....January 2002

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Dear Reader,

Welcome to the January issue of Back Off and to the start of the New Year, 2002. Can I start by apologising for not getting in touch with you during December. Although I didn't intend to send out a full newsletter just prior to Christmas, I had intended to extend to you my very best wishes for Christmas and the new year however the end of 2001 just closed in on me and I missed the opportunity. So a very belated merry Christmas and best wishes for 2002!

As I send this issue out I am preparing, as I'm sure most of us are, for the year ahead as I come to the end of the holiday break. I conduct my first seminar in just over a week then it's all go with bookings almost every day up to the end of April, so it's shaping up to be another busy year.

On the work front I have a couple of exciting things planed for 2002 including some public seminars and other events so I'll keep you posted as we move into the year.

Yesterday I was looking through the statistics for our web site for the last quarter of 2001 and found that both the web site and this newsletter have taken on a truly international 'flavour' with visitors from all over the world. Since August last year over 5000 people have visited the site from the USA along with thousands of others from as far afield as England, Germany, Sweden, Belgium, France and Canada, and these are just the countries that I can remember. So a big welcome to all of those reading our newsletter from overseas and can I invite you to drop us a line via our e-mail link and let us know what you think.

For our first issue this year I thought I would ease into things nice and gently by having a bit of a light-hearted look at dealing with sexual harassment via the now infamous 'Dog on the couch' strategy. This is a strategy that all of the 80 000 girls and women I have lectured to will be familiar with, and one that continues to get a huge amount of positive feedback. I thought that as we prepare to launch ourselves into the New Year it would be a good time to re-visit our strategy for dealing with the Dickhead!

Thanks again for your ongoing support to Back Off and I trust that we can continue to provide you with knowledge, motivation and food for thought over the next 12 months.

Take care, your friend

PS- Remember to visit our 'archive page' to browse through our previous Back Off issues from the past 12 months

'Sometimes we stare so long at a door that is closing, that we see too late the one that is open.'
- Alexander Graham Bell
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I have been teaching the 'Dog on the couch' strategy for so long I can't actually remember how it originated. Every girl and woman who attends my seminars is taught the strategy and I can honestly say that in eight years I have never heard of it not working in a harassment situation.

The strategy revolves around a dog. You see, once you understand how a dog thinks- then you understand how we,the blokes, think. To fully appreciate how the strategy works I must first tell you a quick story about a dog. In fact a dog that gets up on a couch. If you have a dog at home just think about your dog. If you don't have a dog, well, just pretend you have.

As I tell the story of the dog on the couch I will ask you to focus on a couple of things. Firstly, focus on the dog, focus on what the dog does and why he does it. Secondly, start to compare the dog to the Dickhead. Once we have an understanding of the dog's behaviour and knowledge of how to deal with it I will apply this knowledge to a typical sexual harassment situation. So strap yourself in because we're going to head off on a few different tangents, but trust me, I wouldn't dream of teaching such a bizarre strategy if it didn't have a proven track record!

Imagine you're sitting at home watching TV when your dog comes in. You give him a quick pat, say gidday and go back to watching your program. The dog makes his way across the lounge room towards the couch. At this stage in the back of your mind you're thinking-'He better not get up on the couch that dog. He knows he's not allowed on the couch.'

The dog is now standing alongside the couch. He knows damn well that he is not allowed to get on the couch, but he's about to make the biggest decision he has ever made in his short dog life. He knows what he is about to do is wrong, but he thinks with you he'll get away with it. Start to compare the dog to the Dickhead. He has a sly look over his shoulder, sees you're watching the TV and thinks-'Bugger it, I'll have a go!' And quickly jumps up onto the couch.

Meanwhile you're busy watching the television thinking-'He better not get on the couch that dog.' You then glance across to the other side of the lounge room and there he is, that bloody dog, sitting slap-bang in the middle of the couch! At this moment you have a choice. You could choose to get up out of your chair, walk across to the couch and firmly instruct the dog to get down and go outside, which would almost definitely work. Or you could simply choose to ignore what the dog is doing and go back to watching the TV. Let's say you do exactly that. You ignore the dog and go back to watching the TV.

Back across on the couch the dog will now make a decision on what to do next. Does he know he is not supposed to be sitting on the couch? Yes. So he knows what he is doing is wrong? Yes. Did he think, however, that with you he could get away with it? Yes. Was he right? Yes. Does he now get off the couch? NO. The dog will now take full advantage of the situation, roll over onto his back, legs in the air and go to sleep. The situation has become worse and is continuing. Compare the dog to the Dickhead.

