behavior in order to sell it as 'self-defense' for his client.

Having said all of this, 'fuck fault.' Fault only matters -- and to most of us less than those who are trying to place blame -- AFTER an event. At the moment and place when/where it's going to happen, the only thing that matters is what YOU can do to prevent it happening to you.

You mentioned drunk and clothing -- which is a common selling point of those who accuse others of 'blaming the victim.' Again, restressing this point, a woman who is willing to rip someone's throat out is less likely to get raped.

Here's the rub, if she's drunk, surrounded by drunk/violent people and provoking them, there's a MUCH bigger chance of her ~having~ to rip someone's throat out.  Why? We'll get to that in a second.

 But if she doesn't have that 'willingness'  -- and those circumstances still apply -- there's a much, much higher risk of her getting raped.

The results are different.  But no matter, drunk, around violent/intoxicated people and being verbally aggressive ain't going to have a happy ending. That's because certain behaviors evoke negative responses regardless what the person's choice regarding extreme violence (me, biker bar, fuck you assholes).

Conversely, if a woman is around sober, non-violent people and she's not being verbally aggressive then it doesn't matter if she's drunk or how she's dressed. Odds are bad things ain't gonna happen.

This is not 'blame' or 'fault' it's circumstances, variables, who is involved and behaviors. Take this information and play with it. You take one detail and tweak it and you get different answers. What's the likely result of drunk, dressed 'like that' and aggressive among sober, nonviolent people? What if the drunk, violent people she's being drunk and aggressive with are family members?  What if she's a stranger to this environment/group? What if she's an entrenched member of the group who ordinarily has 'credit' with those involved? What if her credit rating is low? What if her brother is a known killer? What if she has no 'protection' except social conventions?

When it comes to the outcome of a situation, the details of the circumstances matter more than 'blame.' And in situations where bad shit happens, it ain't always going to be one kind of bad shit that happens. Blame? Who cares? That only matters if you survive.

And I've seen enough meat-grinder incidents to know
1) That survival -- much less non-injury -- is not guaranteed
2) No amount of blame is EVER as good as not putting yourself into the meat-grinder in the first place
3) If you are going to risk putting yourself into a meat-grinder
   a) know how to keep from turning it on.
   b) know what it sounds like when it's warming up
   c) don't be too proud/stupid/self-righteous to get the fuck out of there
   d) do NOT reduce your capability to do these things
   e) do NOT engage in ineffective force while standing in the meat-grinder. **


 *SODDI - Some other dude did it

**I was once nearly lynched at (city) Advisory Board on Rape for mentioning that in informal interviews of women who had been rape, I'd found approximately 80% of the time  that the 'victim' had hit first.

Oh the outrage! Oh the 'you're blaming the victim!'Oh the 'a woman has the right to protect herself!'  I finally reacted by snarling "You misunderstand me!  I don't care that she hit first. What I care about is she didn't break his fuckin' jaw!"

Ineffective 'violence' (or as I prefer 'force') is an disaster in ANY kind of violence, but it appears as a 'green light' for rape. This is an elephant in the room about this subject. One which unfortunately a whole lot of people have serious investment in ignoring.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Four Lies: You, Our Courts and Claiming Self-Defense

I'm going to start by lying to you. 

In fact I'm such a big liar, I'll tell you four falsehoods about our legal system, self-defense, and what to expect when you are caught in the meat grinder.

Well to be more precise, I'm going to tell you four 'lies to children.'

It's funny that I use the word 'precise' because 'a lie-to-children' is: A statement that is false, but nevertheless leads the child's mind toward a more accurate explanation, one that the child will only be able to appreciate if it has been primed with the lie.

Those are Terry Pratchett's exact words in his book The Science of Discworld (a very funny fantasy series). I got the term 'lies to children' from him.

But let's expand on the concept. The Discworld Wiki says: Any explanation of an observed phenomenon which, while not 100 percent scientifically accurate, is simple enough, and just accurate enough, to convey the beginnings of understanding to anyone who is new to the subject. There is always time to fill them in on the fine detail further down the road. This describes the sort of axioms we tell young children when they are beginning to get to grips with science. (

Got it? This is a teaching tool. Not exactly true, but true enough to get you ready to understand more complex -- and nuanced -- information.

