No one wants to swim with sharks. Yet difficult people are, by their very nature, sharks: Aggressive, territorial, and tribal. When we unexpectedly find ourselves dealing with a difficult person, we often give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they will “play fair”. In our desire to “get along with others”, we often just make the situation worse. The hard truth is that we must learn how to identify and respond assertively to difficult people without being “eaten alive”.
The real goal is to learn how to become more assertive in dealing with the more difficult people in our lives. Voltaire Cousteau wrote about it in 1812, which suggests that little has changed in society in how to deal with difficult people.
Swimming with sharks is like any other skill: It cannot be learned from books alone; we must practice these skills in order to develop them. By following these rules for survival, it will be possible to survive difficult encounters without being eaten alive.
Rule #1: Assume That All Unidentified Fish are Sharks
Some fish do not look, or act like, sharks, but they actually are sharks. Some fish are not sharks, but may attack and injure like sharks and not even know it. That is usually people like us at times. Some fish look, act, and attack like sharks. We are not upset with them because we can tell that they might do it by their appearance. Do not assume that docile or passive behavior on the part of the shark means that they are not dangerous.
Rule #2: If Bitten, Do Not Bleed!
If you are injured either by accident or by intent, you must not bleed. Bleeding (of emotions–by reacting or being upset, defensive, etc.) actually prompts an even more aggressive attack and will provoke the participation of sharks which are uninvolved and docile.
Admittedly, it is difficult not to bleed when injured. it will take much diligent practice to not bleed (at least, in front of them). It requires one to STOP REACTING AND START ACTING!
This has may positive effects. It confuses the shark when you do not react in the usual manner. They may leave in confusion and try to figure out why and where their usual behaviors went wrong. Secondly, they may question their own potency, or even believe that the swimmer has supernatural magical powers. This can be frightening to the shark! Just because it isn’t true does not mean that the shark won’t believe it. However, they may test many times believing your behavior won’t last.
Rule #3: Counter Any Aggressive Action Promptly
Sharks rarely attack a swimmer without warning. Usually there is some tentative, explorative aggressive action, or circling. It is important that the swimmer recognize these behaviors as a prelude to an attack and take prompt and vigorous remedial action. The most appropriate counter-move is a QUICK SHARP BLOW TO THE NOSE! Almost invariably this will prevent a full-scale attack, for it makes clear that you understand the shark’s intentions and are prepared to use whatever force is necessary to repel this aggressive action.
Many swimmers mistakenly believe that an ingratiating (overly nice/helpful) attitude will dispel and attack under these circumstances. This is not correct. SUCH A RESPONSE WILL PROVOKE A SHARK ATTACK. Those who hold this erroneous view can usually be identified by their missing limbs, and physical and psychological bruises. Others like to play cat and mouse and chase you when you are upset.
Rule #4: Get Out of the Water if Someone Else is Bleeding
If a swimmer has been injured, or is bleeding, get out of the water promptly. The presence of blood and the thrashing of water will elicit aggressive behavior even in the most docile of sharks and you will usually be injured by accident. YOU END UP BEING THE VICTIM WHEN ALL YOU WANTED TO DO WAS TO BE HELPFUL. There are more appropriate ways to help, but this is not one of them. Don’t talk for others, rescue them, or do for them things they should and could do for themselves.
No useful purpose is served in attempting to rescue the injured swimmer. he either will, or will not, survive the attack, and your intervention cannot protect him once blood has been shed. Jumping in to save someone usually only results in our own death (being fired, blamed, etc.).
Rule #5: Use Anticipatory Retaliation!
Some sharks have notoriously poor memories; in fact they are quite dumb. They forgot that they have just had a blow to the nose by you. Don’t get upset by it, just remember that they are dumb animals. This memory loss can be prevented by a program of anticipatory retaliation. The procedure may need to be repeated frequently at fixed intervals with forgetful sharks, or may need to be done only once for sharks with total recall.
The procedure is essentially the same as described under the third rule (Counter Any Aggressive Action Promptly with a quick, sharp blow to the nose!). Here, however, the blow is unexpected and serves to remind the shark that you are both alert and unafraid!Swimmers should take care not to injure the shark and draw blood during this exercise. Too much blood will bring confusion, attract other sharks, resulting in your being injured by mistake in the midst of it all.
Rule #6: Disorganize any Organized Attack
Sharks are rarely organized in any attacks. However, whenever you are under an organized attack you can divert their attention to other issues for a while. This will leave them later forgetting what their original intent was previously. Knowing how, when and what to do, to create diversion strategies requires practice and experience. However, anything that you can do to divert the focus off of you can be helpful.
It is highly unethical for a swimmer to counter attacks by diverting them to another swimmer (or throwing the meat on another swimmer). It is, however, common to see this done by novice swimmers who would be more than happy to divert attacks your way (throw the meat on top of you). Don’t be surprised about this behavior on the part of others. You can almost expect it. As such novice swimmers can be as dangerous as sharks in many ways. This requires knowing what swimmers to avoid in life!