On Deconflicting

Sometimes being a man makes it difficult to defuse potentially violent situations with other men.

When I was a bouncer, we had a bunch of minor league UFC guys come into my bar. They started getting rowdy, and some of them were starting crap with the other patrons. I’m a reasonably tough guy, but I am not in the same league as a professional fighter – let alone six of them.  Normally, jokes, flattery, subdued body language, and obsequious speech is enough in these situations, but this group was beyond such measures.

What I did was instruct a particular cocktail waitress to tell them to calm down. Since it was a woman asking, there wasn’t the subtext of confrontation (do what I say or I’m gonna make you) that’s inherent in many man-to-man interactions.

It worked like a charm. The UFC guys were like puppies trying to please the waitress, and a good time was had by all.  Your Humble Scribe won without fighting at all.  He struck an Heroic Pose before riding his Noble Steed off into the sunset.

That technique is appropriate in many situations. Nobody gets hurt, there is rarely a fight, and security is maintained in the most light-handed manner. In those situations, a smart, savvy woman is worth three meat-head bouncerdudes.

A woman needs a tremendous amount of trust in you before she’ll do something like this.  She believes in you.  She’s trusting that if the situation gets Interesting, you’ll keep her safe.  You need to live up to that – it is weak sauce indeed to let somebody else get hurt doing your job.

You’ve got to pick the right woman, too.  She’s got to be savvy, calm, and quick-witted.  She’s got to be in control of her feminine power.  She needs to understand the situation and the possible consequences for failure.  You must explain these things quickly, calmly, and unobserved by your targets.  Pay close attention to the woman as you explain.  If she exhibits any signs of eager aggression, consider another plan of action.  A woman who thinks,”I’m just as tough as any man!  I’m like that chick on Hunger Games!  Grrrrl POWER!” has an immediate future involving bodily injury.  A woman prone to finger snapping, lateral head movement, and spontaneous verbal ejaculations of,”Oh no you di’int!” is going to get her ass kicked, and yours too.  Come up with Plan C instead.

If done properly, you will not look weak in the estimation of the woman.  Maintain your calm demeanor, outline your intent, and express confidence in her.  If the situation is resolved with minimal face-smashing, acknowledge her contribution with a wink and a,”Nice work.  I knew I could count on you.”

Or, go back to Plan A and fight.  In a bunch of crappy scenarios, getting your ass kicked is the best possible outcome.  It sucks, but sometimes life shakes out like that. Let me know if it happens to you.  I make a mean banana smoothie, and I’ll bring one to the hospital.  The nurses will give you a straw, so don’t worry about your jaw being wired shut.


13 thoughts on “On Deconflicting

  1. Very well written! and oh so very true! I get a sense that you’ve seen combat. Sometimes you have to resort to alternative measures to get the job done.

  2. Dog, great story. Defusing a situation is key to being a GREAT bouncer. Observation is key, noticing the event unfolding (not always easy in a crowded space), who is provoking, who provokee, and whoever is keeping peace (if anyone). Categorize then ignore anyone who is spectating or trying not to get involved.

    Focus on the provoker(s). Assess. Is he blustering, is he just posturing, is he working himself up, or positioning a buddy for a sucker punch? Check for opportunists.

    Check the “victim”, is he likely to try to take a swing if you tie up the provoker? Does he have friends who will jump in? Is he a willing or unwilling participant?

    Are there buddies of the provoker that might be used to keep them calm? Many times, you can recruit a couple of buddies to help convince their cohort he has crossed the line. Sometimes, they will go right to their friend and then right out of the bar without you having to speak a word to the obnoxious chap.

    It’s a lot to assess in a short frame of time.

    Now, of course, you have to make sure your backup knows what is up. I see a lot of clubs using walkie talkies to keep people informed now, but oh, 15 years ago, we’d just flash a light at one of the guys stationed around the club to alert them to situations. Usually, 4 or 5 guys showing up defuses things quickly (unless the hardcore band brought 23 gang related people with them, of course), but for those MMA guys, that would not have cut it. That was fantastic, and the girl was special (AWALT, of course) to be able to pull it off.

