Monday, February 28, 2011

Articulation Wars Part II

Anonymous writes:

First, sorry for the anonymous, just don't have any of the id's that would allow me to leave my name and for what is likely a one off question, can't be bothered taking the time to create one.


"I pounce on that, talking back in Russian, introducing M, who speaks more than I do. The principal backs up. I close and reach out. He y-strikes me in the throat, starts to run,"

Okay, this may be one of those situations where the written word leaves open too much room for interpretation. Because when I read the above, all I thought was, 'A freaking throat strike as a preemptive when there has been no explicit threat you could prove?! So the guy goes down barely able to breath (won't always happen, just Devils advocate), the medics are called...Hell yeah you will need Art. You will need it coming out of your ass to justify what you just did!'

But, as I said, that was how I interpreted your description of the scenario, and I might be way, way off. Could you elaborate?

This is how I would articulate it from his point of view:
"I'd got held over at work on a really big project and almost missed the train, so it was really late and I was waiting all alone for the very last train. Three guys came down to the platform. They were laughing and talking. It looked like they'd been drinking but I couldn't tell until they got closer, then I could smell it.

They saw me and they started moving closer. That wasn't normal, there was a lot of room on the platform and I didn't know them. I wasn't too worried because of the security cameras. Then they got closer and started asking questions, like what I was doing there. I didn't want to talk, didn't want to engage in a conversation so I held up my hands and told them to leave me alone. Sometimes I say it in a foreign accent, cause it makes the panhandlers leave you alone, right?
But these guys acted all excited. They thought I was Russian and one of the guys said his friend was Polish and they really don't like Russians.

I still had my hands up and they got real close. I thought I might be able to talk my way out or run, but the other two spread out to each side. Then I realized the one in the middle had his face covered by his headwear and he wasn't afraid of the cameras. The guy in the middle who was doing all the talking and had his face hidden reached for me.

I stiff-armed him away and turned to run, but they'd backed me up right to the edge of the platform. I almost ran off right onto the rails. So I turned to run the other way which meant I had to run between them. The guy who said he was Polish got in my way and the one I stiff-armed jumped on my back. I tore away and got one kick in on the ring leader, but he just wrapped it up and took me down like some kind of UFC guy."

Question: Did you strike my client in the throat?
"I may have. It was three on one and I was scared and I had no place to run. I just tried to stiff-arm him away. I didn't mean to hit him in the throat and I don't think I did because he got back in the fight too quickly. He's the one that jumped on my back and took me down."

This is why articulation is critical.
One side says, "We were having a good time and trying to be nice to a stranger." If that is all that is said, it sounds pretty reasonable. Someone has to point out why it was unusual. As the bad guy, I pounced on the Russian-- it was a hook, a verbal mistake that could give me the justification to do what I had already decided to do.

The bad guys aren't going to say, "We spread out to make it hard for him to get to the exits without exposing his back." The good guys need to articulate it, explain why he couldn't safely get to the exits.

Generally, you justify a pre-emptive strike by explaining how using force early meant you would use less force. i can almost always solve problems at the pain-compliance or take-down level if I get a little surprise and move first. If I wait until the bad guy swings, someone is going to get injured. A pre-emptive move that prevents a likely injury or death is something that makes sense.

In this case, rather than minimizing the y-strike as a stiff-arm, you have to justify the deadly force: three guys, closing in, finding or manufacturing personal reasons to dislike you, not taking hints or instructions to back off... could you explain to a jury how that all added up to a likely mass stomping? And how the result of that stomping would have been deadly force in any case. Your death or serious physical injury, probably. By some miracle if you could fight off three, how many of them would be badly injured? Can you argue that one lethal pre-emptive strike prevented more deaths? That's the gold standard.

Part of this class, part of any Force class, has to include this concept:

"You will make these decisions in a fraction of a second on partial information. Some of these decisions will leave widows and orphans. You will make these decisions to fast for conscious thought and then you will be required to explain them as if they were the result of deliberate, conscious, rational judgement.

"You are good people, and if you are good people you will make a moral decision even subconsciously. If you have a will to survive, you will make a survival decision. If you are both, you will make a good decision.

The skill comes in explaining that good decision. Trust your ethics. Trust your will to survive. Trust your intuition. But practice explaining them."

There are exercises for training intuition and for bridging the gap between the conscious and subconscious mind and I really encourage everyone who makes force decisions to practice them.

One more note: I'm sorry if it seems manipulative or if this is more storytelling than reporting facts. You articulate your decision so that someone who wasn't there can understand and judge your decision. There will be an emotional element to someone trying to kill you, and the emotion will affect your decision and by rights it should be part of the story. There are little behavioral and communication clues that trigger your instincts and drive many fast critical decisions. They need to be moved up from subconscious to conscious in the explanation.


Anonymous said...

One of the really hard ones to explain is that scaring them off is a very good solution... but the behavior that will scare them off does not look like that of a good man.

Anonymous said...

Mate, thank you for taking the time to go into far greater depth and answer the question I asked of you.
Both your more detailed description of the exercise and the ART afterward was very, very good. Doesn't happen often, but I've got to say, I'm impressed. Cheers!