The following night you're sitting watching the TV and again the dog walks in but tonight you detect a subtle difference in his attitude. He is no longer apprehensive about getting up on the couch, in fact tonight he thinks he owns the couch! He strolls across the lounge room full of attitude and bad manners and bang, straight up onto the couch and off to sleep. Compare the dog to the Dickhead.

Tonight you think you had better do something about this situation. But, of course, as anybody reading this book who has a dog would know, you can tell the dog a thousand times not to get up on the couch and it won't. However, let him get away with it once and you can forget the thousand times you said, "No". You have a go anyway.

You leap from the comfort of your chair and stride confidently across the lounge room to confront the dog now fast asleep on the couch. In loud guttural tones as described in every 'How to train a dog' manual you announce to the dog-'Noooooooooo!' Which is met with a slow, lazy lifting of one eyelid. You repeat the command, louder and longer with total disregard for your own self-image and pride.

Undaunted by your lack of success you continue with the, up to this point totally ignored, verbal commands combined now with the classic finger pointing action designed to direct the dog off the couch and outside via any of the available exits,-'No, get down! Down! Get off the couch! Get out, outside, go out, down, down!' But, unfortunately, all this is coming a little too late. The dog believes he is quite entitled to do what he is doing and has no intention of moving. Finally you resort to giving him a clip across the ear and tell him one last time to get down. The dog reluctantly agrees. Order is, at last, restored.

What the hell has all this nonsense got to do with sexual harassment? Well you've come with me this far, so hang in there and all will be revealed. I did warn you the strategy was a touch irreverent. Let's now apply the dogs' behaviour to a typical sex harassment scenario and draw some interesting comparisons. Here is the famous 'Dog on the couch' strategy.

Imagine being at a party or social function with a group of female friends, all of whom are familiar with the 'Dog on the couch' strategy. At some point in the evening imagine you are standing with your friends chatting when you are suddenly targeted for a fairly generous serving of verbal harassment from an unknown male guest.

At this stage I believe you have a limited number of options available to you. If you would like the situation to continue simply ignore it or over-react and you will play right into the hands of the harasser. However, if you would prefer to take total control of the situation and make the guy look like a complete imbecile, you may wish to try the 'Dog on the couch' strategy. It goes something like this.

Before you do anything ask yourself the two most important questions to ask in a conflict situation-"Why have I been selected?" Followed by, "What does he expect me to do?" Of course you have been selected because you are a woman and therefore he believes you to be a good target. As for what he expects you to do- submission or total over-reaction will do just nicely thank you. Remember, never do what they expect you to do!

Now the fun starts. Put your drink down, turn around and look at him. Do not say or do a thing, (hands on hips is good, not compulsory, but you can throw it in if you like). Resist the urge to say anything, at this stage silence is your greatest weapon. Observe what is happening around the room. Everybody has gone very quite, they start to look like they're at a Davis cup tennis match. They look at you, they look at the guy. Then back to you, then back to the guy.

Now observe the bloke who has selected you. One very valuable lesson I learnt in the police was, when in a conflict situation, never listen to what they're saying, but rather look at what they're thinking. Get inside their head by reading their body language. Look at the body language and it will tell you this guy thinks this is a piece of cake, he believes he has total control over the situation and you will respond exactly the way he expects you to. The other thing I would like you to observe is that most guys in this type of situation have one, maximum two good lines they can use. What they say is not important, what is important is how you respond.

Once the guy has your attention he will get set to deliver the first of his two 'lines' which, of course, are designed to get you verbally involved in the situation. He turns to his mates and says, "Watch this boys, this will really wind her up." And then comes the first line.

Whatever he says, say and do nothing, just keep staring at him, but give him nothing. To the untrained eye you won't see much, however if you look closely you will observe a subtle but interesting change in body language. Our friend is not too sure what's going on. The little voice on his shoulder is saying, "This isn't working. What's happening here, this isn't funny?" But he can't turn back now he has too much to lose. He has one good line left, this always gets a reaction, this is sure to impress his mates. He throws this line at you. Stand your ground, give him nothing to work with. Say nothing just keep staring at him.

Now look at the body language. Our friend now realizes he has made a mistake in selecting you. You're not reacting the right way. But he has come too far and has nowhere to go. He is begging for you to respond. He looks nervously around the room, all eyes are on him, but he has run out of steam, he has nothing left to say.

