I’m so bad about sitting in my husband’s preferred seat in restaurants. I always manage to sit in the spot where he’ll inevitably give me the look that says, lovingly, “move it.”
At first, I thought it was weird (and annoying), but after 7 years of dating and marriage, I understand better what’s going on in his head.
When he looks around while I’m talking, I know he’s paying attention to me, but I also know he’s checking where the exits are. He’s thinking about where he could duck for cover if needed. He’s wondering how and when he’d draw his gun if he needed to. He’s assessing whether anyone in the restaurant gives him a weird feeling.
I’ve also learned that this isn’t paranoia. It’s not like he’s panicking the entire time we’re talking. It’s just that it’s important to him to be aware of his situation.
We spend so much time being distracted by things – and it’s really unsafe. It’s important to be aware of what’s going on around you if you want to be safe… but it’s important to balance between being aware and being happy. You don’t want to be so constantly thinking about the bad stuff you can’t enjoy anything.
It’s a delicate balance, but it’s totally possible.
3 Ways To Improve Situational Awareness (Without Becoming a Nervous Wreck)
Remember the good in the world.
No matter what’s going on around you, or what you’re doing, don’t ever forget that there’s still good in the world. I think I’d lose my mind if I spent all day assuming everyone was out to get me.
The thing is, there are lots of good people out there. It’s fun to have conversations with people and get to know them. When I didn’t have a little one, I loved going to coffee shops or restaurants alone and talking to other people. People just fascinate me, and I’d hate to become jaded and assume that wasn’t the case.
You can feel free to assume the best in everyone, as long as you’re prepared for the worst. The trick to that is…
Think like a Boy Scout.
You know how the Boy Scout motto is, “Always be prepared”? That’s situational awareness in a nutshell.
The thing is, it’s not like you’re scoping out your environment and the people in it because it’s likely you’re going to be hurt. You’re checking out your surroundings because it’s possible.
It’s just like when I’m with my son. I have to think of all the things he might do to try to kill himself so I can keep an eye out and prevent them. Granted, he’s always coming up with new ways to give me a heart attack (boys! aaah!) but being one step ahead of him gives me an advantage.
One thing that most of us have in common is the tendency to want to be peacemakers. We don’t want to make waves or cause a rift in relationships. And that’s great! But sometimes our natural tendency to be polite can mean we’re overriding our natural instincts… which is not such a good thing.
If you feel uncomfortable in a particular situation, trust that feeling and act accordingly. Even if it seems silly. Even if you’re worried someone is going to think you’re rude. You have instincts for a reason.
For instance, we were at a hotel recently, which is a situation that will always make my husband nervous (too many people around, too much access to our room/stuff/etc). But there was one time I was coming up from the lobby late at night and a man was walking ahead of me to the elevators. I suddenly felt uncomfortable and didn’t want to be in the elevator with him.
Did it make sense? Nope. Do I really think he was going to hurt me? Maybe, maybe not. But did it cost me much time to follow that gut instinct? Nope! It took a minute or two longer to get up to my room, but it wasn’t a big deal.
I just paused for a minute, took a drink from the water fountain, and let him go first.
But in any situation, trust your gut. If there’s a friendly, innocent seeming mom at the playground who’s asking a lot of questions and you suddenly feel uncomfortable? Like asking exactly how close you live to the playground? (Again, I hate this not because I think it’s likely they’re going to want to hurt me – but because I don’t know them and it’s possible.) You’re under no obligation to continue chatting or to even stay at the playground. And if you continue, you don’t have to say anything you don’t want to.
Your instincts are going to be the best guide you have to keep yourself safe.
Becoming situationally aware doesn’t mean you have to become a nervous wreck! Being prepared and aware of all situations is the first step to protecting your personal safety and the safety of your family.