So here are the four lies about what you will encounter in court when you claim 'self-defense:'
1) "Most attorneys don't know how defend an innocent person."
2) The burden of proof is on you.
3) The roles change.
4) There are prosecutors who think if someone died, there must be a crime.

These four 'lies' will help you understand what you will be facing and not be traumatized by what happens to you after a self-defense situation.

1) "Attorneys don't know how to defend an innocent person."

I first heard this statement from Massad Ayoob. It is a great sound bite. One that makes you stop and say, "Wha ... ?" And well it should.

Mas told me this before I started doing expert witness work in court. Even then it made sense. But to tell you the truth, that was before I had first-hand experience with how much lawyers DON'T know about violence, much less self-defense. Or how little they understand about effectively defending someone who acted in legitimate self-defense. There is a big reason why it tops the list of lies to children you need to know.

To understand why, you have to know something not about the law but our legal system. (For the record, those are not the same thing.)When it comes to how criminals interact with the legal system, hands down, the most common 'defense' is SODDI (Some Other Dude Did It).

Simplifying an incredibly complex process, it is up to the prosecution to 'prove' it was the defendant, not some other dude, who did it. This is done -- partly --  because of 'burden of proof.' The state brings evidence to prove to the jury it was the defendant who acted, how he did it, and why. 

It is the defense's job to tear down the state's case, to pick it apart. And in doing so convince the jury the state is wrong. Erroneous in either having the wrong person, mistaken about what happened, or something's wrong with how the police went about investigating and collecting evidence. Often this is done by tearing apart what the state brings to meet their burden of proof requirement.

Without opening a huge can of worms let me give you another gross simplification: What the evidence is (read, what the jury is allowed to see and hear) and what the jury decide the  facts 'are' is going to either convict you or set you free. 

Each side is going to try to sell the significance of the evidence to the jury. If the prosecutor can get them to believe 'this' means 'that,' you're going to prison. If you defense attorney can convince them 'this' means something else, you'll be acquitted. This is all done in an 'adversarial' process. Keep that in mind because dealing with the legal system will be the second attack on your life (and freedom).

Now the ironic thing is a defense attorney defends an innocent person (someone who actually didn't do it) in much the same manner as a guilty person -- whom the attorney is trying to get off. Basically, if the guy didn't do it, you rip apart the state's case, challenge the evidence, and show that the 'proof' ... well ... isn't.

This same strategy attempts to undermine the state's case when the guy did do it. Guilty or innocent, when SODDI is maintained throughout the process the defense strategy is basically the same.

But now, let's restart the process at the police station. After SODDI doesn't work with the cops, the most common tactic is for the criminal to try to claim 'self-defense.' This is a real stupid move if it wasn't. That's because claiming 'self-defense' is what is known as an 'affirmative defense.'

In essence, it is you confessing to a crime.

Keep that fundamental point in mind. By claiming self-defense, you have just done an overwhelming majority of the prosecutor's job for him or her.

Now, there is no need for the state to disprove SODDI. The self-defense defense (and no I didn't stutter) is you saying, "Yes, I did it. I committed an act that is normally a crime. BUT I had justifiable reasons to do it."

That is where things start going off track from the normal strategies of 'he did it' vs. 'no he didn't.'

It also is here that the original sound bite needs to be modified.  Modified to: Most attorneys do not know how to defend a legitimate affirmative defense (self-defense).


A horribly gross oversimplification is: Their primary strategy to tear apart the state's case *doesn't* work with an affirmative defense. In fact, I agree with Mas's next contention: An attorney's default defense strategy will convict someone who legitimately acted in self-defense.

But, I'm going to add a caveat.

It's been my experience that defense attorneys shift into 'damage control' mode when it comes to affirmative defense cases. That is to say, they figure you're going to be convicted so they try to reduce what you are convicted of. This still works with tear-apart-the-state's-case because the attorney goes after the worst charges -- like it was murder, instead angling for manslaughter.

