Communicating in at-risk contexts.
Communication in risky contexts can make the difference between a clash or a simple “animated chat”.
Whatever you do is communication, but what is the best communication in a situation of aggression from the street?.
Is there a correct and “safer” method?.
The answer is YES!! but there are some important conditions that you need to know.
Remember that it is impossible not to communicate.
Any behavior in the situation of interaction between people, is ipso facto a form of communication.
Consequently, whatever the attitude taken by any individual (since there is no non-behavior), this immediately becomes the bearer of meaning for others: it therefore has the value of message.
Communication can therefore be as well as voluntary as well as involuntary, unintentional, unconscious and ineffective.
Communicating in high-risk contexts is no different!
- 0.1 According to the psychology of communication:
- 0.2 Communication creates different types of relationships
- 0.3 This way of communicating creates two types of relationships:
- 0.4 Communication between humans and escalations have precise steps:
- 0.5 Aggression, passivity, assertiveness
- 0.6 This complexity has led scholars to recode the modes of behavior (communication) of humans according to three universal types:
- 0.7 The Aggressive type (mors tua vita mea)
- 0.8 The Passive Type (mors mea bits tua)
- 0.9 The Assertive Type (my life)
- 0.10 Why assertive behavior is preferable
- 0.11 Now there are some obvious things but if you don’t want to fight there are some things you absolutely have to avoid doing in communicating in risky contexts such as:
- 1 The 7 ways you need to communicate in risky contexts:
- 1.0.1 1 – Use a calm and uniform tone of voice.
- 1.0.2 2 – Use gestures openly and never excessively.
- 1.0.3 3 – Try to adopt a careful but not frowning facial expression.
- 1.0.4 4 – Use direct eye contact but not inquisitorial contact.
- 1.0.5 5 – Heals your posture to express solidity and energy.
- 1.0.6 6 – Think positively.
- 1.0.7 7 – Act and think in order to find an honorable way out for you and the other.
- 1.1 The honourable exit to be communicated in contexts at risk
- 1.2 Difficulty and limitations of assertive behavior
- 1.3 Conclusions
According to the psychology of communication:
“Everybehavior is communication and every communication is behavior”
Even if it remainssilent, indifferent, passivity and inactivity are forms of communication like the others, since they carry with them a meaning and above all a message to which the other participants in the interaction cannot but respond.
The question is therefore not “if” a person is communicating, but “what” is communicating to you,even through silence or the absence of the word.
For example, it is not difficult for two strangers who are by chance inside the same elevator to completely ignore and, apparently, do not communicate but in reality such mutual indifference constitutes an exchange of communication to the same extent as it is an animated discussion.
Communication creates different types of relationships
If you have happened to follow animal documentaries sometimes you will have noticed that there are always relationships of dominance, hierarchy, etc.
Whether it’s wolves, lions, elephants, monkeys, dogs, cats and any other animal species that are more or less fierce, they all have patterns of behavior in common than in their interactions.
Behaviors that express:
- peaceful temperament
These behaviors in the animal world have been studied and classified to better understand what happens after the collision and its implications:
- the struggle or the renunciation of the fight,
- dominance and submission,
- hierarchy or escape from the group,
Each action is followed by a reaction, but every action is first and foremost a communicative behavior.
How you dress, how you walk, the way you speak (more than you say), your physicality, the approach or not, your way of looking, of moving your hands, are automatically recognized and “read” by others as a message that expresses you are:
“strong”, or “I am peaceful”, or “I do not want to fight”, or “make aside”, “tease and mock”, etc.
What happens after your communication essentially depends on how the recipient of your message will respond, i.e. whether or not the message is confirmed.
But balances are essentially based on principles of dominance and hierarchy, we are not very different from animals.
The same thing happens in the way you communicate in at-risk contexts!
This way of communicating creates two types of relationships:
If the message is accepted the report is complementary (example message “I am the strongest”, the other will respond with an implicit “ok, I recognize that you are stronger..”).
Otherwise the relationship defines itself as symmetrical (the other responds with a “no… The strongest is me!”) and this is where the problems arise because we are in the typical case that leads to an
that leads to a conflict, a confrontation or the surrender/renunciation of one of the two.
