How to deal with unwanted contact: the “fishing expedition”

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I’ve said many times that self defense and personal security aren’t always about the gun. The concealed carry firearm is an efficient (and important) part of an overall self defense plan, but it is applicable to a very small number of situations. Far more numerous are those everyday interactions which seem innocuous, but hold the potential for violent escalation.

Knowing how to deal with unwanted contact is a skill that everyone needs to cultivate. It’s not easy, though, because it really forces us to do something most of us find repulsive: we need to learn to be rude.

If you grew up like I did, you were taught to be polite to everyone you meet. Most kids are taught that way, even today, and the savvy predator uses this to his advantage. The social scripts which guide our everyday life can be (and are) easily used to distract you or lull you into a state of complacency. From there the criminal can strike.

While not all public interactions are preludes to crime, enough of them are that it’s prudent to take precautions. Before going any further, read this article over at Nova Self Defense for a great discussion of one way to approach the problem. He has some very good thoughts about how to respond when confronted by someone who may not be a threat, but could become one (particularly if you unwittingly escalate the situation.)

I found his “3E” approach to be very similar to what I’ve done when faced with the “interview” (I call them “fishing expeditions”, because the bad guy is always fishing for someone who will take his bait.) The fishermen I’ve encountered always have a way of speaking, some mannerisms, that tell me they’re up to no good. I’m a poor actor so I can’t reproduce it very well, but there is a definite manner in which their interview proceeds as they attempt to use your social conditioning against you.

Back to the article: in the “show empathy” phase of the response, it’s important that your empty hands are displayed in a non-threatening manner. On occasion you’ll run across the person who seems to be deferential but turns hostile quickly. Once that happens you have another situation altogether, so I tend to avoid “setting him off” in the first place.

The common palms forward, fingers up position is the same as that of someone who is preparing to shove another person, and can be interpreted as being a threat or a challenge. Instead, show your hands palm up along with the shrug mentioned in the article.

The excuse is incredibly important, because the other person is likely to be prepared for many things you might say. I’ve found that a quick excuse that they don’t have a counter for, followed by an immediate move to exit the area, usually scrambles their script quite adequately. I’ve found I end up using only two, the choice depending on the request: “Sorry, man, not interested” and “Sorry, dude, don’t have one” (or “any”, as the case may be.)

The last lines of the article contain an important little gem that you should keep in mind whenever dealing with unwanted contacts: “I knew I had nothing to gain from letting him get closer…” Whenever you’re confronted, think about what you have to gain from your interaction. While I understand the desire to be on friendly terms with everyone in the world, the fact is that not everyone wants to be on friendly terms with you. Keeping yourself safe means understanding that reality and learning to be a little more rude when the situation calls for it.

-=[ Grant ]=-

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About the Author:

Grant Cunningham is a renowned author and teacher in the fields of self defense, defensive shooting education and personal safety. He’s written several popular books on handguns and defensive shooting, including "The Book of the Revolver", "Shooter’s Guide To Handguns", "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals", "Defensive Pistol Fundamentals", and "Practice Strategies for Defensive Shooting" (Fall 2015.) Grant has also written articles on shooting, self defense, training and teaching for many magazines and shooting websites, including Concealed Carry Magazine, Gun Digest Magazine, the Association of Defensive Shooting Instructors ADSI) and the popular Personal Defense Network training website. He’s produced a DVD in the National Rifle Association’s Personal Firearm Defense series titled "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals" and teaches defensive shooting and personal safety courses all over the United States.
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