Once again we’ve experience a tragic shooting in a public place. This time it was at an airport.
Before that, it was a nightclub, a college, a church, a school, and all the “smaller scale” shootings that don’t make the news.
The fear can be paralyzing. Is the response to hide in our homes? Or should we all arm ourselves hoping to get the bad guy before they get us?
In the coming days, I’m sure we’ll hear a lot of politicians talking about how laws need to be changed. They’ll want their time on CNN, Fox, NBC, etc. But will a new law really stop the violence? Do criminals really care about the law? After interrogating my fair share of bad guys, my professional response is, “nope.”
Today your Facebook feed will be swamped with people demanding the right to carry their own weapons everywhere. Will that really stop more active shooters? Not to mention, if you find yourself in the middle of an active shooter situation, would you know what to do with your weapon? How would a police officer know YOU aren’t the bad guy?
All of this can make us feel out of control. Like our safety is in the hands of random nutjobs wandering public places.
So, what can we do to take the power back? In my talks at universities, companies, and organizations I teach a method of psychological preparedness called Cooper’s Colors. It’s often used in both military and police training.
Essentially, Cooper’s Colors explains the various stages of mental alertness. Think of a rainbow with the colors white, yellow, orange, red, and black.
White – When you’re “in the white”, you’re oblivious. You have no idea what’s going on around you. Think of times when you’re checking Facebook on your phone while waiting in line (c’mon, we all do it). Or, when you forgot that one ingredient for dinner and have to run into the grocery store with two screaming kids. You have no idea what’s going on around you. That’s being “in the white.” You don’t want to be in the white too often unless you’re safely on your couch watching The Real Housewives.
Yellow – Yellow is where you want to be the majority of the time. When you’re “in the yellow”, you’re aware of what is going on around you, but you’re not on heightened alert. I like to compare this to shopping at Walmart. You see that funny individual down the canned food aisle talking to themselves, but it’s not actually making you fearful, you’re simply aware.
Orange – Orange is when you’re aware of a specific potential safety issue. Because you were previously in the yellow, this person or situation has come to your attention. At this point you should be identifying possible exits, gathering your kids, and determining your next steps should this danger come to fruition.
Red – While you were “in the orange” you saw the threat and that threat has become a reality. Now you’re making the decision to take action. This is where you hear about fight or flight. Because you have moved through the other colors you’re prepared to make that decision.
Black – You never want to be “in the black.” You get into the black when you’ve gone from “white” to “black” with no gradual increase in mental preparedness. This is when people freeze. They were caught off guard and have no idea what to do.
I challenge you to start using this idea of Cooper’s Colors. Practice being in the yellow. Take note of possible exits in public places (remembering that not all exits are necessarily denoted by emergency signs – think windows, back doors, etc). Listen to your intuition when it tells you someone seems dangerous.
There will always be bad guys. But when we’re mentally prepared we’re one step ahead.
More importantly, remember although it may not seem like it right now, most people are basically good. Don’t let the bad guys win by scaring you into the mountains of Montana (unless you already live there and in that case enjoy your beautiful view).