This also puts us in the land of plea bargains. Realistically most defense attorneys don't want to go into court with a self-defense defense. The attorney's reasons why are of no concern. There is something you need to know: If you don't take the plea, go to court claiming self-defense on the original charge AND you lose, you're going to get the book thrown at you. Right, wrong, fair or not, that's how it works in our legal system -- deal with it.

Wow, that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy about your chances doesn't it? Are you now beginning to realize why you need an attorney who knows how to defend you and your affirmative defense?

I'm going to give you a teaser about which direction a defense attorney needs to shift in order to defend someone who is legitimately claiming self-defense. Unfortunately, it's a teaser -- until you know the next two lies to children (which I'm also about to give you) -- that won't make much sense.

That is instead of adversarial, use a strategy of "Yes and ..."

2) The burden of proof is on you.

This statement makes lawyers' teeth itch. That's because they know exactly what the term 'burden of proof' means in our legal system. It is a very specific term with an exact meaning. And I'm using it way wrong.

It's also, however, the best and fastest way to communicate to the Average Joe what he and his lawyer have to do in order to prove it WAS self-defense. It is a really good 'lie to children.'

Just so the lawyers reading this won't try to use anti-itch cream as toothpaste, the proper term is 'production of evidence.' But for the layman, calling it 'burden of proof' is something they've seen on TV.

That's why knowing it is now 'on you' is so important.

The idea is, once you claim 'self-defense' you're going to have to show up with a boatload of evidence why it was. Why what he was doing was dangerous enough to warrant the level of force you used. Why your response was both reasonable and necessary. What you did to try to avoid it. And most important: Why you aren't some homicidal maniac, a dangerous idiot with a weapon, a vigilante or some douchebag trying to escape justice.

All of that is a lot harder to do than you think. Prosecutors have a lot of experience getting violent offenders and lying criminals convicted. That's their job after all. If they decide you're one of those undesirable types, they're going to turn their not insignificant skill and experience on you. They'll do everything in their power to convince the jury you are a lying, violent, douche who was just itchin' to kill someone -- including this poor innocent mugger.

Let me give you fair warning: If you knew the person, it's even worse. (Some bad news here. An overwhelming majority of murders are between people who know each other. If you had to defend yourself against someone you know don't think the prosecutor won't try to turn it against you.)

You need to have an attorney who knows enough about the subject of violence, crime, how danger affects our perceptions, and other related issues to counter what the prosecutor is trying to sell the jury. He needs to know these things so he can not only counterbalance the prosecution's accusations, but make the jury understand -- understand that there's more to the issue than what the prosecutor is telling them. Understand why the danger you were facing made your actions reasonable and justifiable.

If your attorney doesn't understand what's involved in violence, that is going to be a hard sell. It will be made harder because the prosecutor will be selling the jury the idea that you're lying.

Take for example a hypothetical, but common, scenario; the defendant is on the stand (and, yes, there is huge debate about that strategy in legitimate self-defense cases). The prosecutor asks, "How far was the victim from you when you killed him?" (For the moment, let's ignore the loaded phrasing and spin-doctor framing of the question.)

The defendant says, "About five feet."

Whereupon the prosecutor runs the security camera footage that shows the attacker was fifteen feet away. What follows is a barrage of accusations, condemnation, and innuendos about the defendant lying, his character, and what a horrible person he is for murdering his fellow human being.

That's what the jury is going to see. They heard the defendant say five feet. They saw fifteen feet on the film. As there is both a bias against violence and a belief in the prosecutor being the good guy. They're going to 'think' the prosecutor has caught the defendant in a lie. If he's lying about that, what else is he lying about? Hmmmmmmm?

If the defense attorney doesn't know about the effects of adrenal stress on perception, the absolute best he can do is damage control. He is in a desperate scramble to try to salvage is client's credibility.  He has to try to fix the apparent 'lie' his client has just told.

Except it isn't a lie.

A well-known and documented aspect of adrenal stress is 'spatial distortion.' We hyperfocus on the threat. That means your perceptions change. Things look bigger, closer, and more menacing when you experience spatial distortion. I often joke I have never had a knife or a gun aimed at me. I've had swords, machetes, and cannons pulled on me -- I've also been attacked by a saber-tooth mouse. At that moment, I would have sworn its fangs were at least a foot long. Those are practical examples of spatial distortion, but so too is fifteen feet looking like five.

