Kathy McAfee, Professional Speaker & Executive Presentation Coach - America's Marketing Motivator

Kathy McAfee, Professional Speaker &
Executive Presentation Coach
Let's Talk. 860-371-8801 or Email me
Kathy McAfee, Professional Speaker & Executive Presentation Coach - America's Marketing Motivator
Kathy McAfee, Professional Speaker & Executive Presentation Coach - America's Marketing Motivator

Kathy McAfee, Professional Speaker &
Executive Presentation Coach
Let's Talk. 860-371-8801 or Email me
Kathy McAfee, Professional Speaker & Executive Presentation Coach - America's Marketing Motivator
Kathy McAfee, Professional Speaker & Executive Presentation Coach
Kathy McAfee, Professional Speaker & Executive Presentation Coach
Let's Talk. 860-371-8801 or Email me

Networking how-to: protect yourself

Kathy McAfee demonstrates how to break free from a front choke with the help of Kathleen Oyanadel

“Strong.” “Stronger.” Those were the words used by two participants to describe their experience in a women’s self defense workshop that I helped to organize last weekend. This communication educational event was co-sponsored by Soroptimist International of Farmington Valley and Yu Martial Arts. I happily belong to both of these organizations. My involvement in these groups has definitely helped to boost my own personal power and self confidence.

Our goal in teaching these women’s self defense workshops is to motivate, equip and empower women and girls (ages 12-80) with simple defense techniques that could potentially save their lives some day.

Something else remarkable happened during this workshop. These women found their voices. They stood taller. They pushed themselves out of their comfort zones. They got a taste of their personal power and they liked it!

It takes a great deal of courage to attend a workshop like this. It took me about 20 years of thinking and talking about taking a “model mugging class” (as we called it back then) to actually get my butt to a class.  I’ve never looked back since.

Tapping into your personal power

I was inspired and impressed with the inner strength and outward power that was unleashed by these “ordinary” women and young girls who attended the self-defense workshop. I saw the moment of change in their eyes when they allow their ferocity to be fully expressed, without a hint of timidity, embarrassment or fear. They are truly warriors inside, they just need to know when and how to let it out. And of course, when your life is being threatened and/or you are about to be assaulted, tapping into your personal power is a smart thing to do.

Now, I am not suggesting for a moment that you walk around punching and kicking people just because they look at you the wrong way. At my school of martial arts we spend an enormous amount of time instilling high values into our students. Values like respect, politeness, patience, trustworthiness and modesty are powerful self defense principles. Grand Master Yu tells his students that if you are respectful to people, they are less likely to want to pick a fight with you.

He also suggests that the best self defense is to run away. Don’t stick around to see how the conflict plays out. Get out of there as quickly as you can.

Listen to your instincts

I like to think the best of people and to give them my trust from the get go. But let’s face it, the world can be scary place filled with uncertainty and some pretty desperate, unbalanced people. The more unsure you are about yourself and the more unaware you are of your surroundings, the more vulnerable you become. Investing some time and energy in learning self defense not only will help you with your personal safety, but it could strengthen other areas of your life, such as business and networking.

A tough spot

I remember one situation a few years ago, where I was going to meet a recent new networking contact at his office to meet with him and his colleague (two males). The meeting was to be held in one of those rented office spaces inside a building that used to be an apartment complex. My red flags went off as soon as I entered the parking lot. My internal warning bells continued to go off as I made my way through the security glass door and down the narrow hallway. It felt like a creepy hotel in a bad movie. Yet I continued forward, pushing aside my fear. I didn’t want to be rude or late for this business meeting. What was I thinking? I should have turned around before I even parked the car. This meeting could have easily been rescheduled to meet at a “safer” place. Thankfully nothing bad happened. I would have been in a tough spot if it did. There were not many options for escape.

Be smart and safe when you network

Over the course of your career, you will network with people from all different walks of life; some with greater levels of positional power, more money, more influence, and even more physical strength. While I want you to meet them as equals, I also want you to trust your gut and listen to your instincts about them. If any “red flags” go up, then you must pay attention to these inner signals. You might be misreading them or the situation, but I’d rather have you wrong and embarrassed than harmed.

“If you act like a victim, you will become a victim.”  – Kathleen Oyanadel, black belt, Tae Kwon Do, instructor of women’s self defense and club president of Soroptimist International of Farmington Valley (show in photo above)

Your nonverbal communication (e.g., posture, eye contact, handshake, how you walk and move) as well as vocal power sends a very clear message to others about your self confidence. It also provides early indications as to your capabilities. Within seconds people size you up. They get a sense of whether or not they like you; if they can trust you; if they are safe with you. Likewise, they are sending nonverbal signals to you. Start paying closer attention.

Simple techniques to defend yourself

The photo to the right was taken from the flip chart where we summarized the self defense techniques that we taught the women.

The first defense we taught them was to use their voice as a weapon. Not to scream from the throat, but to yell forcefully from the diaphragm. The best words to yell are “No! Back Off.” Put your hands on your stomach and feel the air push out as you yell this empowering, non nonsense phrase “No! Back Off!” Your attacker may think twice before proceeding. There’s probably easier prey out there for him than powerful you!

Here are a few other guidelines to ensure your personal safety when networking:

  1. Meet only in public places where there are plenty of people around.
  2. Know your exits. This is good for fire-safety as well as other kinds of personal safety.
  3. If your gut tells you the situation or a person is not safe for any reason, listen to your instinct and avoid the situation altogether.
  4. Don’t give personal information out on social media that could put you in a vulnerable position (your home address, your vacation plans, your personal identity data)
  5. Don’t carry too much stuff (purses, briefcases, packages).; Keep your arms and hands free and available to use as weapons of defense.
  6. Don’t let people get too close into your personal space.  Learn to use the defensive stance, exposing less of your body to them.
  7. Don’t get so wrapped up in your cell phone conversations that you are not paying attention to who or what is around you.
  8. Never get into a car or van with someone you don’t know well.
  9. Go to events with other people that you trust.
  10. Don’t walk out to your car by yourself. Ask a trusted person to escort you. Make sure other people also get safely into their cars, start their engines and they are able to drive away safely.
  11. Talk to your employer about safety lighting in parking lots and other potentially dangerous areas near your workplace. Suggest a self-defense class/course be taught at the workplace.
  12. Take a basic self defense class and learn some basic techniques. Practice them in a safe, supervised environment.
  13. Learn to use your voice. Find your volume button and turn it UP!
  14. No means no. If that doesn’t work, try yelling the phrase “No! Back Off!”
  15. Don’t put yourself in harm’s way. No business meeting or networking event is that important. Safety first. Always.
  16. Stop being so apologetic. “I’m sorry” is not the thing you need to say to your attacker. Run. Get out of there safely.

Your Networking Goal for the Week

This week you are going to start paying more attention to your gut instinct. You will listen to and watch for those red flags that tell you that something is not right about a person or a situation. You will begin notice more about what’s going on with your own body and the environment around you. You will consider more options and choices to ensure your own safety.

And you will contact your local martial arts academy or parks and recreation department and inquire as to when you can enroll in a basic self defense class. Just do it!




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