By Billee Pike
Would it kill you to be nice? It could.
Many of us want to be nice people. Nice people are polite and helpful. Nice people try to be considerate of the feelings of others. Nice people don’t want to offend or upset anyone and are uncomfortable “causing a scene.”
Typically, as children we are taught to be nice, to not offend, to try not to hurt other people’s feelings. This is especially true when it comes to girls. Girls are supposed to be “sugar and spice and everything nice.” Girls are taught not to fight, not to hit, not to intentionally make people feel bad.
There’s nothing wrong with being nice. Unless it blurs your defensive mindset. Unless it makes you ignore common sense or your inner voice. Unless it makes you react before thinking about possible consequences.
Think about it. When you’re in public and you see someone who seems to be in distress or needs help, your impulse is to help, right? Naturally. But that inclination can cause you to ignore your intuition and let someone get too close.
Let’s say that you’ve just left the shopping mall and you’re heading to your car. A man, well-dressed, leg in a cast and using crutches, asks for your help putting his purchases in his car. He’s nice looking and friendly. And he’s got a broken leg. What could it hurt to help the poor guy out?
Ted Bundy, the serial killer, used that inclination to his advantage. He often lured his victims into his car by pretending to have a broken arm or leg, sometimes using crutches, and asking for their help. Many unsuspecting women chose to be nice and help him. Their kindness proved to be a fatal mistake.
Predators are very good at using a person’s kindness as a tool to lure them into harm’s way. They rely on our natural inclination to not be rude.
Here’s another example: You’re walking home. It’s dark and raining. A car stops next to you. The man and woman in the car offer you a ride. You know better than to accept rides from strangers. But the people are smiling and friendly. You don’t want to seem rude by turning them down.
Caroline Roberts accepted a ride from people she thought were being helpful. In an interview on a crime-investigation TV Show, Caroline said,
“My instinct was not to get in the car, but another part of me was saying ‘Don’t be rude. Give them the benefit of the doubt.'”
Caroline got in the car anyway. She spent the next 12+ hours being brutally attacked and raped by Rose and Fred West.
Not all predators look evil. Not all of them wear hoodies, gloves, masks and/or carry a weapon. Many are well-dressed and fit in to their surroundings. Don’t let yourself be fooled by charisma, charm, or attractiveness. Ted Bundy, for instance, was a charismatic, well-dressed, well-educated man.
“The Devil does not look like the Devil. Some predators are charming, good looking and they lead normal lives and have a profession.”“Predators are shadow figures and they are chameleons that blend into their surroundings and they look like they should be there.”
Bill Oliver, Retired Forensic Psychiatric Technician
Predators rely on people’s natural inclination to be helpful. They rely on nice people opening the door when they hear a knock. They rely on nice people being willing to help others. They rely on nice people not wanting to make a scene or be rude.
“Predators will use social conventions to their advantage. They know that it’s rude to be rude, and that nice people don’t want to be rude. They know you’ll feel strange crossing the street when they’re walking toward you, and that you probably won’t. They know you probably won’t tell them to get out of your face when they come too close, or that you’ll shake their hand when they put it out for you. The most dangerous predators won’t seem like predators on the surface, but odds are, you’ll know something isn’t right. They’ll be where they don’t belong or they’ll be doing something a normal person wouldn’t do. It may be something small, but if you’re aware and paying attention, you’ll see it. And you don’t have to be paranoid. You simply need to be aware and pay attention to your feelings.”
David Erath Jr, The Ultimate Guide to Unarmed Self Defense
The following quote from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Movie (2011) made me shudder. (Well, frankly, the entire move was chilling and disturbing.) And yes, I realize that the story is fiction, but this scene was perfect for showing how people allow themselves to be maneuvered into danger.
“Why don’t people trust their instincts? They sense something is wrong, someone is walking too close behind them… It’s hard to believe the fear of offending can be stronger than the fear of pain but, you know what? It is, and they always come willingly. And they sit there, and they know it’s all over… but somehow they still think they have a chance. ‘Maybe if I say the right thing, maybe if I’m polite, if I cry, if I beg.'”
You do NOT have to be polite to someone who is making you uncomfortable! If a stranger is trying to get into your personal space or interact with you, it’s OK to tell them to leave you alone. If you feel that you’re in danger, do something about it. Don’t try to be polite and hope that if you’re nice enough the thug won’t hurt you. Give yourself permission to scream, run, and/or defend yourself. Say No! Make a scene! Be offensive! Who cares what anyone thinks? At worst, you were wrong and can apologize. At best, you just saved your life.
If a stranger stops and asks for directions or for help looking for his keys, car, dog, etc., it’s okay to say “sorry” and keep moving. Trust your gut and don’t worry about hurting the other person’s feelings. Don’t put yourself in a dangerous position out of courtesy.
Listen to your inner voice. Don’t brush that uneasy feeling aside. Listen to it. Don’t put yourself in a compromising position because you don’t want to seem rude or offensive.
I realize that every stranger is not a predator. And I’m not suggesting that you become paranoid. Go ahead and continue to be a nice person. But please be cautious and aware, too. Trust your instincts. Develop a defensive mindset. Learn awareness skills. Take a self defense class. And realize that there are some really bad people out there who are hoping to take advantage of your niceness.