Annoying or Dangerous? A Handy Guide to Self Defence Decisions

The Eisenhower's Matrix is a great tool for time management, used by successful businesspeople around the world.

The beauty of the matrix is that it can be expanded to many other applications. 
I'd like to share one of my favortie ones. It's a great tool for helping you understand what kind of threat you might be dealing with, and how the situation might develop. 

The Eisenhower's Matrix looks like this:



If you replace 'important' with 'dangerous', and 'urgent' with 'annoying', you get the following matrix:


Let’s start by clearing up what each term means:

  • Dangerous – situations or people who can do you some real harm. Talking about potential injury, serious injury or death. This can also refer to consequences of actions, such as lawsuit, imprisonment, etc.
  • Annoying – I can replace this word with ‘ego’. These are situations or people that threaten our ego or awareness, but not our physical wellbeing.

Think of this as a mashup of the Eisenhower Matrix and Geoff Thompson's Colour Codes.

Q1 – Dangerous and Annoying

The shit has hit the fan! Here are common situations that come to mind:

  • A male ego thing (monkey dance, to quote Rory Miller) that escalated to the point of violence. A fight over a spilled drink or a girl where neither person will back down (annoying), and turns into a physical altercation (dangerous).
    If you weren’t too busy getting annoyed, you would have noticed this is dangerous. Sucks to be you for what’s coming next – either you get pummelled, pummel someone, or both. And you’ll probably get into trouble! With the police for hurting someone, and with your girlfriend or mates for acting like a buttmonkey. That’s what you get for letting your ego override your common sense.
    Seriously though – if you find yourself here, regardless of how you got here, you need to defend yourself. But be careful! Use of force laws will play a big role in how to deal with this, and what starts as an annoying situation can quickly turn dangerous.
  • Antisocial types that have made it clear that they like you too much. Think Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction sending you mail with letters cut out from newspapers, phone calls with nothing but heavy breathing and squishing her face against your window at night. If you get that kind of attention, it is obviously dangerous. It is also, as an understatement, annoying. But ‘if I ignore it, it will go away’ is generally not a good policy here. There are a lot of reasons people don’t react to such behaviour in the ‘annoying’ phase – fear, shame, guilt, etc. Either way, I’ll group these in the ‘annoying’ category. So back to the stalker. You got the fan mail, you didn’t do anything, now you’re in a situation where a scary, dangerous person is boiling your bunny and trying to knife you (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, watch Fatal Attraction. But do it with the lights on. Scary AF.)

    And now without the jokes – This is obviously a very serious and dangerous situation. You may have to fight for your life, and have some very serious consequences to deal with, physically, emotionally and mentally. Seek help.

    To summarise Q1 – This quadrant sucks and we don’t want to be here. Things, bad things, are happening to you right now.

Q2 – Dangerous, But Not Annoying

Here we enter the realm of the predator. These people take their time to get in and interview or scope out a target, but once they get to a position of advantage they will strike quickly and decisively. Here are a couple of examples:

  • Date rapists and more sophisticated stalkers. These are the charming ones. They have great people skills and generally don’t walk around looking creepy or boiling bunnies (seriously - that movie. Scarred me for life).
    They probably look and dress normal and go to work or school with you. You probably know them. The reason they don’t fit into the ‘annoying’ category is because you have likely already lowered your guard. And these people are very skilled at playing your ego (I highly recommend Gavin de Becker’s book ‘The Gift of Fear’ for learning about these people’s method more thoroughly.) Their skills mean that they are well positioned to do some real damage to you. They will attack fast and hard, and you won’t see it coming. This is where awareness and trusting your gut can help you avoid some real bad shit. And if you do fight, you are likely to have to fight to survive. Use of force is less likely to be an issue here if their goal is often sexual assault, kidnapping or murder (Note – I said ‘less likely’, not ‘unlikely’. They are not the same.)
  • Muggers. They are probably scoping you out and will look for signs that you are distracted, unaware, etc. The main difference here is that if you give them what they want, they will hopefully go away. Don’t be a hero! If someone puts a knife to your throat or shows you a gun, give them your car keys. The fact that you drive a Maserati will not improve your chances of successfully disarming a gun any more than if you drive a beaten up old crap heap. 
  • Other targeted violence, such as burst attacks. Some nasty dude saw you chatting up his girl in the club, so while you are buying a kebab at 3am and waiting, totally hammered, for your uber he’ll come up behind you and sucker punch you. Next thing you know you’re getting booted in the head. You also don’t get to finish the kebab, your uber ain’t hanging around and you’re probably gonna find a video of this on YouTube tomorrow. Not a great place to be.

