Perception is an interesting thing. We are constantly monitoring the world around us, both consciously and unconsciously/subconciously. We perceive threats, make assumptions and choose our behaviours as a result of that which we perceive to be true.
Can you alter the perceptions of those around you in a potentially volatile situation? Can you increase your chances of being successful if you are forced to fight by mentally ‘un-preparing’ your opponent?
I believe that you can.
We each carry ourselves in a certain way. A big part of avoiding a violent encounter is how you act and move. Walking with confidence, looking around, and simply paying attention to the world around you is one of the most important and effective methods to avoiding being targeted for violence.
Have you ever met someone and they seemed quite intimidating, either by their size or by the way they carried themselves? You thought “Yikes, I wouldn’t want to tangle with them!” Now, have you ever gotten to know that person only to discover that they are a teddy bear, not intimidating at all? Your perception of them has changed by getting to know them. They haven’t changed, it’s your view of them that has been altered.
In many situations, you can manipulate other people’s perceptions of you. Not quite ninja mind control, but it can be done. I’ve seen small people seem much larger because they carried themselves with a high degree of confidence. I’ve seen big people that seemed small and meek by the way they acted and moved.
You will actually appear to be more of an impressive force simply by believing that you are. Similar to chest-puffing and strutting in the animal world, you can look like a potential victim or an in-charge individual not to be trifled with. This takes a bit of work, but it’s actually pretty easy.
So, what’s with the ox reference?
Well, it’s not the secret sixth animal of kung fu, if that’s what you’re wondering.
Other than awareness and confidence, you can manipulate the perceptions of others in a more subtle way.
|He is not the threat you think he is...|
One of the important lessons that I learned early on in my career was that it is pretty easy to ‘jack’ someone up, making a bad situation worse. I also learned that while it was possible to calm people down through the use of words, it’s also possible to affect the outcome of a charged situation through the strategic use of body language. I discovered I could alter other people’s perception of what level of threat I might present to them. Not just a physical threat, but as a threat to their goals (whatever they might be). I’m referring mainly to dealing with people that did not want the police to be dealing with them, but this can just as easily be translated to anyone that is in a position where they are dealing with conflict or crisis and cannot simply walk away. Police, military, security, ambulance personnel, and health care providers all fit the bill, to name a few.
I learned that I had the ability to control time. I could slow things down by the way I walked and talked and acted. How did I do it? By becoming the ‘lumbering ox’.
I’m a fairly big guy, so any strategy I used had to take into account that fact that I was physically bigger than a lot of people I dealt with. Sometimes sheer size is an advantage, but sometimes it can illicit hostility or what I sometimes call the “little man” syndrome. Some people simply wanted to ‘test’ the big guy. Add that to an already emotionally charged situation, and sometimes it resulted in a situation escalating rapidly, which is what I did not want.
So I learned to slow down. I moved a bit slower, made my movements more deliberate and talked a little bit slower. Not so much that it appeared I was being obtuse or insulting towards an individual, but everything I did was just that little bit less rushed. The key was making it imperceptible to others.
The more I worked on it, the more I could see that my demeanour caused the people I was dealing with to calm down. I appeared less threatening to those often ‘full of testosterone’ individuals.
It must be understood that this style or strategy cannot be applied to all situations. In fact, there are many instances where you have to ramp up and take immediate and decisive action to avoid a situation from getting much, much worse. This strategy is for those times when a situation is emotionally charged but has not hit a tipping point. Those times when a situation can go either way, depending on what is said and done.
The key to being the lumbering ox, as I call it, is to remain ready to react even if it didn’t look like I was. So even though I might lean against a car, giving the impression that physical conflict was the last thing on my radar (no pun intended), I was actually primed to respond instantly if needed.
Another advantage of my deliberately slow actions, speech and relaxed movement was that I was perceived as being slower than I was. This is an important part of the process. When my words and body language were unsuccessful in resolving a situation and the other person forced a violent encounter, they tended to underestimate my level or awareness. They did not anticipate any readiness on my part. They were so confident that their attack would be successful, and that the lumbering ox would be too slow to react, that without realizing it, they telegraphed their intentions and their attack.
This allowed me to react so quickly that the attacker was often confused as to what had happened, unclear how I had turned the tide on them when they were so certain of a quick victory. I had, to a certain degree, slowed and then sped up time, to my advantage of course. If enough time had passed during the lead up, I had actually started to make the other person mirror my actions and deportment, slowing them down, without them realizing it.
This lumbering ox method only works in certain situations and it doesn’t always work. The point of this article is to illustrate that it is possible to alter other people’s perceptions of you by how you act and the image you project.
In communication, only a very small part of a message is actually communicated through the use of words. The vast majority of what you are communicating comes from your body language. So if the way you carry yourself is responsible for the majority of your message, what is it that you want to be saying?
By being aware of your own self, and projecting your thoughts and will, you can control how you appear to the rest of the world. Knowing this can make you less likely to be labelled or perceived as a victim.
Food for thought.