Communication between humans and escalations have precise steps:
Like animals, we also follow precise patterns that precede and follow the act of violence (ritual aspects of human behavior) that you can summarize in 4 phases:
- The visual phase, you look at yourself defiantly neither of you lowers your gaze,
- The verbal phase, you start saying “words” to make your reason prevail,
- The contact, you approach menacingly and you grab yourself,
- Fighting, you fight to dominate each other.
It is impossible not to communicate
In all these phases the communicative aspect is “impose a relationship of dominance” and if nothing happens in the previous stages to interrupt the ritual you get physical violence in order to subdue or render the other harmless.
Basically you and everyone else always communicate at all stages!!
One thing that you need to be clear about in a risky context is that any behavior that creates a symmetrical relationship (“I’m the strongest”, “no the strongest I am”) , involves an escalation between you and the other that inevitably creates a conflict that can be
- Physical, then violence and attacks to hurt you
- Verbal, then insults and humiliations, etc.
In particular, violent behavior often occurs progressively, as described in the following scheme:
Your communication work has to take place in the first three blocks but if it doesn’t work you have to either run away or attack first because it means it didn’t work.
Now you know how the law works and that right or wrong if you attack and hurt someone you will go through trouble but as I have always said the goal is to bring home the skin at all costs, running away (which is the best thing) or winning the fight.
Aggression, passivity, assertiveness
Unlike in general, a complementary relationship (“I am the strongest”, “you are right”) is functional to the re-establishment of hierarchies and therefore to the removal of conflict.
In humans, accepting a complementary role in a relationship (“I don’t want to fight”) is often not enough to avoid the worst.
Think of what could happen to a woman who, out of fear, shows condescension towards a rapist, perhaps would have saved her life (perhaps) but would not avoid violence.
This is to tell you that many of the ritual and communicative aspects of the animal world unite man, but not in all respects because the communication and relational modes of man are enormously richer and more articulate than in other living species.
Man has a wide use of verbal language (there is also a non-verbal language, but animals also have that), and then in man are possible types of relationship (communication) other than simple symmetrical or complementary models.
This complexity has led scholars to recode the modes of behavior (communication) of humans according to three universal types:
- The Aggressive Type
- The Passive One
- and the Assertive type
Before proceeding with the description of these types of communication you need to add something very important:
We are no longer faced with occasional (behaviour) modes of communication (behaviour) dictated by particular circumstances, but we are faced with authentic structures that somehow characterize the person.
By this I mean that with each of these types, we also mean a type of person, that is, a subject that, in the face of particular contexts or situations tends to reproduce mainly an aggressive, passive or assertive response.
The Aggressive type (mors tua vita mea)
People who communicate according to this pattern of behavior are animated by the desire to prevail and to assert their point of view regardless of that of others.
It is not difficult to recognize people of this type because they want to be right at all costs, to meet their needs first, they are disinterested in the mood of others, they are not inclined to compromise.
Typically they have a tendency to be rigid, unyielding, to blame, to be intrusive, to attribute their mistakes to others.
It is clear that people who tend to act (communicate) in this way, are more likely to encounter “incidents”, especially when they bump into someone more aggressive (and perhaps more important).
If two types of this kind meet,escalation is ensured and, ifthe context allows, escalation will lead to confrontation, unless one of them first withers or some external element intervenes.
The Passive Type (mors mea bits tua)
People who tend to use this style often renounce their point of view, renouncing to fight and sometimes demonstrating condescension and submission.
Individuals of this type may appear uninex vital, sometimes depressed, and renounced.
These people are led to “subject” others, they do not pronounce themselves, they do not participate.
If you ask for their involvement in a decision, they will tend to conform to what they believe the “boss” will, but without that it means that they agree but will probably cover their dissent in a mute manner and in the name of passive resistance.
It is clear that such people are not as likely to get into trouble as their aggressive colleagues, but it is equally clear that their difficulty in reacting will make victims predestined, as their passivity will be an “encouragement” to all the attackers who seek “easy prey”.
The Assertive Type (my life)
Assertive people are, as it were, passive and aggressive, but without being limited by the mental patterns that characterize each other.
These people do not put their needs before them, but they do not give up on them either, expressing their willingness to manage their differences constructively.
People like that unfortunately are not many.
It is the negotiators, the solution seekers, the constructs.
People of this type do not renounce their needs, but they know how to find a favorable agreement also for the interlocutor, they value and do not humiliate, they always leave an open door for themselves and for others, they respect others, they do not judge, they are flexible.
