Your size and shape can and will escalate a situation! A point I make in my training seminars is to encourage students to be aware of how they appear and come across to another person, especially if that other person is stressed and agitated. Larger, wider, taller people may inadvertently escalate another person’s stress level because they appear as “a threat” and trigger an innate, primal, subconscious defense mechanism. And then this morning I see this news headline…
There’s is obviously more to the story, but I wanted to just grab the headline and what is known about the incident at face value to create some basic teaching points …
1) Take a moment to actually, truly ASSESS the situation!!! Take a breath, a slow deep breath to help yourself stay calm and to get oxygen to your brain to help you THINK things through, and really assess the situation!! In this case, the victim was just sitting in a car parked by the curb. A witness stated the victim was just sitting in the car. So far there is no evidence of any contact or interaction between the victim and the suspect, the suspect was simply intimidated by the victim’s sheer size!
2) If you “feel threatened”, and get away, then get away! Go away, walk away, run away, but separate yourself and break contact with the source of your stress and sense of “threat”. In this case, the suspect was able to walk into his home, and most likely closed the door behind him, creating a barrier between him and the perceived “threat”. He could have called 911 at this point. He could have slowed himself down and taken breaths to help stay calm and to think things through at this point.
For people who are larger, more muscular, taller, and wider than others, there are things you can do to mitigate and lower that “threatening appearance”:
1) Have a smile on your face! A smile is warm, friendly, and known to help people in stress to feel at peace.
2) Maintain your distance and reactionary gap, avoid “looming” over someone, avoid infringing on another person’s sense of space. A common intimidating tactic is to get up very close to someone, so give the person space to avoid giving them the impression that you are trying to intimidate them! Keeping a space between you will also help keep you out of range of their fists!
3) Assume a non-aggressive, non-confrontational body posture, relax your shoulders, avoid standing in a manner as though you are squaring off with the person, hook your thumbs in your pants but try to avoid putting your hands into your pockets (you want your hands out and available if you have to suddenly defend yourself!)
A whole lot more to the story, I’m sure, but definitely some things to take away from this tragic incident to help us keep in mind some basic de-escalation techniques and tips!
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