Staying on point, means not being distracted. If you are working on a task, whatever that task and something forces you to switch tasks this can negatively impact your safety.
It’s not about being nice
Not long ago, I was out eating lunch near downtown. It is no secret there is a terrible problem with pan-handlers. Some who use aggressive or threatening means to exploit money from passerby’s. While you may feel sympathetic to their plight you cannot allow that to cloud your safety. Can you stay vigil while being targeted is a good question many should ask themselves first. Rather than wait until it is too late because you put yourself in a compromising position. Your safety should always be the top priority, even over being nice or friendly.
Take a look around
Have a plan thought out in advance for when confronted by a pan handler. It should start by staying alert to your surroundings. What is happening around you, are you at a busy intersection or parked in a car. Look around you to make sure there are no accomplices or other suspected actors. Not only are you looking for other suspected actors, but quick escapes or withdrawals. Leave yourself an out in the off chance you can avoid the whole situation by quickly moving to an exit. If not, then have a place to go that put distance between you and the suspect.
We are social creatures
It should go without saying you should avoid using smart phones or other similar devices in this circumstances. They are one of the biggest distractions and we volunteer our distraction with them. Keeping a watchful eye to your surroundings may very well keep you out of their sights. Knowing you are looking or are aware of their presence. Even if you do the best job, you may still be approached. It is as this point you are most vulnerable because their intentions have not be clearly defined. We live in a world where we need to interact with other humans on a constant basis. Having a short pre-planned response is the key.
No Thank You!
It doesn’t have to be fancy, it doesn’t have to specific. Instead, keep it simple. Short phrases you can use in a variety of circumstances are preferred. In other words, you don’t want them to be so specific you have to think whether they are applicable. Phrases, like “no thank you” or “I cannot help you” are simple and easy. Said in a firm tone while making eye contact should convey not just your thoughts, but your intentions. Time is money and when they realize their efforts will not produce results they more than likely will move on to their next target.
Going sideways on the sidewalk
If the move on, that is great. If they don’t or if they become agitated by your lack of sympathy it should be pretty obvious the situation is going sideways. Considering your escape withdrawal plan will come in handy at this point. Don’t be afraid to repeat your comment, give them the benefit of the doubt maybe they didn’t hear. Your next comment should have the same conviction if not more. Stay the course, don’t cave in to their demands unless it serves you a tactical advantage. At this point using non-threatening gestures that can be convert to what my good friend Tony Blauer calls a “non-violent” posture help should the need to defend yourself arise.
No matter their intentions, your safety is the priority. Don’t be afraid to use a stern tone when your safety is in question.