    Again, in all seriousness – this is some dangerous shit.

    To summarise Q2 – this quadrant can be more dangerous than Q1. Why? Because you won’t see it coming! The whole point of attackers in this quadrant is to lower your guard and attack from advantage.

Q3 – Annoying, But Not Dangerous:

This quadrant is the point where you can decide how to act. This is a position where we have time. Someone is annoying us, but the situation is not dangerous… yet. It doesn’t mean that it can’t go south in a hurry. This is the ‘nip it in the bud’ quadrant.
Most social, male violence starts here. Someone is being annoying. Maybe, like Q1, it’s a spilled drink or a male ego thing. But the situation is still developing, and you have options.
In much the same way, if we look at the Glenn Close example from Q1, maybe this is a situation where the person is starting to show excessive and unwarranted interest, but you take measures to stop this and make yourself (and your bunnies) safer.

With either one, the keys here are time and choice. You have time (even if only a few seconds) to choose how to respond. you also need to make sure you don't hesitate too much. If the quadrant shifts to Q1, you need to act. 

This is often where people make the mistake of letting their annoyance distract them. Something trivial may seem like a big deal… but that’s probably your ego. This results in making poor assessment as to whether a situation is dangerous or not. It leads people to over or under react to what’s annoying them.

So many stupid issues start here. Maybe you saw a Facebook post or a youtube video really pissed you off. Maybe someone took your parking spot. Or your neighbour was playing Rhianna late at night when you have an early morning at work. Either way, you had enough of their shit comments, or shit driving, or shit music and you just couldn't help reacting. Sadly, this is your own issue (ok maybe not the Rhianna one but definitley the other stuff). This is a good place to assess your own insecurities and confidence, so that you learn how to respond (not react) better to every day life issues.

So here’s the key to Q3 - if you have options other than to fight, use them! De-escalation, avoidance, etc., fall into this realm. Yes, you’ll be annoyed, but at least you’ll be safe. 


Q4 – Neither Annoying Nor Dangerous:

Nothing is happening here. It’s all good. This is where we want to live our every day life. If something happens, it’s a long way away, you are aware and are in a good position to respond correctly. Your ego is not as fragile as your grandmother’s china tea set, so when that annoying facebook post comes up or some guy is making eyes at you from across the bar (not in the good way), you can just chill. There is no real danger so you can go home and feel good about yourself.

So let’s recap:
Q1 – Situation escalated from annoying to dangerous. You are probably going to have to fight. Use of force laws play a big role here, so make sure you know what’s what.
Q2 – Attack appears to come out of nowhere, and ‘appears’ is the operative word here. Either due to careful planning on their part or lack of awareness on yours (or both), you didn’t see it coming. While it may feel like an ambush, there was probably an interview first. You are fighting from a position of serious disadvantage.
Q3 – You see the situation developing, and have two important things – time, and choice. Make sure that you don’t go from here to Q1, cause it can happen quickly. Be aware of when the quadrants start to shift.
Q4 – This is your every day. You are aware, safe and capable.

These are nothing new; but I like this way of presenting information. It allows me to plan and visualise ahead of time (more on the critical importance of this here).

Remember that violence is complicated. Humans are complicated. This is a generalisation and there are always things that don’t fit neatly into boxes.

But this is a good place to start! It’s a nice little tool that can be a guide for making complex decisions in a short time and help you understand, on general terms at least, what risk or threat you might be dealing with.

Stay safe, stay tuned

Last modified on Sunday, 25 February 2018 16:21
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Ron Amram

Co-Founder and Co-Director of Combat Arts Institute of Australia. Nidan Gendai Ryu Krav Maga & Jujitsu, Shodan Danzan Ryu Jujutsu, Brown Belt Dennis Hisardut, Krav Maga Instructor, Cert IV Training & Assessment

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