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Monday, September 24, 2018

Boundary Setting: Rude or Polite Does Not Apply

While I’m retired from the suit, I’m still involved in curriculum development and have transitioned into the role of instructor trainer for new suited instructors.  The instructor trainer role affords me a lot of opportunity to reflect on the things that we teach and the way that we teach them, as I’m preparing the next generation of instructors to get in the armor and carry on the work that we do.
One of the things I’ve always appreciated most about the IMPACT Chicago Core Program is that it challenges accepted norms about what women are capable of doing on their own behalf, and about the way men and women should interact.  Many women are socialized to be polite, and feel very inhibited about behaving in any way other than polite. In normal day-to-day interaction with the world polite is a great thing.  A very long time ago a college professor told me that manners are "... the WD40 of human civilization".  That's stuck with me my whole adult life.  Frankly, I think everyone should be polite, under normal circumstances.  I try to always be, and I work very hard with my kids to develop and maintain habits of politeness.
When we address boundary setting, people often look at it through that lens - am I being rude to this intruder, and is that okay?
But...  This is not a normal interaction.  While experiencing intrusion and threat is a daily occurrence for many people, and certainly many women, it's not a normal interaction and we should avoid normalizing it.
Under threatening circumstances the priority should be our safety, not adhering to the conventional norms of polite interaction.  It may well be that the best option to get to a safe situation is to appear polite to the aggressor, but how we arrive at that option is important.  The focus of our strategizing should be what is safest, not what is socially acceptable. 
What I’ve come to realize is that self-protective behavior simply doesn’t belong on the polite-rude spectrum.  Taking polite or rude into account in formulation of a strategy to boundary violations is a false concern.
Again, I recognize that for many people, especially women, feeling threatened is a regular circumstance that they’re habituated to, but that’s not the same thing as normal.  Under those circumstances our priority should be our safety, not meeting the expectations of others about rude or polite.  Being threatened by another person is outside the bounds of normal circumstances.  Rude or polite does not apply.
Mark Nessel, IMPACT Chicago Suited Instructor (Retired) and Suited Instructor Trainer

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