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Boundaries and your safety

We give off energy all day long. That "aura" is who we are. It is our personality, and it is a wonderful thing. There are times, however, when it may become necessary to give off an entirely different energy. A "Back off!" or "I see you..." energy. This is the process of enforcing a boundary and setting an authoritative tone with a person or group. This does not come naturally to everyone. It is a huge element in any self-protection arsenal, however, and should be addressed.

Do you have a friend (perhaps this is you...!) that says "I have never really been approached by a creepy person...?" This could be a result of environment, or simple life experience...but usually this is a result of the person having a "knack" for enforcing boundaries. All it takes, quite often, is a stern response to subtly (or not so subtle) inappropriate comments or gestures. When enforcing boundaries becomes a habit, certain types of predatory behaviors are stopped in their tracks.

Being taught to be polite and to not cause a scene can work against us in this area. I want to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. I want people to like and appreciate me. So...defending my personal space with a body language technique, or drawing attention to an uncomfortable situation can be challenging--but defending my personal space is a necessity. Keeping strangers and co-workers at a distance is not only prudent, it is one of the core principles of PSP. "Keep your distance..." Three feet is generally considered adequate 'personal space.' Four feet is a minimum 'reaction space'...(the distance at which we need to keep strangers and those we are uncomfortable with).

Often, when a person we know gently pushes our boundaries, we are being tested for further intrusion. By stopping the behavior immediately with a simple, clear statement "That makes me uncomfortable..." or "You need to give me more space..." we set the tone for future encounters. This is merely being assertive. It is healthy, and it is your right.

Sometimes, an even more assertive gesture is necessary. Stepping back into a "bladed" stance and holding your hands up, palm out, in front of you...along with a sharp verbal command "Stop!" or "Back off!"...can literally stop the forward momentum of all but the most determined aggressors. Is a pan handler approaching a bit too quickly? Is this guy jogging past or approaching me? Being able to take charge at a moment's notice can separate clumsy, awkward individuals from predatory individuals in a split second. Practice this move in a mirror and use your sharpest, loudest voice when applying this technique. You may never need to be this assertive, but it is good to have trained the technique if things start moving fast, and you need to clarify intent.

The general rule is...if you are uncomfortable, say so. If the behavior continues, get others involved. HR is a great resource for boundary issues on the job. Tell your friends or family about issues you may be having in other situations. If you shine light on the behavior, it usually withers and dies.

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