No one WANTS to swim with sharks. However, difficult people are, by their very nature, sharks: Aggressive, territorial, and tribal. When we unexpectedly find ourselves dealing with a difficult person, we assume that they will “play fair”. In our desire to “get along with others”, we often make the situation worse. In reality, we have no choice but to learn how to identify and respond assertively without being “eaten alive”.
Swimming with sharks is like any other skill: It cannot be learned from books alone; the novice must practice in order to develop the skills. The RULES, if followed, will make it possible to survive while becoming an expert through practice. Below are the most important rules for learning to work and deal with other people (swim with the sharks):
Table of Contents
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/passive behavior on the part of the shark means that they are not dangerous.
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 lease 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. He/she may leave in confusion and try to figure out why and where their usual behaviors went wrong. Secondly, he/she 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.
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.
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.).
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.
Distract the 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!
Does This Help Me Become More Assertive?
Establishing limits on what you will allow from others behaviors is rarely discussed or understood much in interpersonal relationships. However, this is one of the more important subjects that needs to be understood in order for you to develop a more refined “definition of yourself” in the world as an assertive individual.
Defining Limits And Boundaries
Limits and boundaries are “lines” that we “draw in the sand” which defines how far you will allow others to go in relating to you. The problem in relationships is that many of our personal boundaries are violated, blurred, or not well defined. All this allows others to take advantage of you and violate your wants, desires and needs by imposing their own definitions of what is proper on to you.
Assertiveness & Boundaries
One of the most important things that you can learn is how to be appropriately assertive in defining what you need and how much you are willing to tolerate. Being clear about your own boundaries requires that you take the time to stop and examine how you relate to others and they relate to you.
You may be use to allowing others to take advantage of you, your time, need to be with yourself, etc. Learning to be assertive requires that you clearly draw consistent lines so that others know where they stand with you.
If you only draw lines when you have “had it” then other people will never take you seriously. They will only see you periodically explode. This allows them to blame you for your inability to control your upsets.
Being assertive does not have anything to do with aggressiveness. Assertiveness asks what is it that you want; how do you want to be represented; how do you want things to be; and respecting yourself first or you are no good to others. Assertiveness knows that “good love means saying no” when it is appropriate.
Limits and Stress Control
The more you are able to set consistent limits and boundaries, the better you will feel in the long run. Though others may continue to test, request, and complain, over time they will come to respect your ability to set the limits in clear and consistent ways. As you set the limits you will notice a clear and distinct reduction in stress problems, exhaustion, fatigue, along with improvements in your energy and health levels.
We have to get over our guilt over saying “no” when we feel that the request would violate what we have set as appropriate. The hope that if we give into others, do enough for them, and meet all of their requests, with the expectation that others will come to appreciate it and not continue to violate our boundaries, is a totally unrealistic expectation.
Other people never respect others that they can “walk over.” We only respect those people who set consistent limits, respect themselves, and feel good about themselves.
We each have to come to value ourselves, our needs and how we want to be in the world. We have to communicate clearly what your limits are with others so that others know what is expected of them. You cannot expect them to “just understand.” They, through, may resist at first. Stick to it
Being Assertive vs. Aggressive
In situations where we are forced to swim with the sharks, this all has to do with bottling up our emotions. We hope that with a little time and effort, we can figure out how to react and cope. The problem is that the more we hold things in, the more we feel like we are “just going to explode.” Then, even the slightest thing can set us off.
When we finally explode, we over-react. We might feel guilty and sorry that we ever said anything, so again we try to bottle up our feelings. This only continues the vicious cycle of holding things in and exploding when it becomes too much to handle.
Some of this has to do with our fear of telling others about our emotions and our fears. Some of it has to do with how we were raised to be “nice” and “seen but not heard” by others. Some of it has to do with the fact that we came from abusive families where expressing anything might evoke more violence, so we learned to “play it safe.”
The real issue is that we have not learned the difference between assertiveness and aggressiveness. We have to learn to express our feelings and needs regardless of what others say to us or want they want to hear. To do this, we have to focus on our own behaviors and feelings rather than what we believe others are thinking about us.
We do not have to overreact. We can talk, discuss, use humor, and be clear about what it is that we want and need. However, we also have to let go of the fantasies that others will change when we start to express ourselves.