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Composure in confrontational situations

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Gray Blimp

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For my slowlane job, I'm not a cop, but I deal with similar stresses. Let's just say that most days I have to break very bad news to people. I am a messenger. Some people take it well, others get very angry, at me. Sometimes I can handle it calmly. Other times I become very intimidated, start to shake, have an obvious quiver in my voice, etc. I am not that big or tough of a guy. My deescalation techniques usually work, but sometimes they don't. For the times they don't are the times I need help. I've never been intimidated into backing down on my responsibilities, but I have been intimidated to the point where it is visible/audible to third parties. It's embarrassing, I'll admit. I thought I would grow out of this in time, but a recent experience is making me second-guess.

How can I toughen up, or maintain my composure in these confrontational situations? I work out and eat well. I'm in the best shape I'll ever be. Someone I know in RL said I should take martial arts or some similar self-defense class. Maybe this will help, but I feel like this is more of a public speaking scare (which I am fairly good at, by the way). And I'm not sure how much knowing how to fight will help. I have never been in a physical confrontation on this job and hope never to be. It's all talk, albeit scary talk.

Any advice is greatly appreciated.

Thanks,
 

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sparechange

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For my slowlane job, I'm not a cop, but I deal with similar stresses. Let's just say that most days I have to break very bad news to people. I am a messenger. Some people take it well, others get very angry, at me. Sometimes I can handle it calmly. Other times I become very intimidated, start to shake, have an obvious quiver in my voice, etc. I am not that big or tough of a guy. My deescalation techniques usually work, but sometimes they don't. For the times they don't are the times I need help. I've never been intimidated into backing down on my responsibilities, but I have been intimidated to the point where it is visible/audible to third parties. It's embarrassing, I'll admit. I thought I would grow out of this in time, but a recent experience is making me second-guess.

How can I toughen up, or maintain my composure in these confrontational situations? I work out and eat well. I'm in the best shape I'll ever be. Someone I know in RL said I should take martial arts or some similar self-defense class. Maybe this will help, but I feel like this is more of a public speaking scare (which I am fairly good at, by the way). And I'm not sure how much knowing how to fight will help. I have never been in a physical confrontation on this job and hope never to be. It's all talk, albeit scary talk.

Any advice is greatly appreciated.

Thanks,
Are you a repo guy?

I would suggest keeping your palms up towards the person and tell them to calm down if your feeling theyre about to swing. That way if a punch is thrown its easily blocked, the best way to practice this is just take up boxing and go fight someone bigger than you to remove the fear.

Having a professional kick your a$$ in the ring will teach you good defense, the vast majority of people on the street have no clue how to fight and just punch air
 

edward ace

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I've been in a few fights in my life. Most of the time, people don't follow thru on their threats. I never dismiss or underestimate anyone. Nor do I become disrespectful. But I am firm when I speak. If you can project confidence and strength in your voice, my experience is 99% of the time the other party will realize assaulting you is not a good idea. Only don't be arrogant, cocky, or invite the person outside. Don't say stupid things like 'if you feel froggy leap'.
Just be firm in your speech and deportment. And leave peacefully asap.
I hope this helps you. It works for me. And learning some martial arts can only help you, as long as you realize you are not Bruce Lee.
Peace.
 

Overdrive

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I agree with the advice you got in RL to take up martial arts in order to boost your confidence and awareness in confrontational situations. I've been practicing martial arts (Wing Chun) for the past 5 years now and have been experiencing a significant increase in general confidence and situational awareness. After a while you do feel more safe in your skin and know better when to stand your ground or run. The thing is, you need to pursue martial arts as a long term strategy in order for it to be useful. Just taking a one-day course in self-defense will not do anything for you in the long term, I'm afraid. It's a lot like being an entrepreneur, I guess.
 

Tommo

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Two different points to make here
1 After training in BJJ for over 5 years I never felt intimidated in tense situations and was LESS likely to get into a brawl than previously. That came from confidence in an ability to control a physical encounter.
2 I am today a totally different person from the guy in point one. After reading the Power of Now, I become calm and aware in situations with people that would have got me flustered, such as an aggressive question from a work colleague. The ability to be in the Now is valuable and the calmness the other person sees will not turn them agro. IMO
 

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Kruiser

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Check out the book Unbeatable Mind by Mark Divine, a former SEAL. His 4 Big Skills of Mental Toughness are

1. control your breathing - big deep breaths activates your parasympathetic nervous system and help you stay relaxed and in control; lowers cortisol, stops fight or flight response

2. stay positive - positive self dialogue in the moment - interrupt negative thoughts (e.g., "No. I got this."); replace with positive; have go to positive mantra/jingle

3. visualization - imagine yourself winning; win in your mind first

4. goal setting - (probably doesn't apply to situation you've described)
 

superb

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Lots of good tips in this thread. I don't know your odds of one of your confrontations becoming physical. When I have faced physical threats I've always been able to maintain my composure (at least on the outside). But in professional situations where the chances of an altercation occurring was next to impossible, there were times where I have felt intimidated, lacked confidence, quivering responses etc...

