Empathy-Excuse-Exit- is a template I teach for disengaging from someone on the street that you do not want to talk to. It also works for non-threatening people that just plain weird you out.
While my client and were taking turns back and forth trying to punch each other in the face, practicing covering up with our forearms a man approached us. This guy gets much closer than I would have usually allowed without addressing him first; my vision was tunneled and most of my focus was on the known threat, a punch to the face, which was occupying my awareness, so I didn’t see him approach.
The way he’s dressed is an outlier that requires immediate attention, he’s shirtless and shoe-less, and walked a pretty long ways through dirt and gravel to approach us. It’s super weird. There are little kids everywhere on recess in this park, my client and I are attempting to punch each other in the face and he and I are no longer the weirdest person in the park.
He asks, “Can either of you do a woman’s voice for me?”
Mentally I check to make sure I’m not on the set of the movie Deliverance.
Empathy: Me: “Sorry man.”
Excuse: “I can’t”
My client John also says no.
He asks again, & attempts to explain why: I’m trying to bla, bla, something about pretending to be his wife for his mobile phone company confirmation…sounds like committing fraud, to explain why he wants a woman’s voice.
I don’t know this guy, though he doesn’t seem threatening to me because he’s being super friendly about what he’s asking for, but he's not fully dressed and asking for something weird and uncomfortable to me. Regardless of what he’s asking, I do not want him to get any closer & certainly don’t want to help him with his weird, ethically questionable request. Fortunately, he does not encroach closer and maintains about 10 feet away with conversation attempts continuing.
Sometimes individuals will utilize guilt as a way of getting what they want. He attempts again and tries to use guilt to bait us to comply with his request:
“Come on, help me out. You just have to say a couple words.”
I attempt my 3’E’s again- escape isn’t needed yet because of space and proximity.
Empathy: Me:” Sorry man, I can’t do a woman’s voice.”
Excuse, strengthened: “I’m getting over a cold and my voice is raspy and deeper than usual.” (As a subtly manipulate my voice and make it sound more raspy).
He finally leaves. My objective is complete.
Changing a few variables in this situation could have drastically changed the perceived threat and response from someone else. If this man had approached a woman who was by herself or one of the caretakers of the many 3-5 year olds running around, she would have probably been significantly more on-edge and freaked out by a shirtless shoe-less man making a strange request and encroaching into her personal space.
Reflection on why I manage encounters this way:
What do I have to gain from this encounter?
- Committing fraud for someone else
- Letting someone I do not know get super close to me
- Helping a shirtless-shoe-less stranger with an odd reques
Key point: It’s not your duty to be everybody’s hero. When in doubt, be selfish and cautious when it comes to your personal space and strangers.
Be smart & stay safe,
NOVA Self Defense
I would be interested to hear about some of your encounters and how you have managed attempts from someone to engage you or ask something of you. Please comment below or on the FB post!