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Archive for category Human Resources
Women’s Personal Safety: The Unwanted Hug
Have you ever found yourself wrapped in a hug you didn’t want, but didn’t know what to do about it?
I certainly have, and it made me feel angry, resentful, and outraged!,
Whether on campus, at work, or just socializing, unwanted hugging seems to affect almost all women and girls – and many men – at some point.
Yet, few of us know what to do in the moment, because it’s weird, and we don’t want to be “rude.”
Many of us, especially women and girls, are socialized to accept hugs without question – ignoring the fact that sometimes hugs are aggression posing as affection. That teaches us that we do not own our bodies, and leaves us more vulnerable to harassment and sexual assault. Therefore, our personal safety strategies are paramount.
You might say that unwanted hugging is a “gateway drug” to escalating physical contact. “Pick up artists” use hugging as a “compliance test” to determine how vulnerable a woman will be to his particular brand of manipulation.
The fact that unwanted hugs may or may not be done with ill intent, hiding under a veil of plausible deniability, and rely on you to “be polite” makes us feel … oddly powerless.
Having strategies at the ready helps immensely, as opposed to trying to think of something in the moment.
A Direct “NO” is A-OK.
You alone own your body, and you alone decide who gets hugs or not, according to how you feel in that moment. It’s perfectly ok to tell someone, “I don’t want a hug, thanks,” or “I’d prefer to shake hands,” or “Let’s just wave from here!”
It is the other person’s job, not yours, to manage how they feel about that.
You don’t owe anyone a justification, so if you’re met with objections or entreaties, calmly stand your ground with an answer such as, “It’s just my preference.” “I’m not a hugging sort of person.” “I’d rather shake hands.” “I would prefer not to.”
But if you don’t feel comfortable or safe giving a direct “No,” try this instead:
Stick out your arm for a hearty handshake.
Add a cheery “So nice to see (or meet) you!”
Take a step back and angle your body if you have room.
Most people will get the message and react accordingly. However, if the hugger is tone deaf, but you need to let that person save face, try:
Handshake + Conversational Pivot
Your pivot may sound like this: “Sorry, I’m maxed out on hugs today – but tell me about your new project – it sounds so interesting!” or, “Hey, you know what? I’m all hugged out from my new puppy! Do you want to see a photo?” “Oh, sorry, my little nephew got all my hugs already. Speaking of which, what is a Pokemon?” The point is, always have a few rehearsed sound bites at the ready. Use whatever works for you and go with it like it’s the most natural thing in the world.
This method distracts the other person and glosses over any uneasiness.
If someone drags you into a hug anyway, making you uncomfortable, your job is to make your discomfort clear, and redirect it back to the offender.
“HEY! I said NO HUGS!”
“OW! You’re pulling my hair!”
“OUCH! You’re hurting my neck!” (because you have a little crick in it, of course)
“HEY! You’re hurting my sunburn!”
You might *accidentally* step on his feet — because he pulled you off balance with the unwanted hug, right?
Some people will always ignore boundaries and go in for the hug in spite of your objections. That is valuable information: This person is not to be trusted.
This is someone to avoid. This is someone to keep a wary eye on, even if you’re acquainted or “friends.” This is someone who will not take “No” for an answer. This is someone to warn your friends about.
Never let social conventions or fear of feeling awkward get in the way of your bodily integrity and security.
Your personal safety always come before someone else’s feelings.
– Jennifer Kaminer, 27 March 2017
Related: Your Daughter’s Campus Safety and Security: 3 Tips
The Department of Justice – and common sense – tells us that violence against women is predominantly committed by men.
With women’s personal safety always at the forefront, learning to use “male-encoded” language can be very helpful in certain circumstances.
Broadly speaking, aggressive males only understand communications – verbal and non-verbal – that read as male.
This is not to diminish the power and effectiveness of communication styles that are traditionally female-coded.
It’s about what works in a confrontation between an aggressive man and an intimidated woman.
Of course, the best way to avoid a confrontation is to … avoid it. Leave the scene when you can. But real life doesn’t always work that way, and you need to have some strategies in mind so you’ll know what to do if confronted by an angry, aggressive, or otherwise inappropriate person.
When a woman is dealing with a confrontational male, the social contract tells us to be quiet, not make a scene, and hope the encounter ends quickly.
We are told, implicitly and explicitly, that speaking up for ourselves makes things worse.
The truth is, being quiet and submissive was always a deeply flawed solution, and when faced with a nonresistant woman, many men will feel empowered to escalate the violence.
And politely asking an aggressor to stop being aggressive simply doesn’t work.
Although it goes against our collective cultural conditioning, oftentimes the best response to a confrontational or inappropriate male is to be loud and firm, in a tone that allows no room for negotiation or argument.
This assertive verbal language and accompanying body language is often what we consider “male-encoded.”