Whenever I've performed this way, it was always because I cared too much about what the exact outcome would be and it always worked against me.

I always perform better when I have the mindset of not giving f**k. I prepare, present with confidence but do not let myself get wrapped up in whether I make the sale / get the job / impress so-and-so...
 

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Gray Blimp

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Thank you all for your comments.

Having a professional kick your a$$ in the ring will teach you good defense, the vast majority of people on the street have no clue how to fight and just punch air
Many people seem to be recommending a martial arts of sorts. So I will need to look into that. I would like to reiterate that I have never been in a physical confrontation in this job. And if it ever happens, I have failed so spectacularly that I probably would not be staying in the job, should it happen.

In all seriousness, the best method is to actually keep putting yourself in these uncomfortable positions. Whenever your voice does become quiverish is to just own it. Become comfortable with your voice. Or whenever it does come out start laughing at yourself.
Thanks. I thought about joining the military because I was sure it would toughen me up. Military will always be there though.

But I am firm when I speak. If you can project confidence and strength in your voice
Just be firm in your speech and deportment.

Peace.
This is the hard part. I know this is what I need to do, but some of these encounters activate fight or flight in me, and I find it difficult to maintain a confident voice in these situations. I realize there is no physical danger, but my lizard brain does not care.

Work on controlling your breathing. Muscle relaxation is also important.

Check out some Tactical Arousal Control Techniques (TACT).
Breathing is also a problem. I slow my breath and heart rate right before the encounter, but then while I'm walking up to the encounter it goes right back up. Another case where I need to learn to control my own mind. I am going to read up on TACT though.

I agree with the advice you got in RL to take up martial arts in order to boost your confidence and awareness in confrontational situations. I've been practicing martial arts (Wing Chun) for the past 5 years now and have been experiencing a significant increase in general confidence and situational awareness. After a while you do feel more safe in your skin and know better when to stand your ground or run. The thing is, you need to pursue martial arts as a long term strategy in order for it to be useful. Just taking a one-day course in self-defense will not do anything for you in the long term, I'm afraid. It's a lot like being an entrepreneur, I guess.
Good advice. Things like fitness, self-defense, need to be lifestyle choices.

Two different points to make here
1 After training in BJJ for over 5 years I never felt intimidated in tense situations and was LESS likely to get into a brawl than previously. That came from confidence in an ability to control a physical encounter.
2 I am today a totally different person from the guy in point one. After reading the Power of Now, I become calm and aware in situations with people that would have got me flustered, such as an aggressive question from a work colleague. The ability to be in the Now is valuable and the calmness the other person sees will not turn them agro. IMO
Power of Now sounds interesting. Thank you, I will look into it.

Check out the book Unbeatable Mind by Mark Divine, a former SEAL. His 4 Big Skills of Mental Toughness are

1. control your breathing - big deep breaths activates your parasympathetic nervous system and help you stay relaxed and in control; lowers cortisol, stops fight or flight response

2. stay positive - positive self dialogue in the moment - interrupt negative thoughts (e.g., "No. I got this."); replace with positive; have go to positive mantra/jingle

3. visualization - imagine yourself winning; win in your mind first
Never thought about # 2 and #3 for this situation. That is a great idea. I think those will actually help. Going to give it a try next time I'm in this situation. And unbeatable mind seems right up my alley!

(So many books, so little time)

Thanks everyone for the great advice and encouragement.

A little off topic, but I was thinking: Since we live in a fairly peaceful society, we generally only get into fights when we look to get into fights. Even though I'm certain most men could murder me in a fight, I sometimes get a desire to fight. I of course never act on these desires. I'm not going to ruin my life. And I don't actually want to hurt anyone. But what I think I occasionally feel is a primordial urge to hunt. To kill. To go up against another with everything on the line. The very best of them verses the very best of me. To utilize the maximum facilities of my muscles and mind. Think a spartan boy killing a formidable animal, alone, to become a man. I think our ancestors, the ones who tended to have these feelings, probably lived to pass on these tendencies. Anyone else get these feelings? The urge to fight? Despite knowing it is better not to. More profitable not to, etc. As a species, peace is better for us. We can advance when we don't constantly fight each other. I think most of us know this. But most of us are well-removed from the animal world of the not-to-distant past, and insulated from its struggles. So you see people fighting in other ways. Just thinking out loud...
 
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Gray Blimp

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Lots of good tips in this thread. I don't know your odds of one of your confrontations becoming physical. When I have faced physical threats I've always been able to maintain my composure (at least on the outside). But in professional situations where the chances of an altercation occurring was next to impossible, there were times where I have felt intimidated, lacked confidence, quivering responses etc...

Whenever I've performed this way, it was always because I cared too much about what the exact outcome would be and it always worked against me.

I always perform better when I have the mindset of not giving f**k. I prepare, present with confidence but do not let myself get wrapped up in whether I make the sale / get the job / impress so-and-so...
This is also good advice. Another mindset change challenge. A book which I haven't read but I imagine would be good for this mindset change is "the art of not giving a F*ck". Sounds like just the ticket.