In the acute phases that could precede an interpersonal conflict, people of this type are able to block the rise of tension with a firm but open attitude towards the other, in order to provide an alternative solution to the conflict itself.
They are usually the people who with a joke are able to temper the spirits.
Why assertive behavior is preferable
How are you?.
First of all, it must be said that these types of behavior are not unique, that is, they are never “pure”.
Most of us are characterized by a mix of these types that coexist alongside each other and influenced by different factors.
In fact, we may be“predominantly”aggressive, passive or assertive, but, in fact, each of us possesses to varying degrees each of these characteristics.
Not only that, we may find that we are aggressive or assertive depending on the people we face or the situations, and here we go on complicated ground.
Without wishing to go further, I want to set out two key points here:
1 – Knowledge of these three types of communication/behaviour is extremely useful to have a simple, immediate and reliable key to understand on the fly who we are facing and how to behave with him.
It is clear that if you are dealing with an aggressive subject avoid challenging him on his own ground unless your goal is to seek battle in battle.
2 – Similarly, if you know you have a tendency to behave passively in these situations, you must prevent this passivity from becoming an open door for your attacker, you must try to move to a more assertive position
Awareness of your way of being aggressive, passive or assertive, is a precise “work program” to improve your chances of success in any condition of interpersonal relationship in life, including those of risky situations.
And from here comes the essential question:
“Incase I’m in a bad situation, what’s the best attitude to take?” The assertive one, of course (but not too much and not always).
Assertive behavior is the one that has the most chance of success in a physical risk situation, considering by success in these situations the avoidance of confrontation and bring the skin back home intact.
For the rest I would not like to be accused of putting strange ideas in people’s heads that assertive behavior is enough because I realize that talking about assertiveness when you have a knife pointed at your throat, can be a bit theoretical.
If circumstances require passive or aggressive style may be preferable to assertive style, you need to quickly change the way you behave.
There is no limit to improvisation as every situation is different and unrepeatable.
However, I feel that I can say, based on my experience and many other people, that an assertive style of communication is the one that provides the greatest chances in most situations.
But how could assertive behavior manifest itself in the presence of an energetic/malicious/exasperated?
Now there are some obvious things but if you don’t want to fight there are some things you absolutely have to avoid doing in communicating in risky contexts such as:
- Keep your fists closed
- Lower your gaze but avoid the fixed gaze of defiance
- Judge and not humiliate the other
- Apologize (unless you’re wrong clearly)
- Answer if it provokes you
- Being surrendering
- Just insist on what you think
- Demonstrate embarrassment or shyness
Okay, I get it, but now what do I have to do?.
Build an assertive communication with these 7 ways.
The 7 ways you need to communicate in risky contexts:
1 – Use a calm and uniform tone of voice.
Do not accelerate and do not turn up the volume of the voice because this has the effect of increasing the excitement and adrenaline charge of the interlocutor.
In the same way you do not have to slow down cadence and tone, because this is often interpreted as the warning of an attack and many beaters often slow down when they speak, a moment before delivering the first decisive blow.
If you slow down cadence or tone, you risk being suddenly hit by a tense and alarmed interlocutor towards you.
2 – Use gestures openly and never excessively.
Passive people generally have a rigid and poor gesture, which can be interpreted as submission and fear.
Aggressive people, on the other hand, tend to be hyper-gestural, waving their hands, touching, pushing.
It is evident that this contributes to increasing tension and the likelihood of accidental physical contact degenerating into confrontation.
3 – Try to adopt a careful but not frowning facial expression.
It is very important to have a mimicry that is consistent with verbal communication.
Where possible, that is, when the voltage level is still at manageable levels, it would be better to know how to demonstrate attention and openness to the interlocutor.
4 – Use direct eye contact but not inquisitorial contact.
Aggressive people use their gaze in a tense and rigid way, while passive people tend to be evasive.
5 – Heals your posture to express solidity and energy.
Passive people tend to be curved and occupy as little space as possible, while aggressive subjects tend to be “intrusive” and rigid.
The assertive is erect but not leaning forward, relaxed but ready to move.
6 – Think positively.
Whatever context you are in, from a trivial discussion in the office, to a thud armed with a knife, always use an open thought to the solution: “I believe in myself”, “I am calm”, “everything will be fine”, “everything is right”.