    Talking someone out is always the best, but it takes time to learn that wisdom. When I was young, I would take a few slights from some knucklehead before I demonstrated my expertise physically, but with experience came confidence. After a while, your confidence in your abilities is well established and swallowing a few slights with gentle humbleness to ease someones ego as they pass out the door is a small price to pay for a peaceful night.

    • Yes, that waitress was a Good Egg. And that’s an excellent point about letting ’em talk trash as long as they’re leaving. I used to tell my guys,”No ego while you’re on the clock.”

      • A few years ago, when I worked at a local brew pub, I had one guy who being loud. He would get up from his table, and wander around the pub and make rude comments to people. He was too forward with the ladies, and one of their boyfriends was taking offense. This guy was big, cut, but he had gym swagger and no real balance. He was pumping himself up for a fight, but he was with friends, and they couldn’t seem to control him. They definitely gave off that aura of disapproval.

        I immediately got between him and the boyfriend (who seemed somewhat relieved) and started talking to the guy. He took a second to switch attention to me, but I spoke softly, and stepped close.

        “Hey man, you look like you are stressed out, and tensions are escalating here, can I chat with you?” I kept small talk, and empathized about shit that made no difference, but I tried to guide his frame of mind into focusing his aggression elsewhere.

        What he said wasn’t important, how he said it was. He was angry, seething, and spoiling to prove himself. He was flushed, small beads of sweat. I wasn’t sure if he was on something, but I was pretty sure there was some steroid influence.

        I kept moving him slowly towards the door, and he stiffened up about halfway there, and started realizing what I was doing. He started to turn around to confront me, and told me, “I could kick your ass!”

        I nodded quietly and said, “You probably could knock my head off with a punch, but that isn’t going to get you served here anymore. Come back tomorrow, and I will buy you a drink, but for today, it’s better to find another bar. Besides, see the 5 guys behind me watching? They will probably jump in the second you swing, and then it gets ugly. And yes, you will have probably hit me and hurt me, but all I want to do is keep the peace here and let people have relaxed conversation. You seem like a good guy (lolz) and I don’t want you banned from here cause you had a bad day.”

        He looked at me, and the fog lifted for a second, and while he puffed out the door, out he went.

        Granted, I could have given a richer life moment by putting him a 45 degree wrist break, locking his elbow, and banging his head off every obstacle along the way, garnering a few cheers, but I feel greater success from preventing that in the first place.

        It took a while to get to that point though.

        • Knowing krav’s a bitch. I have to really restrain myself if I know things might move to the physical.

          And with my being a short guy, most fellahs think I’m an easy target. Got into it at my local with a guy and dropped him in 3 seconds with my forehead to his nose.

          He got arrested, I didn’t. Witnesses pointed out I tried to walk away, buy he pushed it and put hands on me.

          • When I started bouncing, I had to moderate my style a lot. I’ve never taken Krav (no instructors up here!), but I have a lot of respect for those who train it. I took a few styles (started with TKD with Bill Diamond, trained some Kung Fu (not good for my body style), Cheon Ki Do under Primo in Penn, Kenpo and JJ under Kevin Inman in Maine, and ended up up taking Aikido up here to soften some of the more harsh Hapkido style breaks I had learned from Primo.

            I must admit, I tried to never throw punches or kicks while on the clock, with a great deal of success (i recall two punches, two relatively minor mistakes in a lot of encounters). I love restraint. If I can put a hand on you, the fight usually comes to my terms quickly. Clothing in clubs is very different from that worn in gym sparring. Tools for restraint can be fun, I had a couple bar rag tie ups that were classic.

  3. If done properly, you will not look weak in the estimation of the woman.

    If done properly, I am of the opinion that it can be more alpha. Showing wisdom and restraint, yet a willingness to get the job done, is enticing.

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