When we think of avoidance, we are often focused on not going to bad places, or keeping our eye out for folks that look like trouble, or generally identifying bad situations while there is still time to make an exit. All of these are admirable endeavors and will go a long ways towards keeping us safe. However, we often overlook the value of avoiding arguments.
Sadly, men may be the worst offenders when it comes to getting into arguments that are best avoided. After all, we never saw John Wayne or Clint Eastwood back down from an argument, even those that turned into fights. Hell no! A real man ought to stand up for his rights, get back in that guy’s face and let him know that he has bitten off more than he can chew. If he wants trouble, then give it to him in spades.
Unfortunately, for the armed citizen this may not be the best idea. If you look as much like an aggressor as the other guy, it may not matter that the other guy actually started it. Ultimately, you may share equal responsibility for having the argument escalate into a violent contact. Witnesses to the conflict—and there will nearly always be witnesses—may tell investigating officers that you were as much a part of the problem as the other guy was.
It is virtually impossible for one guy to have an argument all by himself. He has no one else to feed off of and pretty quickly will just look like a fool. It is not cowardice to simply refuse to argue. In fact, for the armed citizen it is really a rather smart move.
Instead, we keep our voice calm. We back away if necessary and possible. In short, we don’t do anything that will cause the situation to escalate. The other fellow then clearly becomes the aggressor should he choose to continue.
None of this should suggest that you are surrendering, or giving up. In fact, you are using the time this buys you to improve your defensive position, giving thought to creating distance—which is always a good thing—and locating available cover.
An excellent idea is to have the hands up in a surrendering gesture. Now this is not the “hands above the shoulders” like the bad guys do when the sheriff gets the drop on them. Rather the hands are chest high with the palms turned only slightly outward. It also happens to be an excellent position from which to defend yourself against a physical attack. And some instructors even teach their students to practice their draw stroke from this position. Witnesses will nearly always see this as a non-violent, placating gesture of a person who is trying to avoid trouble.
If by words and actions, you have truly tried to avoid violent conflict, you will find that your defense attorney will have a much easier time representing you should you ultimately be forced to use deadly force to protect yourself. Road rage, traffic accidents, neighbor disputes, and family squabbles, are just some of the situations that can get out of hand before we know it. Don’t let an argument get out of hand if you can avoid it.
The article originally appeared on Shooting Illustrated.