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Assertiveness in the Face of Charity-Intrusion

The Context 

As I am trying to rest and recover at home, the phone rings. As always, I screen the call—it’s the door. I answer and hear it’s “Post Canada” and think “Yay!, My pj bottoms have arrived!!”.

As always, I meet the delivery person at the elevator—I prefer not having anyone at my door. The door opens, I hear 2 voices… “this doesn’t sound like…

Come out a man and woman—turns out, they are not the delivery person… They are here for an awareness campaign… I think to myself “oh perhaps they are doing a survey, this sounds like an official government thing…”

He talks fast, he’s enthusiastic. He wants to talk to me about something important, an awareness campaign, it will take 2 minutes. He starts to walk towards me and asks “could you perhaps spare a small glass of water?”. It takes me a second or two to figure it out—they want to come into my apartment and chat… What? Mmmm-no, that is NOT going to happen… So I categorically say “No, I don’t want anyone in my apartment”. He says: well then let’s just talk at your door, this will only take 2 minutes. I ask what this is about—“We are going around for an awareness campaign”. He asks for my name—as they say “oh beautiful name!”, I realize “hey wait, this person doesn’t know me? What is this?!”. He then admits that they are talking to every tenant and I am the first who answered—their goal is to bring awareness to how children around the world are being treated—and then I get it... they buzzed and no one until me let them in (because I assumed they were Post Canada and intercom talk is so easy to understand!)… He asks: do you have any kids? I look back and say “no but I have friends who do—Who are you again? What is this exactly?” I look at their badges, and start to understand: these are not government people, they are from the Plan Canada organization (which sounds so close to Post Canada… coincidence or known potential misunderstanding? Perhaps a little paranoid, granted, but, I’ve seen unsuspicious and masterfully executed tactics before...).

He keeps pressing forward and onward, always talking, fast—I keep walking forward but am always looking back, trying to figure things out and am not liking giving my back… I feel confused, rushed, and the whole thing feels intrusive and subtly pushy… They have a goal and I am not responding well to their goal so they keep talking fast and enthusiastically… They have different tactics, questions, information depending on my answers and I keep feeling overwhelmed yet abiding by their requests, like in a trance… Who-ly crap… (had another word in mind but let’s stay PG 13)…

And then I think: E-NOUGH. I get my wits back, I stop in my tracks and make them stop in theirs. After 30 seconds of this nonsense, the tables have turned.

I put an end to the intimidation by stepping to the side and at an angle of them both (cut the line, blade & funnel). I put my hands up in a “stop” gesture (fence), I bring my weight forward so they feel I’m taking my space back (loaded heel, front weighted—what I call the tactical stance). He tries to salvage what is about to end—he tells me more, quickly, about the charity work they do. I ask for a card to check out their website—they show me their badges again, still trying to intimidate me into listening to them.

“It’ll only take 2 minutes!”

“Yeah, I’m not interested… Have a great day!”


The Learnage

I was aghast at how charity representatives could be so predatory (Pedatory Selling is what my best friend, business partner and teacher/expert in all things combat, self-defense and martial arts Kevin Secours called it). I was also taken aback by how long it took for me to figure things out and take my power back. These are the lessons I gleaned and just absolutely had to share:

It’s not because it is a charity that their fund raising methods are clean

And I have to be honest, if the methods they use feel like intimidation, albeit subtle, how are they managing that charity? Granted, this may just be their reps gone rogue but I would definitely do research and ponder before giving anything to them.

Who says they were who they said they were?

Authority can be faked. This is the same as getting a call from a “bank” rep asking for your private information through a “survey”. Do not let people who give themselves authority bully/pressure/intimidate you into responding or abiding. Ask yourself questions, ask them questions, give yourself time to respond and think. If it doesn’t feel right, get out.

Turns out, after research, the name of their charity is Plan International Canada, which is not what was written on their badges… Perhaps not so paranoid after all!

We can all be taken by surprise

No matter how much training we have, we can all be taken off guard. But the more training we do, the more self-aware we are and the clearer our empowerment and self-defense goals are, the faster we get back on track.

Even if it takes you time to react, don’t beat yourself up

You realized what was happening, you came back to your goals, you got out. A-ma-zing.

Some of us take longer to react as a natural state (me). Some of us were/are more gullible and need to train more and a bit harder to not be fooled by the intimidating/manipulative kind (me). Some of us don’t want to judge, assume or even think ill intent could be possible (not me anymore!). Recognize the behaviors, develop confidence in being right and consistently improve your self-awareness and assertiveness capacity. We all need to start somewhere—take your power back through deliberate practice.

Also, remember the context…

We are more vulnerable at home…

The danger of being intruded upon when at home is that we are in a much more relaxed state and are therefore more easily influenced. That is one of the things that upset me most about Plan (International?) Canada’s strategy and what motivated me to write this blog. Calling wasn’t enough; stopping us on the street wasn’t enough; coming to the door wasn’t enough… they had to go as far as to indirectly asking to be invited in… Feels treacherous to me…

Recognize the behavior…

Intrusive/intimidating/manipulating people often have a hidden agenda and/or strategy they wish to keep from us—they distract us by talking fast, a lot, energetically, enthusiastically… cons-tant-ly. They destabilize us by asking many questions, by being (subtly) pushy and persistent, by never allowing us to think. They intimidate us by the authority they give themselves, by the urgency in their voice, the worthiness of their mission and the stress of possibly missing an opportunity. They, in effect, disrupt our OODA Loop making us feel confused, overwhelmed, unsure, off balance, and therefore less able to act cognitively and more under their influence.

Anyone can manifest such behaviors, not only people who want your money! Think of anyone in your life who has displayed such behaviors: parents, siblings, family, spouse/partner, friends, colleagues, bosses… Learn from those situations past and use them as guinea pigs for situations future! (sounds harsh but it works—it is good assertiveness training and, in time, it establishes relationships of respect)

…and put an end to it

Trust your gut:

If something feels off, investigate, ask questions, require more information, push until you are satisfied or decide to end the conversation.

Position yourself strategically

This is what we call Proxemics and is described in the last paragraph of The Context above… If you feel being intruded upon, listen to that and define your space, you have a right to it.

Be assertive

You also have a right to be in command of your self, your thoughts and your actions. Own your authority—it is yours to wield and no one else’s. Learn to say no without justification. Be polite but neutral and firm. The more you know yourself, the more you know what you want and don’t want, the easier it will be to be assertive.

When you feel overwhelmed, confused, out of whack…

It’s usually a good barometer telling you something is off. Even if you don’t understand why you feel the way you do, allow yourself to take a step back and take some time before acquiescing or responding. Make the difference between true emergencies and those imposed by others, learn to listen and respect your discomforts, whatever they may be—the more you practice, the more you will learn to trust yourself.

In the end, remember—whatever reaction or non reaction you have had that you perceived as a mistake, it isn’t. Every experience is an opportunity to learn and get better. The capacity to assert ourselves confidently and peacefully comes with practice—every opportunity, regardless of the result, counts!

I wish you joyous practice in your next encounter with intrusiveness!

PS: I did receive, a few hours later, my absolutely delightful and wonderful pj bottoms, via Post Canada, by a mailman who got in without buzzing but who, after me asking who was at the door, knew not to be intrusive and was himself on the side of the door instead of smack dab in front of it… Ah joy!


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