I want to start this article by saying that I’m a fan of good manners and kind gestures. I believe our society, in general, has taken a nose dive in the area of civility when it comes to interacting with one another. There are however those who like I still hold firm to those good values and believe in treating others as they want to be treated. If you fit into the uncivilized group, I encourage you to reread the opening sentences and evaluate why you generally suck at life and rather than read this article spend a little time fixing yourself as a person. For those others that do as a general rule live by the ‘Treat others as you’d like to be treated’ this article is for you.
There is a Limit
With my position being made manifest on etiquette and interaction with others. I need to discuss when it’s acceptable to break those rules under some circumstances and explain the title of this article. A couple of years ago I was giving a lecture on Comprehensive Situational Control; one of our core courses on personal security and situational awareness as part of a larger conference. In the talk I had a young college-aged girl express a situation that she had recently encountered, and I was somewhat surprised at how the event unfolded and how her kindness could have easily led to her being a victim.
Essentially this young lady was approached by a man at a bar. They had some decent conversation, and somehow his vehicle came up during that dialogue. He talked around some customizations he had recently made and how proud of them he was. The conversation then turned to him inviting her outside to look at the car. She stated to me that she made multiple excuses as to why she couldn’t go, but nonetheless eventually caved due to his polite and eager persistence. I asked her if she felt concern over going outside with this new acquaintance, and she expressed that she did have some general fear or concern. Both from the potential of becoming a sexual assault victim, but also just general concern as well. I then asked her why did you go. She explained that he was nice and very friendly and ultimately she went against her intuition for fear of coming across rude to the new suitor. Fortunately, there was not a sad ending to this story; however, it’s quite easy to imagine how it could have ended badly with her being the victim of a violent crime.
Roleplaying the Offender
After she relayed the story to me, we conducted some roleplay and I presented her with a similar situation. Once again she had a tough time refusing to allow herself into a compromising position. Undoubtedly a large part of that was due to my charisma, but more than that, her fear of offending the guy compromised her safety. Since that event, I have come to find that this is not uncommon in our society.
Avoiding Victimization due to Courtesy
While we’re constantly inundated by aggressive acts of rudeness on social media and our negative social encounters likely stand out in our mind a significant amount of society remains polite. Unfortunately, so much so that they place themselves in compromising positions that could lead to assault, victimization, or any other number of adverse circumstancewith grave consequences.
It’s important to recognize that you should never put the fear of offending someone ahead of your self-preservation and safety. While the story I reference here is a female the same can go for men as well. Imagine a clean-cut stranger approaches you with a map asking for directions. He seems legitimately in need and gets well within your personal space so you can point out locations on the map. He may even work his way to your 5 o’clock position as you orient the map. Do you allow him? With many people, probably so. Should you? No. At no time should you let a stranger place you in a compromising position or situation? Criminal’s prey on this trait. It’s unfortunate that we live in such a world where we must consider crime as a potential motivator during our interactions with strangers, but we do. I’ve had the above case happen to me and was able to politely correct the individual on where I wanted him while I assisted. This was years ago, and I simply said, I’m sorry, but I don’t like people standing behind me. That could’ve been done better, and I’ve since fine-tuned the art of being polite and providing assistance to individuals in such a case yet firm. All the while remaining vigilant and safeguarding myself against crime.
Avoid Being a Victim, Closing Thoughts
I would encourage each of you to consider various situations you may encounter and brainstorm how you can overcome them without compromising your safety or being unnecessarily rude to the person. The keyword there is ‘unnecessarily’. With a little practice, you’ll find you don’t have to be a jerk to do so. Also, remember that when you politely refuse, and the other person persists, you should be the one offended and no longer fear offending them. It is they who have encroached and disregarded your interest. That’s a relatively short statement, but a significant one so I want to emphasize it. Spend a second and think that through. If someone’s persistence on a matter is making you uncomfortable you should no longer feel the obligation to be ‘nice’. They apparently are not showing a level of mutual respect to you and are not deserving of yours. Remember it is your responsibility and best interest to ensure you don’t become the next crime victim, not the police. While we’re huge fans of the police and greatly respect the work they do, we are our first line of defense. Experience is the best trainer. So start brainstorming, and better yet role-play it with a friend.
Modern Warrior Project Co-Founder
As a 20-year Army Special Operations veteran with numerous deployments and extensive S.E.R.E. and Personnel Recovery expertise, he is a respected leader and trainer with extensive experience in planning and executing high risk, low visibility evolutions in volatile and austere areas across the globe. He is married to Jennifer Blevins of Beaumont, Texas and is the father of five.