On the other hand, those who don't care often perform poorly. So perhaps it isn't universal advice. Just for those that care too much about the wrong, (and in the grand scheme of things) unimportant things.
 

lucasb

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Propanolol, 1 hour before the dreaded situation, a 40mg tablet divided into 4, lowers the sympathetic system (voice tremor, sweaty palms, trembling hands) without loss of cognitive function.

That as a first step, second continue exposing you to those feared situations, desensitization will improve.
 

Nigel B

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the best way to practice this is just take up boxing and go fight someone bigger than you to remove the fear
Being in a ring with a bigger fighter may help you face the fear - it will not, IME, help you much with street fights.

I boxed for 4 years (15-19) and competed at a national level. The kids who came to the gym to 'learn to fight' usually broke their hands within 4 weeks of joining. The spent a few sessions on the bags, a couple of rounds being lead around the ring - then they got mouthy in the street and punched someone in the head/face. Hine - hands are more fragile.

There is a reason that MMA fighters have a lot more than boxing. The reflex skills to avoid punches will help, but there are far better arts which will teach you how to take that momentum in the other party and use it to control them. Much better to take control, than to get into a slugging match.

Confidence comes in many forms, knowing you will not get hurt but will take control should this happen will take all the hesitance out of your voice.

I am not starting a 'my art is better than your art' thread - which is why I have not named a specific martial art as an alternative to boxing - but there are many which will focus more directly on skills which will help you, boost that confidence and avoid that voice tremor.
 

sparechange

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Boxing would be the best base to start with imo, he just needs to be punched in the face a couple times to get rid of the fear and learn how to block, most people would gas out in a street fight within 30 seconds
 

sparechange

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And usually end up swinging like a madman when they're angry
 

Nigel B

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Sure, I want to control that mad man though, not wait for him to run out of juice (especially important if the mad man happens to be high on something). But horses for courses - I still use my boxing skills in sparring (after more than 30 years) - but in a street situation I doubt I would today. Mainly because 'block - counter' is a programmed response and you never want to be seen as the aggressor by a witness who only saw half the encounter.

Fortunately not been put to the test in the street for about 25 years - much better to avoid escalation and not find out who knows what about fighting ;)
 

sparechange

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I had some crazy guy attack me on the street, managed to hockey jersey him (yeh im Canadian eh) then take him to the ground in a choke hold, was pretty funny. Guy had a really bad day that ended with the police hand cuffing him lol.

Any good fight stories?
 

Nigel B

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My favorite funny confrontation was 4 black belts (from 1st to 4th degrees) leaving a Broncos game, got in the car and a pickup backed into it before they could move. Out jumps the driver, and the much larger driver of the pickup (clearly drunk) laughs and says "do you want to make something of this".

The driver answers - "You really don't want to go there ..." - so Pickup calls his two buddies out to "sort these sh*t heads out". About thirty seconds later all three have their faces on the asphalt, and the fourth black belt is calling the police over to take these clowns away.
 

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sparechange

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good old liquid courage, picking fights with random people is generally a bad idea :D

lots of people out there could have alot of training yet look nothing like a ''fighter''
 

JonnyC

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Starting Strength program as long as you can do it for, 3x a week, plus tons of protein to get bigger and stronger.

Ditto boxing training for self-confidence and overall comfort with aggression. When I was in my teens, I was always easily intimidated as well, but something "clicked" for me when I realized that I could defend myself. I was sparring with a boxing buddy and he clocked me really hard, even though we'd agreed to go light that day in the gym. I got upset and just let loose on him, gave him a bloody nose and dazed him a bit, and then I kind of realized "Oh, it's not just for other people or for action movie heroes, but *I* can also fight back."

The best self-defense technique is situational awareness and avoidance of high threat areas or people. Basic stuff: know your exits, watch for angry/confused/drunk people, watch their hands, check their pockets/waist for bulges, always leave if you get a "mob situation" vibe building up, have a backup exfil plan for people you're with (ex: if we lose contact + phone, we meet at this place at 1am), etc etc.

However in your case, you're kind of forced into confrontations as part of your job, so it behooves you to get bigger, stronger, and more physically capable self-defense wise.

I've been in street fights and boxing is the most versatile IMO, as you train for striking at different ranges and get better footwork and balance. You should have some grappling skills as well, but generally if you go to the ground in an unregulated fight, the guy's buddy or girlfriend will kick you in the head/sides.

For public speaking, sign up for Toastmasters or offer to do speeches for local groups on things you're knowledgeable about. Get out of your comfort zone.
 

Nigel B

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generally if you go to the ground in an unregulated fight, the guy's buddy or girlfriend will kick you in the head/sides
This is a really good point. Many people will argue that street fights are going to the ground so you need "this particular" art which covers that - but as you say, another party will get you most of the time if that happens. Control where you are left standing and they are immobilized is much better.

In a professional situation you don't want to be trading punches though, IMO. And as I noted you have the issue that what is happening, and what witnesses "see" can be very different if you are doing anything which could be interpreted as aggressive (like throwing punches).
 

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