Self defense doesn't always look the way people expect. Let me give you a few scenarios and after you decide which of them are self defense I’ll give you the answers and you’ll see if you were right: First, you are walking to your car in the Walmart parking lot when an angry man approaches you. He shakes his fist and attempts to punch you in the head. You move out of the way, palm strike him in the nose, knee him in the chest and run to your car. In the second scenario the man approaches angrily and you begin to speak in a calm and monotone voice. You manage to calm the man down before it escalates further than words and no one ever has to throw a punch. In our third and final situation you’re walking out of the store and you notice a man halfway between you and your car. He looks frustrated and mad and doesn't look like he is thinking rationally. Aware of this you decide to take a roundabout way to your car rather than walk by this man.
Alright, have you decided which of these are self defense? The answer is all of the above!
As I said, self defense does not always look the way you might think. Self defense is simply stopping or avoiding the threat. Ideally self defense should never come to blows or shots. This brings me to the topic of this blog, de-escalation. De-escalation is when you talk down or talk yourself out of a situation. In the second scenario I gave you an example of this, you spoke in a monotone voice and talked the man down to a point of rational thought. The monotone speaking is a key factor to de-escalation. Picture the most boring teacher you've ever had and think about how they spoke when giving a lecture, that is what you’re going to emulate. Think about it, if you are fuming mad and yelling and someone and they start rationalizing with you in the flat tone of a teacher well past wanting to retire you'll probably start feeling a bit ridiculous for your outburst and begin to slow your role.
The next step in de-escalating is to empathize and clarify. Make sure you understand exactly what a person is mad about. If the situation they are mad about is your fault, apologize and do what you can to fix the problem. If they were waiting for a parking spot and you swung in without realizing they were there apologize and move your car, you never know the real mental state of a person, and a parking spot is really a petty thing to fight about anyway. However, if the situation is one in which you did not do the thing that the person is mad about and taking the blame would further escalate the problem, continue to empathize and calmly point out that the fault is not yours (such as their watch was taken and they think it was you but it was not). Empathizing and clarifying helps people calm down much faster than just saying “calm down”. Please understand that de-escalation is not weakness, it’s intelligence. Knowing what is worth fighting for and walking away from what is not is one of the most important things to keeping yourself and others safe.