Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Aspie and Autist Guide to Self Defense, Part IV: Shadow Dancing

We need to be able to defend ourselves from physical as well as social threats. As Woody Guthrie famously sung, some rob you with a six-gun and some rob you with a fountain pen.

Meanwhile, as Sun Tzu famously wrote, the greatest victory comes from a battle that's never fought.

And sometimes, the only way you can avoid fighting is to show the other person that while you have no desire to start anything, if s/he does you will finish it. As self-defense expert Marc "Animal" MacYoung puts it, the aggressor is in effect "interviewing" you for the "job" of victim. S/he's testing your willingness and ability to resist. You "pass" the interview by showing you're not prepared to fight back.

As we've learned, however, if you just go around issuing threats - whether in word or manner - you will attract the very things you're trying to avoid. Most of the people you'd threaten would previously have had no interest in attacking you. Some of them, however, will look on your actions as a challenge to their status - and we've learned how they'd respond. Most of the rest will just think you're a fool.

And of course, even someone who was planning to attack you now has the perfect excuse - after all, who was getting aggressive first?

Whether the attacks in question would be physical attacks on the street in a seedy part of town or in a biker bar or attacks on your credibility in the workplace, the basic principles are the same.

You need to prepare yourself, and issue the appropriate warnings, in ways visible only to a likely aggressor, clearly geared toward meeting a particular act of aggression and no more and plausibly deniable (yes, this means a bit of selective description of your motives) to everyone including the potential aggressor. MacYoung calls it Shadow Dancing.

If someone comes to, say, your place of work and looks like s/he may want to start something with you, you can drop what you're doing and move to a nearby location with a heavy tool nearby. Officially, all you've done is change your tasks and location within the limits of your job. Unofficially, you've let the other person know that you're alert, you know what s/he may be planning, you're confident (since you're not making a deal of it - it's "all in a day's work") and you're prepared to seriously hurt him/her if s/he tries anything.

An attacker will likely be deterred, not only by your being near a weapon but also by your demonstration of alertness ("I'm not sure if I can catch him/her by surprise anymore, and maybe s/he's well-coordinated enough to turn me into bloody hash if I try anything"), your confidence ("What does s/he know that I don't? Maybe s/he's tougher than I thought!") and resolve to possibly use the weapon if need be ("Talk is cheap, but it looks like this person is serious about using that on me if s/he has to.")

Of course, someone who's not looking to attack you won't be offended by, and may not even notice the significance of, what you just did. And if s/he or anyone else actually calls you out on it "Hey - what are you doing going for a weapon?" you can just say "Hey, I'm just shelving boxes here now - so what if that big hammer (which I'm not even touching) just happens to be here?"

If one of your co-workers is thinking of trying to make you look bad, you can shadow dance. Say you're both at a meeting with your boss. You're both rivals for the boss' attention and you suspect the other person may want to make you look stupid so the boss trusts him/her more. So maybe the boss asks about a topic you know something but not a whole lot about, say financial management. Your co-worker may ask about expense account reporting procedures...and include a seminar s/he's attended that s/he wants reimbursement for. A financial management seminar.

If you turn around and say "I know why you said that! You're just trying to impress the boss!" you will look foolish and actually do yourself in. The co-worker can say "What are you talking about? I was just asking about expense accounts." Meanwhile the boss is thinking "Well, your co-worker is certainly doing a good job of impressing me with regard to (1) knowledge of the topic - which you haven't refuted - (2) savoir-faire and (3) perspective."

Instead you say something like "Hey, that must have been an interesting seminar? Did the instructor mention Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Financial Management But Were Afraid to Ask?" If the co-worker says "Yes," you can show you're on the same plane of knowledge as s/he is, especially when you mention a few topics from the book. If s/he says "No," you can go on with "Oh I can understand that - it just came out six months ago. I'm sure they'll be talking about the chapter about the new techniques in place since Sarbanes-Oxley...." And you've shown you not only know financial management, but you also have the very latest knowledge - important in a business setting.

You've shown your rival and your boss that not only do you know about financial management, you sense challenges before they can become big problems and you can respond with proportion. Those are important qualities for serious responsibility.

In any case, you may have to carry out a few more rounds of move and countermove before the would-be aggressor is convinced that you know the score and backs off.

In a nutshell, Shadow Dancing means: Move yourself into position to fight back. Block the other person's moves to more advantageously attack you. Make it all look normal and force the other person to out-and-out attack you - without the advantage of surprise, weakness on your part or the ability to blame you - if s/he wants to start anything.

What do you think?


Anonymous said...

Provocative post as always, J. However, I would advise you to move away from this topic (which I think you've exhausted and which frankly doesn't seem to have all that much to do with Aspie/Austist issues specifically).

Look forward to your future postings!


Jeff Deutsch said...

Hello M,

Thanks for your comment.

I do believe self-defense matters quite a bit to many if not most Aspies, who disproportionately tend to be bullied and victimized.

Perhaps you noticed the post from this morning?

Jeff Deutsch

SavedAspie said...

Hey, I really like this series. I just today discovered it, and in each post I learned something new. I've often felt at a loss in the workplace when this subtle verbal competition occurs: I don't want to be a braggart, and I don't want to look foolish. I sense that there's some kind of competition going on, but it's so subtle that I'm not sure what to do. You've given me a lot to think about. THANKS!