Nonviolent Communication for Self Defense?!?

I have been really focusing a lot on communication lately. How it shapes our lives, how it impacts relationships, how to improve it. 

It’s kind of been an obsession as of late to be honest. 

It’s amazing how many areas can be improved upon just by focusing on the words we use, the tone, the needs, the clarification. 

While teaching my Level 1 Hybrid Defense class today, I found another light bulb moment. 

We were talking about preemptive striking, the victim interview, and verbalization skills. 

I have set this scenario up many times over the years and addressed a lot of the verbalization skills, but this time, I was able to see it from a different angle. 

One of the major lessons I have learned in communication is being able to identify and clearly express our needs. In my experience this is harder than most imagine. 

We tend to add our own judgement, imagination, and assumptions into most conversations. This can lead to vague explanations, thinking the other person knows what I am saying, or completely avoiding the topic in general. 

“You never show me affection anymore”

That sentence can interpreted in so many ways. What qualifies as affection? Never assumes that not once during this timeframe has it been shown. How long is anymore? When did it start? What’s the real desire and need?

“I would like you to hug me and kiss me when you come home from work because I have a need to feel your affection. The last two weeks I can’t remember a time we just embraced and shared a kiss and that is something that is very important to me and makes me feel loved.”

This begins to build more clarity. It expresses the personal need, why that need isn’t currently being met, and how that need might be met.

What the hell does that have to do with self defense? 

Glad you asked!

Now imagine you’re walking to your car at night. It’s a dark parking lot and someone approaches you that makes you feel uncomfortable. 

We generally teach to make eye contact so they know you see them, if they move directly towards you make sure to turn your body and attention towards them and don’t let them get to your side or back. If they continue to approach begin to bring your hands up (think conversationally not aggressively) and begin to communicate before they get too close.

“Can I help you?” usually helps to discover more about what they might need if you’re uncertain whether they mean ill will.

If they continue to approach, this is where clarity in communication becomes more apparent. 

If I don’t set both physical and verbal boundaries, I risk letting them get too close or inviting them to get closer. Maintaining boundaries at the risk of seeming rude, is way more important than removing those boundaries just so some random stranger feels more comfortable. Be an advocate for your safety and your needs. 

In classes I have heard many things develop here.

“What the hell do you want?”

“Look I said can I help you?”

“What do you want?”

“Do you have a problem?”

None of these statements improve our position, maintain our boundary, express a need, or set an action that will fulfill the need. 

“You’re making me uncomfortable, please stay back.”

This expresses a feeling/need and how you would like it met. If they continue to move towards you and engage in talk…

“What do you mean I am making you uncomfortable.” 

“I just want to know the time.”

“I just wanted to ask you a question.”

“Do you have $10 I ran out of gas and need the money.”

… or any other tactic commonly used. They begin to show their hand. You faced them, made eye contact, put up your hands to begin to create a physical boundary, addressed them softly, expressed a direct feeling of being uncomfortable, and told them clearly what to do to suppress that issue. 

In my experience, if that person did not mean ill will or any degree, they would begin to stop, might give you a glance of disgust or think you are crazy, might even apologize…if they don’t, then we begin to see more about what they desire.

You can tell someone the time, answer questions, negotiate money, etc…from a distance. No one NEEDS to be close to you when they don’t know you and especially after you expressed an uncomfortable feeling. 

If they continue to engage forward, they are showing their hand, testing your boundaries, and what you say next (as well as how you say it) will be important. 

“I said stay back. Do not get closer. You are making me uncomfortable.”

Need expressed, how to satisfy need expressed, and this time more assertive. 

Statements like…

“Back the fuck off”

“I don’t want any trouble.”

“I will fucking kill you.”

“Please don’t come near me.”

…are vague, open to interpretation and may even invite or instigate a situation. 

At this point, I don’t believe there’s a need for excessive creativity. The need has been expressed, it is pretty clear. The action you desire them to take has been expressed, it is pretty clear. 

If the encroachment continues, you get to choose whether you double down (louder and more assertive) on the “STAY BACK!” or whether you move forward with some type of force.

How long that goes on, and at what distance is different for every circumstance. There are components and concepts that apply. The tone you use, body language, setting yourself up for striking or engaging physically if needed, etc… The point is, adding vague talk, assumption, judgement, etc, doesn’t clearly help you maintain boundaries and set you optimally to engage if needed.

So much clarity in life is found if we strip away the filler that we add in conversation and the emotional dramatization. Simply state your need, how you desire it to be met, and then see what happens. 

That person’s actions are not in your control, but how they react tells a lot about the relationship in general. 

So whether you are trying to connect with your significant other, communicate tasks or plans to co-workers, or properly setting boundaries against a possible threat, clarity is key.

Or at least that’s my opinion. 

Be good, train hard, stay safe

-aaron