At this point focus on the body language and try not to laugh, the fun has just begun. I now want you to focus on something just above his head, there is something there you may not have noticed before, it has always been there, you've just never looked for it. It's a big sign, - DICKHEAD- and the longer he stands there the brighter it gets! Now I want you to think about your dog and say to yourself, "This guy is just like my dog." Why is he just like your dog? Well:

· When your dog gets up on the couch he knows what he is doing is wrong. Likewise when this guy stands in front of a room full of people and verbally abuses you he knows what he is doing is wrong.

· The dog thinks with you he will get away with it, just like our friend at the party.

· If you sit watching the TV you are doing exactly what the dog wanted you to do so the situation will continue and get worse. If you respond to sexual harassment the way the harasser wants you to by either submitting or over-reacting, he too will continue and the situation will get worse.

· If you let the dog sit on the couch on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday try and get him off on Friday- you can't- he thinks he owns the couch. Try ignoring, submitting, or overreacting to sexual harassment once, twice, three times and then try to stop it. Just like the dog it becomes more and more difficult to control.

· The key to controlling the dogs' behaviour is identifying what the dog is doing, why he is doing it and sorting it out straight away before he thinks he is in control. Compare the dog to the Dickhead.

Stay with me now, we're almost there, here comes the icing on the cake! Once you have made the indisputable comparison between the dog and the Dickhead I would ask you to take the all-important final step in the strategy. Simply imagine, picture or visualise the guy in front of you is standing there in a big dog suit. Come on try harder, any type of dog will do, just see him in a dog suit and now start to giggle, then let the giggle turn into a polite chuckle, the chuckle into a chortle and finally really let yourself go and have a bloody good laugh.

One of your girl friends is chatting with another guest and has missed all of this but now hears you laughing and turns around. She is well aware of the 'Dog on the couch' strategy so knows exactly what's going on and races over to join you. She too is laughing aloud, pointing to the guy and saying, "It's him, look it's the dog, I knew it was going to be him!" A third friend now joins you who is equally well versed in this unique strategy and joins in with the hilarity and points knowingly at our, somewhat bemused, friend.

How is the guy dealing with this? Not real well, I can assure you. In the ten years I have taught this strategy the most common response at this point is the guy standing in front of a room full of very amused on lookers with an embarrassed and stupid look on his face offering feeble resistance such as, "Don't. Stop it. That's really stupid, don't." Usually followed up by a hasty retreat. The likelihood of further harassment from this individual has just plummeted. You are no longer perceived as a good target because 'Good targets' don't make their harassers' look and feel ridiculous as you have just done.

At this point I am reminded of a recent seminar I conducted at a High School in Sydney. I had just taught the 'Dog on the couch' strategy to over one hundred very enthusiastic year eleven girls and was about to give them a fifteen minute break. As I looked down at my watch, I was interrupted by yelling, screaming and taunting coming from a group of fifty or more year eleven boys outside the gymnasium.. The verbal assault was obviously being directed at the girls in an attempt to intimidate or offend them. I told the girls they had no choice but to confront the group, as there was only one exit available. I reminded them that they had a choice as to how they responded but to bear in mind submission or over-reaction would only make the situation worse. I suggested they try the strategy I had just taught them, what did they have to lose? My advice was to go outside and, if confronted, put your hands on your hips, look the guy up and down, think about your dog and crack up! So out they went.

The first thing I heard was all the blokes, "Blah, blah, self defence crap, blah, blah, girls have got no idea, blah, blah." The next thing I heard were shrieks of laughter and I looked up to see over one hundred girls running back into the gym screaming, "It works, it works, oh my god it works!" Needless to say that was the last we heard of the boys for the remainder of the day.

The key to the 'Dog on the couch' strategy is it follows the basic philosophy behind effective self protection- Don't focus on your opponents' strength and submit to it, but rather, identify his weakness and target that. There is one thing the next guy that harasses you is totally unprepared for. One thing he is paranoid of. One thing he has absolutely no defence for: Being laughed at. If you don't believe it, simply try it and join with the thousands of other girls and women who have discovered the key to dealing with the most common form of male to female conflict, - sexual harassment.

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Q. What about being in a one off situation like a group of guys on a construction site who call out and hassle you - should you stop and use the Dog on the couch strategy in this situation?

A. No. In that type of situation I think the best option is to simply ignore them and keep on walking. These guys are begging for a response, so simply don't give them one. As much as most of us dislike walking away from this type of confrontation I believe ignoring them is a more 'powerful' response than reacting. The Dog on the couch strategy is designed to be used in an environment that is 'ongoing', such as school, work, university where ignoring the guy(s) will usually result in them confronting you again the next time they get the chance. It is important to make the distinction between a one-off situation and one that is likely to be on going.

