We haven’t talked about MUC – Managing Unknown Contacts – in a hot minute, and it’s a good time for a review as we venture into summer vacations.
Classically, as originated and taught by Craig Douglas of Shivworks, MUC has some specific elements about creating and using a set of simple responses to the approach of any stranger, using vocabulary and volume to define and control the interaction. It also includes arcing movements that allow you to move away from the stranger while not backing up and potentially tripping over obstacles or your own two feet (not to mention making it harder for you to be surprised by someone else working in concert with the potential bad guy you did spot).
I like to remember and remind folks that MUC is how we look at people we don’t know and interact – or not interact – with them. It’s not necessarily being rude or mean to everyone, but it does mean being prepared to be rude or mean if that’s what’s necessary to keep you safe. Not every stranger is thinking about hurting us…in fact, most of them aren’t, even if they’re not smiling and acting friendly. On the flip side, some of those smiling, friendly strangers are the ones who are using their demeanor to get close enough to attack. MUC gives us tools to help figure out which kind of person they are.
The first step starts before you start talking to anyone at all. Pay attention to where people around you are and how they’re behaving. Start by looking for people who are getting too close to you. Is it because they’re oblivious? Or because they want to steal something out of your shopping cart? What kind of clues will you look for to tell? Are they moving purposefully in your direction or do they just seem to be wandering your way? What are they wearing? Someone with a mask on might have been worth a side-eye a few years ago but perhaps not so much now, so what else can indicate someone being a little out of place?
And when they do get too close, then what? There are lots of right answers, depending on the circumstances.
You might just edge away, or find some other way to not be where they are or where they appear to be going. Maybe you brush by them with RBF. No talking required, just avoid them.
Or you might start plugging in those phrases Craig and others who teach MUC talk about, perhaps saying nicely, “hey, could you just back up a bit?”
And if that doesn’t go so well, or you can already see them acting aggressively for you, maybe you get a little firmer and louder: “Dude, stay away from me.” “Back off!”
But maybe they keep coming at you, or as soon as you spot them, you see that they’re coming at you so fast and so obviously with ill intent that words won’t do. That’s when more traditional self-defense comes into play: hand-to-hand fighting perhaps, or weapons ranging from guns to pepper spray. Which one is appropriate under what circumstances?
Take this stock photo. You’re crossing the street and see this guy. He’s on track to bump into your shoulder. What do you think? What do you do?