If you want to deescalate violence, you need to know what type you’re facing. There are 2 categories of violence, social violence and asocial violence. If you want to deescalate violence you have to know which type it is. What works for the one will probably back-fire for the other. Preventing violence is usually simpler than deescalating it.
To deescalate violence you need to know what type it is
Social violence is stuff that came about because humans are social creatures. Monkeys also have this type of violence for the same reasons we do.
Asocial violence is when human “hunt” other humans. It’s when someone doesn’t see the victim as a person, but rather as a walking glob of goo that has a wallet. Or sees the victim as his next plaything to slowly torture to death.
Because Rory Miller wrote the definitive guide on this stuff (IMO), I’ll be merrily stealing his terms and definitions. Or at least bastardising them closely enough.
Social violence goals
There are a couple varieties of social violence (read Rory Miller’s Facing Violence book for more detail), but they have the same goal – be more secure in your position in the tribe. This either comes out as you trying to get higher status within the tribe (so you’re valued more), or by strengthening the bonds within the tribe (so everyone loves each other more). Either way, nobody wants to be kicked out the tribe (historically this meant things like starving to death).
So when some dude at the party gives you shit and says “What you lookin’ at!”, either he feels like you were threatening his position (Monkey Dance), or he feels that by showing you up he can be seen as a bigger badass (Status Seeking Show). Put another way, the violence isn’t about him, it’s about the tribe standing around watching him.
The classic example is the Monkey Dance. An insecure tribe member feels (not thinks, feels) someone is showing him up (making him seem lower value to everyone else, i.e. easier to kick out the tribe if needed). It could be that you checked out his girl and he’s insecure in their relationship. Or maybe you said “Hey” as you walked past because your eyes met, and he feels (again, feels, not thinks) it’s a challenge, in front of his friends no less.
The social is the goal, not the violence. What this tells us is that the guy at the party giving you shit doesn’t mind getting violent to meet his social needs. It also means that he doesn’t mind getting injured to meet his social needs. So guess how well it’ll work trying to threaten him with violence …
Asocial violence is predatory. You aren’t a person, you’re a walking ATM. You aren’t a person, you’re an animal that screams nicely when tied up and having body parts cut off.
In asocial violence, you get what Miller calls Resource Predators and Process Predators.
Resource predators want the resource, your wallet, your phone, whatever. They need cash and you are the way they’re going to get that cash.
Rory Miller has a nice analogy: Think of what you’d do if your children were starving. What would you do for money? Would you worry about that poor man whose wallet you’re about to steal? Or would he be nothing more than an obstacle in your way to feeding your kids? Well, whatever you’d do to feed your kids is what an addict will do to feed his addiction.
With resource predators, you living through it isn’t necessarily a priority for the predator. With process predators, you getting dead might be half the point.
Process predators want the process. The serial rapist wants the rape, not you. The serial killer wants to torture and kill a blonde, not you specifically, it’s just that you happen to be blonde.
The other goal of predatory (asocial) violence, is that the predator wants to go home unharmed. Cavemen hunting Woolly Mammoths didn’t want to get the meat, only to crawl home and die from an infected wound they got while hunting. They want to stay alive long enough to enjoy eating the meat. A Resource Predator wants your wallet and what it’ll buy, not your wallet and a bullet hole.
This is the only reason why a predator would care about you living – it means fewer police resources dedicated to finding him. I.e. you living and being unharmed might help him survive longer.
Quick caveat: This is simplified, so I’m mostly covering Monkey Dances (status), some Status Seeking Shows (status), possibly a bit of Group Monkey Dances (status + bonding), but not really Educational Beatdowns (enforcing group norms).
Generally speaking if you want to know how to deescalate something, look at the goal. Social violence is about status and bonding within the tribe. If someone is trying to Monkey Dance with you then they feel challenged. Maybe they feel challenged by you and the result is a Monkey Dance. Or maybe they feel challenged because they screwed up in front of the tribe previously, and beating you up is a way to undo their loss of status (Status Seeking Show). To deescalate, make sure you’re not offering any challenges, and leave as soon as possible. Marc MacYoung has a nice page on challenges (and not doing them).
The social violence guy can’t be “backed down” because that would just reinforce his feelings of being challenged. Instead of him getting the status he wants, you’re “being difficult” so he needs to up the ante in order to “win”.
Additionally, more people watching can also up the ante because now he risks losing face in front of more people. An asocial predator doesn’t want witnesses, but a social violence Monkey Dancer does want more people watching (the more people from the tribe who see the more status he stands to “win”).
You can’t fix a problem with the same thinking that caused the problem in the first place. So yes, he gave you shit and challenged you, maybe swore at you, insulted your mother and shoved you. But if you feel the need to show him what a badass you are, then you’re just playing his game of status. It’s just confirming in his mind what made him want to fight you in the first place.
Leave. Walk away. Apologise if you think it’ll help.
From the Marc MacYoung article above:
Do NOT threaten him (“I’ll kick your arse”);
Do NOT challenge him (“Do you know who I am!”);
Do NOT insult him (“Fine, I’m sorry I looked at you. Asshole.”)