Q. What if the Dog on the couch strategy doesn't work?

A. Well, as with all of the strategies that I teach, it may not work, but I guess you'll never know unless you try it - and what have you got to lose by having a go? I can assure you that I wouldn't continue to teach such a bizarre strategy if it didn't have a solid track record of success. In fact I can honestly say that I cannot recall anybody who has tried the strategy telling me that it has failed. So rather than focusing on why it may fail - try focusing on what you can do to make it succeed.


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Words and actions are the factions
That make or break our day.
And thoughts are the things
From whence they all spring.

To be the best we can possibly be,
And grow, and learn in every adversity,
And not lose the success that's ours to be
Requires control of our thoughts explicitly.

Never doubt the possibilities to be,
And obstacles will never become a reality.
We create our own success you see
But only with a positive mentality.
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A couple more invaluable tips from our man Dan re the old social scene:

"A special mention at this time to all of you who have moved on from school into the big wide world of uni, Tafe or the workplace. Just remember that the social circles that you are now moving into are different from those you have come from. This is an opportune time to remind yourself to be extra cautious as far as the guys are concerned. It's not a case of being paranoid, just a little careful as to who you trust and under what circumstances.""

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Here are a couple of letters I received at the end of last year. Remember to pass on any stories/information via our e-mail link in this segment of the newsletter.

Dear Brent
I have been meaning to write to let you know how I used your strategies recently and how well they worked.

First of all an introduction. You came to speak at my company earlier this year and I attended. I learned a lot and found your talk inspiring but hoped I would never have to put it into practice.
Anyway, not long after your talk I was walking home from the cinema in Newtown at 9.30pm at night (something I have done regularly in the past 5 years). I realised I was being followed by two men. I crossed the road and the two men following me carried on. In retrospect I realise now that I should have gone back to King Street and caught a cab. However, I carried on down Enmore Road when the two men who had been following me came running towards me and took my handbag and another bag I was carrying.

At first I just froze and then remembered things you had said in your talk. So, I screamed the bloody place down!!! Tried to draw attention to what was happening. Out rushed a young man from the shop across the road and gave chase. One of the muggers eventually dropped my handbag which was returned to me by the fellow who gave chase. People came out from everywhere to see what all the noise was about. The last thing the muggers were wanting to happen!
I know you said no-one would come to our aid and I agree people mostly don't but I was very lucky in this instance because not only did the muggers not harm me in any way but someone came to help.

So they got away with one bag (the least important one) and I did notify the police who were very good and took a statement.

A lot of my friends have been amazed at how quickly I got over the incident. This, I keep telling them is because (a) I was lucky enough to attend your talk and (b) I did something. I made a fuss. I made life a little uncomfortable for these two.

Sadly I realise that now that I am getting older (55) I am probably becoming a bit more of a target for this type of incident. But I am not going down lightly - they've got a fight on their hands if they pick me!! And, oh yes, I now catch a cab!

Many thanks for your talk and your help.

Kind regards
E.M - Sydney

Dear Brent,

My little story is not so much frightening as disturbing.

I work at a little shop on a major road, after my shift ends I must walk back along the road to home. I took your course two days before the incident. The gist of it is that I was halfway home when a car pulled over and a Coles worker got out and began to walk towards me.

I'm generally scared of being approached by strangers but this was even freakier because something inside me was saying "something's wrong" it just oozed out of his body language. He asked me where the nearest retirement home was and gave me this half-mumbled story of visiting his grandmother. I gave him the shortest answer possible about being somewhere up the road and he began walking towards me. I froze. My mind was screaming inside me "ooh shit what's he going to do" and then I remembered you and the Dickhead sign and my thoughts changed to "if he takes another step I'm going to bash him senseless".

I'm not sure if I could have changed my reaction a week before but I did. I squared my shoulders told him I had to leave and took a step around him. He reached for me like he was pleading and I dropped my bags and told him to back off not the arm thing but they were ready to send him over a cliff. I never lost eye contact picked up my bags and stepped back.

He took a step forward and I took two back he offered to take me home and I refused, he got back in his car. I started walking, he followed in his car for a while trying to get me to get in until a cop car cruised past and he sped off. Even though you didn't do anything but talk I thank you for helping me get through something that could have turned out very differently.

Thank you. A.M

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'In the confrontation between the stream and the rock, the stream always wins - not through strength, but through persistence.'

'Trust in yourself. Your perceptions are often far more accurate than you are willing to believe.'' - Claudia Black

'Leap and the net will appear.' - Julia Cameron

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