P.S The Anon above is not me!

Anonymous said...

Another thign for a jury to consider: What possible reason would one single man (a nerdy project engineer who's married with two young kids) have to attack three looming, heavy-set, loudmouthed guys (two of whom have criminal records)? Kinda puts it a little more in perspective.
Rory, thank you again for hammering on this.
-Neil B

Rory said...

And, Neil, I want you to fully grasp that YOU DID WELL.

Explaining a good decision is just a completely separate skill from making a good decision. That takes practice and maybe a few lessons.

Anonymous said...

So, ART being a skill is yet another clear example of the chasm sometimes between someone's honest best description of the world, and what is actually true in it. Words are just a tool we created to help us explain and understand. Its an acquired skill we often take it for granted. But, it is also primary to how we form thoughts. If you don't develop ability to use words you miss out on a lot.

Interestingly enough, humans are the only animals with a written language ability. Language may heighten our animal existence. Maybe it also provides an easy path to distance us from our animal instincts.

-Billy G.

Rory said...

True, Bill and it works on multiple levels. People who need to describe, whether painters or writers or investigators wind up seeing things that most people miss. You learn to explain, you get better at seeing and remembering. It's more accurate, not less.

Then add all of the memory distortions and blank spots we found in just a handful of scenarios and it becomes really obvious how important it is to practice.

Josh Kruschke said...

Rory -

You talk about if you are ethical and a good person you will make good decisions. I run across people all the time that say one thing and do another. They don't have a good grasp on why they do ar saything. Most of my experiance is from debating people and not through physical confrontation.
Is there a need to first be able to articulate to your self why you do something (not in the moment before). I know you have talked about know use of force law and 'understanding it,' but is this a skill we need before we can explain to others why we do the things we did?

I run it a lot of people that seem to make self delusion their primary skill in life?


Josh Kruschke said...

Ps. Sorry that was poorly typed.

I feel you have gone over this and it feels selfevident to me, but the emphases on the end result and not how we get there.

Anonymous said...

A cool story I’ve always liked relevant to practice and other things, as told to me by a college drawing teacher…

During coursework for his masters, his own fine arts professor assigned class the project of creating a photo realistic self-portrait. Students could use only graphite pencil and this would be the sole assignment for this required course. Upon turning in their piece at the end of the year they would be graded either "A" or "F" for the entire course. Creating a self-image that could pass for a B&W photo would require mastery of all the visual principles, using just a simple medium. This was a huge challenge. And, failing a required class meant delaying or not getting a degree. Each student ended up drawing and re-drawing the piece over and over again for months. Weekly class time was spent publicly critiquing all the works in progress.

On the last day of class the portraits were pinned up for final review. The professor then announced anyone who wanted an “A” should come forward and tear up his/her work in front of the class. Everyone else was free to take leave with their piece knowing they received an "F". Some students …several apparently actually missed the entire point and were pissed-off enough to take an “F”, so as to preserve all that hard work.

My teacher then gave us a similar challenge. Only, at his last class we each met with him privately. We were never actually made to destroy our projects. The teacher felt that just relaying his own story was enough. He was as good as his word, handing out several F’s for lack of effort and failure to make progress on skills. From the finished pieces presented I can say everyone else really did deserve the A. He also clarified his point. Leaving that class of his, he knew beyond all doubt he was now able to do in a week or so what had previously taken him all year long to get right. The story he claimed was true.

-Billy G.

Josh Kruschke said...

I was making this more complicaded than it tneed to be.

My point was: I think we need to first learn to articulate to ourselves i.e., to understand why we do things, before we can learn to articulate to others.

Thanks Billy G. good story.


Ps. Simplisity seems to work best, when you are articulating information.

Steve Perry said...

Pull the trigger too quick, you might shoot the wrong guy; pull it trigger too slow, you might not shoot the right guy.

Tricky, that split-second decision making.

Charles James said...

Curiously isn't it more informative to interpret the body language including the facial expressions vs. the focus on the language, i.e. Russian?

I mean, both parties, can't you tell if their body language is saying, "Watch out, danger here!"

Rory said...

Steve- that's a little tricky, but it is almost entirely subconscious. Somewhere in the mix of your nature, your training, your adrenaline state and your history the decision will be made with almost zero input from your neocortex. Explaining a split second decision is a learnable skill. That's where we're concentrating here.

Charles- Same thing. That's almost surely where more reliable information comes from, and that's a big key to preventing things... but this is about articulation, explaining (or defending, excusing or justifying) actions. In articulation, you weight the ones that best explain your actions. I was the bad guy. Keying on the language allowed me to 'other' Neil and gave me the hook I needed to rationalize the bad things I had already planned. I had no intention of avoiding or de-escalating. I was the bad guy. When it came time to articulate, then I used the same thing I would have used internally as an excuse to beat a victim into something nice and sweet to get out of trouble.

Josh Kruschke said...

So I see I've muddled the message and let my own biases cloud my thinking.

Good to know.