Consider the difference between a woman quietly saying, “Please stop doing that. You’re making me feel uncomfortable,” versus the same woman saying, “YOU! CUT THAT OUT!” while making a noticeable jerking motion with her thumb.
The assertive approach accomplishes two things: it puts the aggressor on notice that you are NOT an easy target and whatever he does to you will come with a consequence; and it alerts anyone nearby that you are in a precarious situation and they may need to step in or call for help.
Before you’re ever faced with a situation, think of aggressive phrases men use, and role-play saying these same things out loud. Practice until you’re comfortable saying these things firmly, authoritatively, and are able to call them up instantly.
“YOU! CUT IT OUT!” “GET OUTTA HERE!” “BACK OFF!” “HEY YOU! SHUT IT!” and “YOU BACK UP!” are some examples. Drop your voice to a deeper register and deliver loud, firm COMMANDS, NOT REQUESTS, like a drill sergeant – as if you EXPECT to be obeyed, and anything else is unthinkable.
Use male-encoded body language when you issue these commands. Stand at attention – straight, with your feet shoulder-width apart, shoulders back, head up, with a serious face. Look fearless and resolved. At the same time, maintain your personal space as much as possible, as staying out of reach is always important.
Don’t worry about being rude or making a scene. Go on and MAKE A SCENE.
Your personal safety always supersedes other people’s feelings.
Using assertive, male-encoded language should always be one of your strategies in maintaining your personal security.
– Jennifer Kaminer, January 21, 2017
At the Front Door
Home health providers, social workers, nurses and other field-based professionals know to be on guard when knocking on a client’s door, especially during that first visit. Personal safety is paramount.
Here are the four strategies you can use to make you that much safer while knocking on someone’s door, whether for the first time or the hundredth time.
Distance is Always Your Friend
Knock and step back several feet. (If you are knocking on the door of a trailer home, perhaps reach through the railings and knock on the bottom of the door to avoid the stairs.)
Creating space between you and the door gives you more time to react if a negative situation arises. Police refer to this as the “reactionary gap,” or “reactionary cushion.”
Stay off the Center Line
Moving to the side takes you off the center line and leaves you a bit less vulnerable to something like a dog charging out the door.
Hinge Side of the Door
As you step to the side try whenever possible to stand on the hinge side of the door frame. This allows you to see a more of the room behind the person opening the door than if on the door handle side.
Partial “Blading” for Your Body
Once you’re back and away and off to the hinge side of the frame, remember to angle your body at about 45 degrees toward the door, as opposed to facing the door square with your shoulders. Angling or partially “blading” your body in this manner allows you monitor what is going on behind you as well as keep an eye on the door. This positioning also allows you to more quickly turn away from the door and leave rapidly if the situation called for it.
It Happened to Me: A True Story From Lone Worker Training:
The provider said she did everything described above but for the partial blading stance. She said her shoulders were square to the door, and when it was opened she was shoved from behind into the residence and robbed of her possessions.
Does this happen every day? Of course not. But knowing what is going on behind you at the door and at all times is critical and makes you a much “harder target.”
**A simple technique that will help you cover that BLIND SPOT behind you.
Please stop describing yourselves this way. You are professionals who have a lot more responsibilities and tasks than meet the eye.
In the hospitality industry, you are the name and face of the brand you represent. In business settings, you are the first point of contact tasked with making a desirable first impression, while being assertive and maintaining control of your lobby.
You are expert multitaskers. While signing people in and printing visitor’s badges you are keeping an eye on the front door, the hallway to the restrooms, buzzing in the mail delivery clerk and authenticating service providers. On top of it you are often also tasked with monitoring the CCTV security system!
Behind your welcoming professional smile, you have over watch on access control and security. You deal with difficult people and are on the front line with regard to threats are other issues most aren’t even aware of.
Personal safety and situational awareness training for front desk professionals is often overlooked. Often, this is due to high turnover. In other instances, a lack of commitment to the position.
Yet it is imperative that employers give the front desk staff the respect and training they deserve. Important things employers need to consider with regard to training include:
- How will my front desk staff respond to a bomb threat? Will they evacuate immediately or will they stay calm and ask for additional information that will be helpful to the police?
- If violence erupts, will they attempt to intervene, or be a good witness and call police from a safe distance?
- If a hostile intruder breaches the lobby, what is the game plan? Do you have a Safe Room?
- Domestic violence “spill over.” What is this, and how do you mitigate against it?
- Someone calls and attempts to “charm the front desk” into giving up private information. What does this look and sound like? What measures should your staff take?
These are but a few of the issues your front desk personnel must deal with. Reminding them that they are just that, front desk professionals, and empowering them to take charge of their environment is key.
These employees should be trained and empowered to act confidently, professionally, and decisively.
A secondary benefit to this is higher level of job satisfaction and less turnover at the position.