Bringing up spatial distortion is to convey the idea that the defendant is NOT lying. What he is saying is not factually accurate, but it *is* what he perceived under adrenaline. He is telling the truth -- as he perceived it. That attacker did 'look' five feet away to him. Knowing this, it changes the jury's mind from 'he's lying' to 'well, that's what happens under adrenal stress.'

But ONLY if the defense attorney knows to introduce this kind of information. Because you can be certain, the prosecutor isn't going to mention it.

This is the kind of production of evidence you and your defense attorney *must* bring into the court room when you claim self-defense. Your side has to have all kinds of information to bring up -- not to debunk the prosecution's  points -- but to expand on them.

This is where it becomes 'yes and...' Yes he said it looked like five feet. Yes the video shows fifteen. And *that* is the spatial distortion we talked about earlier. He is not lying, he's accurately reporting what he perceived at the moment under the threat to his life.

3) The roles change.

This is another big lie to children. But there's a really simple way to understand it.

You know the actual burden of proof is on the prosecution. You know ordinarily the defense is going to try to pick apart the state's case. Taking a massively complex process and reducing it to the silliest image possible, it means the defense's role is to chant, "Liar! Liar! Pants on fire! Neener neener!" about everything the prosecution says.

When you claim self-defense, the prosecutor gets that role.

He is going to pick apart your story. He's going to nitpick every inconsistency, every poorly stated phrase, every detail to try to sell his story. I'm not even going to say his 'version' of the story because often what he is selling is entirely different. Different versions would be it's self-defense vs. a conflict that escalated too far. No, odds are what he's trying to sell is that it is cold-blooded, premeditated murder. The only two things those two stories have in common is the body on the floor and you.

To tell you the truth, this is not a hard sell. Remember, you've confessed to a crime -- but you've said there were good reasons for it.

Even if he isn't promoting the idea you're a cold-blooded murderer, you're still in trouble if he's selling the idea you overreacted.

Because of the bias against violence in this culture and the fact he has decided to prosecute, the jury is often skeptical. You've already admitted you did it. The jury is already thinking if there wasn't something wrong with the situation, you wouldn't be there. Now the only 'burden of proof' the prosecution has is to prove your reasons weren't good enough. All the prosecutor has to do is hyperfocus on a few inconsistencies, blow other points out of proportion, plant the seed of doubt in the jury's minds, and -- voila -- you're convicted.

You are going to get hit with 'liar liar.' Your attorney needs to know how to counter the very tactics he often uses to win cases.

There is something else you need to know.  And I mean tattoo it on your forehead in reverse so you see it in the mirror every morning. That is: The higher the use of force, the more microscopic the examination of the case will be.

I was recently on a TV show where I and other experts were shown re-creations of crimes and self-defense scenarios ( ). We got to watch the videos once and then comment. The key word in that last sentence is 'once.' As an expert witness, I can tell you I have spent not only hours and days, but weeks, poring over security videos of incidents.  We're talking a two-minute clip at one-quarter speed, slow motion, again and again to pick out tiny details of the event. I'm looking for details, which unless you know what to look for and know their significance, the jury will not see nor understand the danger. Nor will they understand why the level of force was appropriate or inappropriate.

Well the prosecutor is going to do the same thing. Except he's looking for your participation in the situation. He's looking for things you did that make you look bad and that he can point out to the jury. He's looking for mistakes you made about your use of force decision. He's looking for any action, any detail or decision he can use to make you look like a cold-blooded murderer or an out-of-control vigilante.

In short, he is going to attack your self-defense defense. If and when that 'defense' is undermined -- then you're convicted of the crime you confessed to.

This is why you and your attorney need to show up with a boatload of evidence to prove it was self-defense. But even with cargo containers of evidence, *your* side must withstand the barrage of 'liar liar.'  You have to be ready to have your credibility challenged and endure the sneers, insinuations, and being called a liar to your face.

If your side fails to provide this mountain of evidence, you're going down. I don't care how obvious you think it is and your belief the jury will see it your way.

