I see a lot of self-defense training where the students are taught to pretend they are scared and compliant when a violent criminal attacks them.

In the process they tend to talk quite a lot…


Here is my take on talking during a violent altercation:

  • One of the first things that happens to you as victim is that your body gets flooded with adrenalin to prepare you to either fight or run. One of the things that happens is that your muscles contract. Your vocal cord muscles also contract, which sometimes changes the pitch and tone of your voice. Suddenly your voice may sound hysterical or aggressive without you having any control over it. The bad guy does not want to entertain a hysterical or aggressive sounding person and the situation may escalate very quickly.
  • The bad guy is also pumped with adrenalin and super aggressive. Logical reasoning flies out the window. Your attempts at sounding compliant or reasonable may be perceived as arrogance or aggression, which may escalate the situation. Your squeaky and trembling voice may also convince an attacker to proceed and do more than he actually wanted to do. You just confirmed his suspicion that you are weak and an easy target. Also, some people have naturally annoying voices and speech patterns, and talking to an already aggressive attacker with an annoying voice may worsen the situation.
  • When you talk to people, it is a natural tendency to look at them. When you plead there is a natural tendency to make eye contact which could also be perceived as arrogance, aggression, defiance or even that you are trying to remember what the attacker looks like.
  • You may choose the wrong words. Phrases like “calm down” & “be reasonable” makes angry people even more angry.


When you are caught off-guard by an attacker, be submissive in posture and do what the attacker tells you to do. Do not make eye contact. Do not try to reason or sound normal. Wait in silence for an opportunity to attack or escape. Also, if a violent criminal asks you a question, he expects an answer. Make sure you answer because staying silent will also be seen as aggression or disrespect.

Note: The above does not refer to anti-social aggression where egos are at play. In those cases it is to your advantage to talk as long as you follow the correct verbal de-escalation protocols. 

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