It is very important to keep this conscious substrate always active, as this, combined with adequate breathing, has a calming effect on the entire nervous system and helps maintain lucidity.
7 – Act and think in order to find an honorable way out for you and the other.
Every time an escalation begins, the contenders risk being trapped in their EGO more than in the contingent situation.
If, for example, you are faced with a thug in the company of his friends, or a suburban bully with his girlfriend, most likely the energumeno in question has to solve two sometimes conflicting needs:
- Continue the day without physical damage (that is, if possible do not fight).
- Avoid making a mortifying bad figure towards his friends, his girlfriend, and even those not present in general.
The honourable exit to be communicated in contexts at risk
In these cases, offering an honorable way out may be the solution everyone was waiting for: “you looked at my girlfriend!…”, “I’m sorry, but I mistook her for my cousin, she looks a lot like her…”
Or in a traffic fight following a gesture in your arm: “You sent me af…. “!… No, I said hello. I mistook you for a friend…”
In the real case of an attempted rape, a woman recounted telling her attacker, “All right, let’s get married, but you’ve got a condom?… “what do we need a condom for?…” asked the other “I have a vaginal infection that is contagious…” answered the woman.
After a moment’s hesitation, the man walked away.
Going into detail on the subject is quite onerous, but interesting.
For a more in-depth discussion I recommend you wait a few weeks to read the page of experiences and testimonials on this blog of real situations of aggression, where there are some critical situations solved in a bloodless way thanks to an assertive behavior.
Difficulty and limitations of assertive behavior
But now apart from these decalogues and commandments we talk about assertiveness and real life, does it always work?
No, not at all.
We see some contraindications of this behavior and its side effects because assertive behavior has a cost..
You should keep in mind that assertive behavior involves maintaining your position and not renouncing.
It’s about keeping up with the other, while respecting it.
It is obvious that such a position is not easy to maintain in a situation of physical risk, perhaps in the face of a knife threat, and to be able to really be assertive at such a time means to have an emotional control and lucidity out of the ordinary.
It’s not easy to apply
Being calm and decisive in the face of a beater who threatens us or in the run-up to rape is certainly not something within everyone’s reach.
Communicating in high-risk contexts is certainly more complicated for the stakes!
Although it is complicated it is important to be aware that an assertive conduct is one that (probably) gives us the greatest chance of salvation in these cases and that, in any case, it is a behavior and, like all behaviors, can be learned.
Of course, people who are naturally assertive, will be facilitated when they need it, but also the others, the most commonly passive or aggressive poor mortals, can still work to improve their assertiveness perhaps by doing courses and “assertive training”, there are for all tastes and for all economic availability.
For work, for interpersonal relationships, for every possible and imaginable context.
Assertive people, statistically, live better, succeed in life, solve their problems and those of others more easily.
I all seem to have good reasons to commit to improving this ability that is inherent in each of us….
In riskier situations,you don’t have time to talk or think too much.
Everyone who has had the misfortune to suffer an aggression knows that it is a violent event but also very rapid in its evolution.
The communicative and temporal spaces are so narrow and dominated by emotionality that they allow nothing but 3 behaviors:
- the action,
- paralysis or
On the other hand, assertive behavior is made up of words and gestures, firm and calm attitudes, looks, mimicry and postures.
Is it really possible to do all this when violence and fear suddenly break out?
In my experience it is possible, but under certain precise conditions:
- You have to have good emotional control
- If the situation is tense and convulsive you have to rely little on words and a lot on non-verbal language
- Non-verbal language must be functional to protect oneself and dissuade the aggressor.
Communicating in at-risk contexts.
I hope you have understood well the importance of the concept of assertiveness, proposing it as the set of behaviors, attitudes, communication messages more suitable to deal with a situation of physical risk (and not only).
A roundup of examples in this regard can be found in the daily life of any relationship between individuals, both in the private, and the working sphere, and in the field of self-defence.
The key concepts for communicating in risk contexts can therefore be set in three points:
- Assertive behavior and communication is preferably to be adopted in situations where you are threatened.
- No behavior (not even the assertive one) provides guarantees of success in the face of an opponent still determined to hit you.
- Although assertive behavior is preferable, it is not always the most suitable. Every situation is unique and unrepeatable and the ability to improvise is always our most precious resource.
Stay Assertive! And learn the techniques to communicate in at-risk contexts!
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