For example, I worked on an appeal case where the guy was ambushed and stabbed eight times by his drunk girlfriend. He collapsed and got up. She went to the kitchen, got another knife, returned, and attacked him again. Pulling the first blade out of his chest, he fought back. Simple, right?

Except he's in prison for second-degree murder. The prosecution claimed it was 'imperfect self-defense,' and he had 'over defended' himself. Worse, his attorney felt the self-defense aspect would be obvious to the jury. So obvious, he did not bother to learn what is involved in violence, self-defense or what a 'professional drunk' (like the girlfriend) is capable of. In fact, the defense attorney was so certain the claim of self-defense would be so obvious, he didn't even bother to call witnesses or experts. That's not a mistake the prosecution made, they had their experts. The defense attorney was shocked when his client was convicted.

4) There are prosecutors who think if someone died, there must be a crime.

This lie is going to be the one that has prosecutors screaming for my hide to be nailed to the cabin door. In fact, I'll bet it will even be brought up in court that I dared put these words in writing. Well, the truth is even I have to admit there are all kinds of things wrong with this particular 'lie to children.'

Having said that, it's an important perspective to understand. It will save you all kinds of emotional distress about the aftermath of a self-defense situation. But more than that, it can help keep you from going to prison.

This is a critical factor. You may think you're a 'good guy.' You may think the prosecutor is a 'good guy,' too. You may have nothing but respect for the police. But that does *not* automatically mean you're all on the same side -- especially after you've taken another citizen's life.

That's a very important point I just slipped in. I'm going to give a hat tip to the Armed Citizen's Legal Defense Network here ( and bring up an issue they like to remind folks: The law doesn't see a self-defense situation as you vs. some douche bag. Legally, it is considered two citizens in dispute.

That means you and the person you consider to be a douche bag-criminal-lowlife have the *same* rights to life, liberty, and not being gunned down in the street.

It is the DA's job to take umbrage at citizens killing citizens. That you've come to his attention for doing so ... well ... let's just say he might be suspicious. Until it is proved you did not wrongfully take a person's life (as in that person was going to wrongfully cause your death if you didn't act) the prosecutor is NOT your friend.

Here's the problem with that. There is a big difference between it being proved that you acted in self-defense (e.g., found not guilty in a trial) and the prosecutor not having enough evidence to win a case saying otherwise. That's an ugly limbo. A limbo you'll need to learn about in a seminar about legal use of force instead of from me. But know to ask about it -- because it will last for the rest of your life.

Remember I said earlier there's also a difference between the law and our legal system?  Well the latter is strongly influenced by a lot of factors that have nothing to do with the 'law.' This is the elephant in the room people pretend has no bearing on what is happening -- especially with whether or not a prosecutor decides to act.

Ours is one of the few countries where district attorney is an elected position (or is the appointee of an elected official). As in if the DA's office doesn't have an impressive conviction rate, there's a good chance that the boss man is out of a job. The more convictions, more plea bargains the DA's office has, the better they look for being 'tough on crime.' Incidents that make it on the news really need to be actively pursued to show the public the system 'works.' Political pressure, public outcry, and -- of course -- internal pressures from the 'boss' are very real factors on how the prosecutor's office will act.

I often tell people who buy a gun for self-defense they need to plan to spend about $3,000. Most of that is in training. I'm not just talking about the fun run-around-and-go-'bang!-bang!' kind of training. I'm talking about training in legal use of force, use of force decisions, violence dynamics, articulation, and what to expect during the aftermath of a self-defense situation. I'm talking about spending a weekend in a classroom learning how to protect yourself from threats you never thought of. This kind of training can keep you out of prison *and* keep you from being sued for everything you own. This is very distinct and different training than just shooting. (For example: Armed Citizen's Rules of Engagement - .) I also recommend this  same 'insurance' training for knife or any other effective 'combative' systems someone is learning. If you can kill or cripple someone with your self-defense measures, then you need this training to learn how *not* to put yourself into prison or the poor house.

This is critical because your actions before, during, and after a self-defense incident will be gone over with a microscope to find *any* hint of wrong doing you can be prosecuted for. Remember by claiming self-defense, you have confessed to what is ordinarily a crime. The prosecutor is going to try and make that stick, not the self-defense part.

