Safety Awareness 101: How to Stay Self Aware in Public Spaces
When it comes to your personal safety, self-awareness is a valuable skill to possess. Knowing where you are, what you’re doing, and how you might respond in any given situation can help you avoid unsafe situations and remain vigilant in public spaces. Self-awareness simply refers to understanding your strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, emotions, and tendencies. People with low self-awareness don’t realize how they are perceived by others and often lack the confidence to defend themselves when faced with difficult situations. To reduce your likelihood of becoming a victim of crime, here is how you can improve your self-awareness and stay safe in public spaces:
Acknowledge Your Strengths and Weaknesses
Crime can occur at any time, even in public spaces. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses and how they might impact your safety is critical to being prepared. For instance, are you a smaller person? When confronted with an attacker, your best bet is to flee; however, you may want to consider taking a self-defense class to help even your odds in a potential fight. Are you good at talking people down in tense situations? Being prepared to use this skill to de-escalate a situation can save your life and those around you.
Make a comprehensive list of your strengths and weaknesses. To give you an outside perspective, consider having a friend or family member contribute to the list. Then, start working on areas which need improvement. By actively working on yourself, you’ll be much better prepared to handle unsafe situations in public.
Make Yourself Less of a Target
Criminals want an easy target; they’re looking for someone who won’t put up a fight. How you walk and how you dress both factor into whether criminals will consider you an easy mark. To reduce your chances of being targeted, here are a few tips:
Walk Fast and with a Purpose – Walking in this way communicates confidence. Keep your head up and back straight, and look around you.
Make Eye Contact – If someone is making you nervous, make eye contact with them. This tells them that you see them and are prepared.
Wear Smarter Clothing – Outfits which can potentially impede your efforts of getting away put you at a greater risk of being targeted. Wear unrestrictive clothing and wear tennis shoes in public.
Familiarize Yourself with Your Location
Do you know where you are and how safe your location is? When you aren’t familiar with your location, it’s easy to become lost and vulnerable. When traveling to an unfamiliar location, do your research beforehand. Is this area considered safe? Where are the nearest points of safety (i.e., campus security, police department, hospital, etc.)? Even if you’re in a public space that is generally considered safe, it’s important that you know your surroundings in case of danger. Part of being self-aware is knowing your location and how you occupy the space within it.
Take Control of Your Safety
Although technology has increased the speed in which police officers respond to emergencies, the target response time for emergency responders is around nine minutes. This may not be quick enough to save you or those you love. Being self-aware means taking responsibility for your actions. In this case, it involves taking responsibility for your personal safety.
For instance, learning the fundamentals of boxing can help prepare you in case of a fight. Being light on your feet and knowing how to defend yourself properly can improve your safety in public areas. Installing a punching bag in your home is a great way to stay in shape and improve your fighting skills. It will also give you a boost in confidence, which can further deter would-be attackers.
In our tech-obsessed society, most of us have become entirely dependent on our smartphones. Unfortunately, our technology is often the cause of many traffic accidents and personal injuries. According to a recent study, more than 250 people have died taking selfies. Countless pedestrians have stepped into oncoming traffic with headphones in their ears and faces glued to their phones.
While our technology has no doubt made us safer in many ways, it’s also a serious distraction as well. These distractions can make us forget about where we are, what we’re doing, and how to properly respond to dangerous situations. You don’t need to shun all digital devices to be safe in public. However, remembering to check in with yourself and be aware of those around you is essential to improving your safety.
Learn How to “Read” Others
The ability to read people who you don’t know is important to your safety. Often, there is a buildup to a potential threat that can be diffused or avoided if you know what to look for. For example, look for cues in a person’s body language that indicate increasing levels of anger. These nonverbal cues may include balled fists, redness of the face, eyes staring at the target, and the closing of distance between the person and the target.
Similarly, it helps to know how your own body language is perceived. The nonverbal cues you’re sending out could be making the situation worse. People have a tendency to mirror the other person’s body language unconsciously. By mirroring a person’s aggressive signals, you could be unknowingly escalating the situation.
To remain completely self-aware in public spaces, it’s best to avoid alcohol and other mind-altering substances. Studies have repeatedly shown that alcohol can significantly lower a person’s self-awareness and self-control. In fact, alcohol dulls not only our ability to perceive threats, but also our ability to respond to them. According to a study from researchers at the University of Illinois, participants who were given alcohol had a reduced reaction to threat signals.
This lowered response is believed to be caused by alcohol’s effect on the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex of the brain—two areas which control our fear perception and response. If you don’t want to give up alcohol completely, at least take precautions beforehand. Always go out with someone you trust, tell others where you’re going, and have someone accompany you wherever you go.
Crime can occur at any moment, even in public spaces and in broad daylight. In addition to being more aware of your surroundings, it’s essential that you have good self-awareness as well. With a heightened sense of self-awareness, you will be far better equipped to deal with potential threats. It’s also a valuable skill which can serve you well in other life situations as well, such as your career and your personal relationships.
Guest Contributor, Albert Guardado