On February 28th, George Mattison posted a request -- that we focus the forum using examples that the martial arts community can relate to better than those we are using. He is of course enormously more versed in the martial arts culture than I am, and I defer to him without hesitation; however, I find myself confused.
My own understanding of the various martial arts is that they are systems, and that when they provide techniques for _defense_ it is expected that the techniques will be applicable to a wide variety of confrontations. (In fact, the wider the variety, the closer the technique comes to being flawless.) I would not expect a forum on physical self-defense in the martial arts to be asked to discuss only confrontations that occur in some limited setting -- within a martial arts course, or at a tournament, or anything of that kind. I wouldn't expect that you'd have to learn one set of physical defense techniques for confrontations in a bar, another for confrontations in a parking lot, still another for confrontations on a university campus, and so on.
In the same way, the verbal confrontations we've been discussing have been discussed with regard to techniques that are applicable to almost all verbal confrontations (some examples of exceptions would be confrontations with someone who is psychotic, or who does not speak the language you speak, or who is in such extreme pain that he/she doesn't have full control of his/her faculties). Whether the confrontation is over the lending of a book or the lending of a gi is irrelevant; the principles remain the same.
[Mike Hurney has found a way to deal with the "lending-and-not-getting-the-item-back" problem by turning it into an employment opportunity; see his posting on March 9th. Note, however, that putting his solution into effect depends on his ability to use language with others effectively (and, tangentially, his competence with the tools he's asked to lend). To understand what he does and be able to do it ourselves we would have to be able to examine the language -- both words and body language -- that he uses in these situations.]
I suspect that I may have misunderstood George Mattison's request, and I welcome clarification -- as well as suggested examples that would _fulfill_ the request.
Mike Hurney asks: "Did I miss something or have you already covered strength of personality as a variable in the equation?" If I am understanding his phrase correctly, the term used in verbal self-defense for that is "presence"; in any case, we certainly haven't covered it. If you want to pursue this, it would be best to do it as a separate thread it would be helpful to me if one of you would post the opening question(s) or comments. This is a very intricate subject, and an important one; discussing it here would create unmanageable clutter.
Sean C. and Gilbert MacIntyre have both posted messages in which they describe their abilities to deal with verbal confrontations in ways different than those I've suggested so far. If success is defined as being able to see to it that a potential confrontation simply does not take place, Sean is successful in using nonverbal communication (roughly, body language) only. (There are times when that definition of success is appropriate, others when it's not nearly enough; I'm assuming that he makes that distinction carefully.) Gilbert is successful in a different fashion; he writes that he simply says what he has to say without ambiguity and without apology, and without concern for the reactions of those he is speaking to.
Not everyone has Sean's skill at nonverbal communication. [Since I can't see him, I don't know how much that skill is due to physical appearance and how much to other factors such as presence (strength of personality), experience, and so on.]
Not everyone has Gilbert's emotional detachment and indifference to the reactions of others. It should also be remembered that not everyone has the luxury of taking that stance. For just one example, in the workplace it may well get you fired; if you have a family to support you may not be willing to risk that. In order to avoid getting fired you will almost certainly find it necessary to take the reactions of your employer into consideration. If you are a medical professional and refuse to consider the reactions of your patients and their families to the way you express your opinions, you risk a malpractice suit and an end to your career. Gilbert writes: "As long as you can live with yourself and your views, I wouldn't worry about anyone else." That is a stance of absolute power; if Gilbert is able to maintain it, he is extremely fortunate, but he is one of a rare few -- and the consequences may not always be what he would want them to be.
After almost every seminar I teach, someone who can be described as a "very physically-powerful-looking man" comes up to my table, puts both palms flat on the table, leans over toward me, and says: "Listen, I don't see why anybody needs all this verbal self-defense stuff for! Anybody bothers me, I just tell them to get out of my face, and that's the _end_ of it!" Their statements may well be true, but their ignorance is either profound or feigned. They should be aware, if they live in the real world, that their methods will rarely work for people who appear fragile -- small women without obvious "buffed" appearance, elderly women and many elderly men, children, people who are ill or injured, and so on.
I have taught a number of times for paramedics and EMTs, and in those contexts it frequently happens that a man meeting the same description -- and sometimes a woman -- comes up afterwards and says something different: "What I can't figure out is why so many of the people I'm trying to help are _scared_ of me. I'm _very_ careful not to say anything that would frighten anybody, but half the time they won't let me come near them! What am I doing wrong?" In these cases the problem is almost always that the person has grown accustomed to depending on the body language that goes with the metamessage "I AM SO POWERFUL THAT YOU MESS WITH ME AT YOUR PERIL" for all language interactions whatsoever -- and the person is so extremely good at projecting that message (strength of personality, if you like) -- that he or she is unaware that it completely cancels out the words said. When I videotape clients who have this problem and show them the videos, they are almost without exception flabbergasted; they say they had _no_ idea they used such intimidating body language. It can easily get beyond deliberate and voluntary control without the person realizing that that is happening; that's dangerous.