Another point of consideration is that the information the prosecutor has is only as good as the reports. In the book "Campfire Tales From Hell," I wrote an essay on 'Talking To The Cops.' ( In that essay, I stated the primary job of an officer is to investigate, to find out what happened. If in the process, however, the officer suspects a crime has been committed, there is a subtle -- but important -- shift in emphasis. The officer then starts collecting information to help build a case for the prosecution. This shift has a lot to do with what goes into his or her report. Unfortunately after the shift, a lot of information that could help your self-defense case can get left out of these reports. And what is -- or is not -- in the report is seriously going to influence the DA's decision to prosecute.

Now in all fairness to both the police and the prosecutor, an overwhelming amount of violence is indeed illegal. Using made up numbers (still another lie to children) I often say 95 percent of all physical violence is illegal. This includes situations that started as self-defense, but crossed the line. This is a BIG problem. ( ) It's also why, these days, I'm really emphasizing 'knowing when to stop' before what you are doing becomes illegal.

Stop and think of the significance of this.

Even if it isn't 95 percent, let's agree it's an overwhelming majority. That's nearly everything. How do you think it affects how cops and prosecutors view claims of self-defense? This includes how often they hear 'self-defense' by someone for whom SODDI wasn't working.  It's *real* easy for them to slip into an attitude of 'just another murder, just another scumbag trying to get away it by claiming self-defense.'

The technical term for this is 'they're jaded.'

What is the most traumatic and horrible event for you is just another day at work for them. It is very easy for jaded people to get not only sloppy, but cynical in pursuit of their goals. As in "my job is to convict  criminals -- if you come across my desk, you must be a criminal." Once the prosecutor has made that decision, he's going to do everything in his power to convict you.  Oh yeah, something else you should know. They're real good at tripping up people who are lying about it being 'self-defense.' Unfortunately, the same techniques that work to discredit a false self-defense claim can also undermine a legitimate one.

No matter how convinced you are that you acted in self-defense, it's smarter for you to act according to the idea that the police and prosecution are going to assume a crime has been committed. A crime they don't think there is a good reason for. Regardless on how justified you think you were, remember they will do everything in their power to build a case against you and prosecute.

Lie #4 will save you all kinds of emotional distress when that happens to you. After all, you're one of the good guys ...

This not only will help you emotionally, but it will help you consciously deal with the aftermath -- like knowing what to say to the police. It will also help you to remember the higher level of force, the more you *need* to have an attorney present when you are being questioned.

A special hat tip to Rory Miller for the following statement: I will cooperate and give a full statement, but we both know what kind of civil problems come from these kinds of situations. So I'd like to have my attorney present before I answer any questions about what happened.

From that moment on, do *not* say anything else about the incident without an attorney present. After you invoke your right to have an attorney present during questioning, do not be baited into responding to questions about the incident (like, "What? Do you have something to hide?"). Do not talk to anyone in the jail cells. (And oh yes, do not be surprised or offended if and when you are taken into custody -- much less handcuffed.) You can give them your name and address. You can ask for water. You can do all kinds of things, but -- I repeat -- do not talk about what happened except with your attorney. Then, in the presence of your attorney, you make your statement to the police about what happened.

This last 'lie to children' is a basic introduction to a much more complicated and nuanced process than you can imagine or I can go into here. A process filled with pitfalls, dangerous miscommunications, bad information, and outright traps. This is where saying the wrong thing will get you into deep trouble. It also is where simplistic, Internet clichés about what to do and say after a self-defense situation are a disaster waiting to happen.

It is because of Lie #4 I say *spend* money on 'insurance' training.  It is that kind of training that will keep you out of prison and prevent the family of the guy you had to defend yourself against from owning your home.

But more than that, Lie #4 is easy enough -- even in the adrenalized aftermath of a self-defense situation -- you can still remember it. So although it is technically the most inaccurate lie to children, it is the most important. Under adrenaline you will want to babble, you'll want to tell your side of the story, you'll want to make sense of what happened, and Officer Friendly is there to listen to -- and take down -- you saying the absolutely wrong things. A huge part of this is your unwittingly saying something the officer is going to interpret as indicating this was a crime and not self-defense.

