Sunday, January 6, 2013
How do I convince my wife/girlfriend?
A common question that many men have after learning the importance of self-defense and acquiring some firearms training is how can they convince their wife/girlfriend to get some training as well. The short answer is that this is often a very difficult task, but a little understanding of human psychology might help your chances.
The first thing to understand when trying to convince someone of something is that people are very emotional creatures – much more so than most people understand. Why do you think that discussions about “important” issues (religion, politics, philosophy) often degenerate into heated arguments? It's because people are usually very emotionally invested in their beliefs, and anything that challenges those beliefs often elicits a strong emotional response.
What does this have to do with firearms training and self-defense? Think about it, we are talking about a person violently trying to rob, rape, or kill you, and you using deadly force which may very well entail ending a human life. It should be obvious once you think about it why this is such an emotional topic for many people, especially women. The emotional responses that often manifest when people are confronted with these ideas are avoidance and denial.
Violent crime is not something that happens in most of our daily lives, and this leads many people into a sense of complacency. In fact, statistics indicate that the “average American” is only about 0.75% likely to be the victim of a serious violent crime (rape, robbery, aggravated assault, or murder) in any given year*, so most people can go many years without anyone close to them being the victim of such a crime. This has a very powerful effect that enables many people to maintain denial about the reality of violent crime.
* Note – the US is actually a very safe country, with small pockets of great violence. For people who don't live in an urban center, the probably of being the victim of a violent crime in any given year is far, far below the average. Still, great tragedies like this and this still occur in unlikely places.
Now back to the question of how to convince someone close to you that they should get some training. First of all, you need to understand that beating someone over the head with facts is usually going to elicit a negative response. When something terrible doesn't happen, it's often very psychologically comfortable to pretend that it can never happen. Disturbing this illusion causes discomfort, and can even elicit hostility. Unfortunately, it often takes an event to trigger an emotional realization that there are threats in this world that affect all of us. Below are two stories from my own personal experience.
I know a single mother who lives in an upper middle class neighborhood who never saw the need to have a gun for protection. Her neighborhood was so safe that she often would take walks late at night by herself. She also knew all the “dangerous” neighborhoods and always avoided them. “Why would I need a gun for protection?” she'd ask.
One day, a couple of miles from this woman's house, a man tried to break into a car wash machine to steal the quarters. He was confronted, and a high speed chase ensued that ended with the thief crashing his car near this woman's home. He then started running on foot, through back yards and over walls until he was able to force entry into one of the houses. Fortunately the homeowner was armed, and after being threatened with a gun, the homeowner was able to shoot and kill the intruder.
This all happened one block from this woman's house. She then started to understand that bad things, while rare, can and do happen in nice neighborhoods (this event happened at 3pm on a Sunday afternoon). She went and got some training, and now carries a gun every day.
I have a friend whose wife was never comfortable around guns. She grew up and lived most of her life in Europe where private firearm ownership is very unusual, and she generally absorbed the idea that guns are scary. My friend and I both tried to convince her to get some training, but we were unsuccessful. My lady-friend even tried to talk to her “from a woman's point of view”, but ultimately without success. At one point we had kind of bullied her into agreeing to learn to shoot, but her heart wasn't in it and we never did get her to the range. I use the term “bullied” tongue-in-cheek, as we were all very gentle in our approach. Still, it was clear that she agreed just to please us and not because she decided that learning how to defend herself was a good idea. This all happened a year or two ago, and we pretty much just dropped the subject after that.
Recently however this situation has changed. I'll just say that something happened to make her realize that there are dangers out there that we all face, in everyday life and in very nice neighborhoods, and that she has a responsibility to be able to protect herself and her family. She is now on board, and I have just started teaching her some basics. She has graciously agreed to let me document her training starting from having never fired a gun of any kind in her life. Look for articles in the future that I'll title “Mrs. M Learns to Shoot – Part x”.
So back to my original question – how do you convince someone close to you of the importance of getting some training? Unfortunately this is often a very difficult task, and I know of no easy answers. The best way is to gently explain the facts and realities of the threats we all face, and if that isn't enough keep an eye out for events close to you that may help trigger an emotional realization.