Do give him a face-saving exit (you don’t have to lower your status in order to deescalate, but make sure whatever way you try deescalate lets him keep what status he does have)
What works to deescalate social violence will probably provoke asocial violence. And vice versa. In avoiding social violence you are not a challenge, you are not a threat. But that’s exactly what a predator (asocial violence) looks for. Remember the goals of a predator:
1) Find a victim that has what you need (resource or process)
2) Find a victim that won’t cause you injury
Besides common sense, like not flashing the latest iPhone in a Fringe Area, you have fairly little influence on the first point. So to deescalate asocial violence you need to not be an easy target. You need to be someone that the Threat thinks will cause him injury if he chooses you.
So we’re talking things like verbal boundary enforcement, physical boundary enforcement (e.g. PESTS and Shadow Dancing), drawing more attention from any witnesses. Flipping the mental switch so you’re ready and willing to cause him damage. Basically the upper parts of Marc MacYoung’s Pyramid of Personal Safety. You want to be a threat to him. You want to be a challenge he’s not sure he can, or wants to attempt to, overcome. A predator doesn’t need a face-saving exit because he’s not there for “face”.
[The lower parts of the pyramid deters asocial violence (i.e. you don’t have the resource they need and you’re not an easy victim), the upper parts deescalate (i.e. you aren’t a safe victim)]
Why it’s important to know what type of violence you’re facing
A predator can be deterred because you are a dangerous individual prepared for violence. A Monkey Dancer will just see that as another challenge to his desire for status.
Pushing a predator away from you to gain the time/space to possibly draw a weapon or run to safety is likely a good idea. If you shove a tipsy insecure-in-himself dude to enforce your boundaries, he thinks you’re trying to show him up – so now he has to show YOU up.
Apologising and being nonthreatening can help with a Monkey Dance (social violence). But to a predator you just made yourself into a safe victim who won’t fight back. You made yourself into prey.
What works for one tends to backfire for the other.
Leaving is about the only work-for-everything way of getting out of a violent situation. However there are different ways to leave:
Meek and unobtrusive for social violence;
Boldly, paying careful and obvious attention to the Threat for asocial violence. (BTW, eyeing the guy as you leave a bar can look a lot like a challenge to a Monkey).
How to tell which type of violence you’re facing
Fortunately there are a couple ways to tell what type of violence you’re facing.
The first is witnesses. Are there people nearby watching? If there’s a crowd of people cheering you guys on, then odds are good this is social violence. “Social” meaning to do with people and relationships. No people, no social.
If the closest witness is on the other side of the car park, then odds are good this is asocial violence.
The second thing ties in with the first. Where are you? Social violence usually happens in social places – bars, parties, schools etc. Places where young men gather in groups; places where people taking mind-altering substances (booze and drugs and arguably the search for sex).
Asocial violence (predatory violence) also happens in predictable areas – Fringe Areas. Places near lots of people, but away from witnesses. Places where there are few people at any given time, but there’s a steady stream of new people entering and leaving all the time (to provide a self-refreshing victim pool to choose from).
The Interview is the process where a predator evaluates how safe you are to attack. One of the Interview techniques is a “Hot” Interview. Basically a predator (e.g. a mugger) tries to trigger a Monkey Dance in you. If the mugger can get you into a social violence mindset, then you’re not going to be effective at preventing asocial violence. So when the dude starts yelling “What’s your problem dude!” when you walk by, he wants to get you to stop (not moving = easy prey) and start yelling back (being emotional = easy prey).
You’re thinking “What’s his problem” while he’s thinking “He stopped walking exactly where I want him. Joe will be sneaking up behind him any moment now.”
The clue here is that if you see social violence developing, but you’re in a Fringe Area, then it’s probably a predator trying to trick you into a Monkey Dance.
How to lose
With social violence there are several ways you can lose. Possibly the best way to lose is to try and intimidate the other guy into backing down by showing him how much bigger and badder you are. Considering that this is how the whole social violence game usually works, that’s probably a bad idea.
Here’s an example of someone getting a shotgun to make the other guy back down, but it doesn’t work. In fact the other guy tries to show up the shotgun (by waving his arms around to show he ain’t scared). Watch how well that turns out:
You don’t play.
You keep the goal in mind and you leave.
The goal is: Get home alive.
Even if you deescalated the situation, you still leave because the other guy might change his mind. He might go to his car to get a shotgun and wait for you by your car.
You get away. Disengage and get away.
Notice the common thread here? When there’s violence in the air, leaving is probably the best option.
If your goal is to get home alive and well, each and every day, then avoiding violence is going to be the right answer. Even (especially) if it hurts your pride (social). Even if you have to do uncomfortable things like be rude (asocial).
When is violence the best option?
My goal is get home alive to my family. What if the violence is at my home? For example a home invader.
My goal is get home alive to my family. What if someone’s trying to take me away from my family? For example a mugger who already has my wallet is trying to get me to walk around the corner some place more private.
Violence is the answer when it’s the only way to reach your goals. And when you’re willing to die for that goal. Shit happens and this life doesn’t come with money-back guarantees. People slip, people escalate, accidents happen. Some asshole at a rally sets you on fire with a lighter and can of spray.
Alt-right violence / alt-left violence
Sometimes violence is the answer. Just know what you’re getting yourself into.
Question to ask yourself – is punching the other side worth dying over?
Is your goal of attending a rally more important than going home that night?
If it is, then fine, plenty of people have died for causes they believed in. If you’re happy with that then it’s your choice. Just don’t bullshit yourself that you get to do what you want and get a guarantee that you get to go home in one piece. And don’t bitch and moan if you’re the one who becomes a martyr for the cause – it’s usually a painful process to get to that position.