Let me end this article by pointing out this is not legal advice. It is to make you an informed consumer. It is to acquaint you with what you will be facing when dealing with our legal system after a self-defense situation. It's informed consumerism because it can help you better pick a qualified attorney for your affirmative defense. He's going to be the one giving you legal advice -- as it should be.

Do yourself a favor and don't limit your training on this subject to just the physical. Unfortunately in most training, there is entirely too much emphasis on 'winning' in a violent situation. A popular fad is how to overcome the freeze response and explode into blindingly fast response time. People are afraid of failing in a self-defense situation, and that's what they want to know. I will say: This new training is good, it is important.

But so too is what I call 'planning for success.' If you successfully use your training, there WILL be an aftermath. An aftermath that can be more complicated and dangerous (in other ways) than the original situation. This article is to introduce you to just one aspect of the aftermath.

Unfortunately -- in most so-called 'self-defense' training -- subjects like avoidance, violence dynamics (de-escalation and deterrence), 'do you have to engage' decision making, and legal consequences are all given a hand wave. By this I mean: "Oh sure we teach that too, now let's spend the next six hours learning how to bust someone up" or "Well, obviously you should try and escape, but here's all the things you can do with your weapon when you can't escape."

There is no denying that this kind of training is fun and exciting. It is a confidence builder. It can be good exercise. It also can be very powerful fear management, but it is not danger management. (

Add to this, there is the assumption that the student will always be in the right. The raw truth is we all have bad days. We all have times when our tempers flare, and we act impulsively (think about the last time you made a rude gesture while driving or swore at someone). These are the acts that put us into conflict -- and possibly danger. It is our active participation in a conflict that is most likely come back to haunt us if the situation escalates to physical violence. It is that participation the prosecutor will use against you.

Lately I've shifted my focus to violence dynamics and conflict communication ( ). In doing this, I've gained a deeper understanding of the different types of violence and the ways people unwittingly get themselves into conflict. Behavior that seems so right and natural at the moment is exactly what is going to allow the prosecutor to slam dunk your case.

I tell you this because often there is a resistance to looking beyond the physical aspect of self-defense. In fact, I have often heard variations of the following: Knowing the law will make you hesitate in a self-defense situation. This is (or some variant) is the excuse for what I consider willful ignorance. More than that, it's usually the justification to spend all your time and money on the fun, run around and play bang, bang training. Which let me tell you if the prosecutor finds out you refused to take this training, he's going to have a field day with it.

But more than that, the idea that knowing the law will make you incapable of acting is just flat out wrong.

In my work, I've found a strong symbiotic relationship between understanding violence dynamics and staying within the parameters of 'self-defense.' Recognizing what you are dealing with is a critical component in a shoot/no shoot decision. But more than that: Actions which are likely to de-escalate a 'social violence' situation serve many purposes. (

First, there's a good chance it will solve the problem. For example, a good faith effort to withdraw does wonders to prevent violence. Often just apologizing and leaving means you don't have to shoot or stab someone.

Second, they give you articulatable facts about what you did to avoid the situation and why it didn't work. This is the kind of evidence you need to support your plea of self-defense. For example, you tried to avoid it, but his actions countered and limited your viable options (preclusion).

Third is knowing the difference between social and asocial violence (see above link). When what you have done should have de-escalated social violence and the problem persists, then what you are facing is not normal social conflict. That's a game changer. This is an important step in formulating your use of force decision.

Fourth, you are likely to encounter a strange paradox. The willingness to use force often means you don't have to -- especially against potential asocial violence. That 'mental shift' in the previous step often results in a person changing the behavior that was making it necessary to shoot him in defense of yourself. The immediate threat evaporates removing the need to use force. You must be able to recognize this shift in circumstances and be able to stand down; otherwise you cross the line and become the aggressor.

Fifth and finally by understanding these dynamics you can 'scale your force' to appropriate levels -- even during the heat of the moment. Scaled force makes it much easier for your attorney to defend you. (

This has just been an introduction to a much larger world than just what gun you carry or what deadly martial art system you know. There are many links to follow and subjects to investigate. Get yourself a cup of coffee, you have some more reading to do.



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