There is a view that self-defence situations start with a stranger attacking you in an alleyway and while this can happen it is rarely the truth.

In fact, the most common reason self-defence situations occur is communication ego.

Here is an example;

You are walking down the street with your girlfriend, and a group of lads is across the street. They shout at abuse at your girlfriend, and you look at them, and you shout something back.

They run across the road and are straight in your face saying to you “What did you just say to me.”

You have two options here; you can say ‘sorry’ to the man who just abused your partner, or you can repeat what you said which is going to put you in a self-defence situation.

It is these situations that are far more common than the attack in the alleyway by a random ‘mugger’.

So it begs the question what do you do in these situations?

This article will address the communication triggers that ignite situations into full-scale violence and how to avoid using them.

1. The Bar/ Pub Situation

I love going to the pub; nothing quenches the thirst like a nice cool lager; I actually love the whole Belgium beer thing now as well.

However, alcohol can cause aggression and ‘loose tongues’, so people end up arguing. The most common of situations are the ‘what are you looking at’ and the ‘Bump into you’.

The ‘what are you looking at’ situation happens when someone is looking for trouble.

So you have a few options here.

  1. a) “I’m not looking at anything mate.”
  2. b) “I’m not looking at much.”
  3. c) “What’s it got to do with you.”

As we see the responses cascade downwards, each one offers a different type of response. Option A is a great response because it is genuine and provides very little aggression.

Option B is an aggressive tone which is designed to challenge the person. Option C is a straight challenge back.

What you say in these situations will dictate what happens next. We aren’t here to wipe your nose, what you do is up to you, but the ‘Trigger’ here is the challenge.

If you meet a challenge with a challenge, it will escalate until someone backs down, there is an interruption or it goes violent.

2. The Street Challenge

For this, we go back to the original example where your girlfriend has been shouted at. You have a two options here:

  1. a) Shout back
  2. b) Ignore them and carry on

The thing you need to realise is that people are shouting to get a reaction. That is their goal, and it is likely that if you react, then you will be playing by their ‘script’.

It is up to you how you handle this type of situation, but if you shout back then, there is a likelihood that they will escalate the situation.

Personally, I live by the ‘sticks and stones’ method. Words across the street are exactly that; I have no desire to fight people so I will control the situation by not being a part of their ‘entertainment.’

3. The Kebab House/ Chip Shop

Back in the day when I as a policeman you could bet your money that most of the night’s action would happen in a  kebab house/ chip shop.

Why? Because everyone suddenly wants food after a night out and they squeeze into a very confined space.

Food to a drunk is like water to a man walking in the desert, and people will push and shove. Also, there seemed to be an abundance of idiots that had failed to meet anyone that night and were just angry.

What usually happens is that someone will say something offensive and because of the close proximity of the people the situation turns violent very quickly.

So what can you do if someone is abusive to you?

The simple answer is just to ignore them unless they try to get in your ‘way’/ path.

Trying to reason with a drunk at 2 am in the morning is like speaking to someone in a foreign language. You will not be able to make them see sense.

If however you have to answer them just turn and say ‘listen I just want my food, and I’m going home.’

What a drunk says to you has little relevance to your life so ignore them.

The trigger for violence here is ‘engagement’. The more you engage with someone like this the higher the chance they will confront you physically.

4. The Classic Robbery

The classic robbery is the thing we all hear about, yet in truth rarely happens.

Just a quick scan onto YouTube and you will see more knife disarms based on the ‘mugging scenario’ than you ever thought possible.

So what do you do if some crack addict pulls a knife on you and demands your phone, wallet, and car keys?

What do you say? Simple:

“Here you go.”

If someone is demanding money from you, this is a because they want the money, they are not looking for trouble. They want to get the cash/ belongings and go.

The second you start to challenge them you enter into a situation where you start to ‘increase the timeline of the encounter’. By creating friction, you start to increase the chances of them being caught.

The advice here is simple, give them what they want because money, wallets, and phones can be replaced, lives can’t.

The trigger in this situation is ‘disruption’. If you disrupt the plan, you may force them to take action to ‘get their plan back on track’.


We can end up in situations where we are faced with people who want to confront us.

How we react can add fuel to the fire or put water on it.

If you understand what ‘triggers violence’ you can respond tactically, and this will give you the greatest opportunity to keep safe.

Thanks for reading