Emotions are contagious. And security professionals can capitalize on that fact. 

Something as simple as a smile can have a massive effect on security interactions, especially if used before a conversation is started. A Duchenne Smile, for example, is the most authentic smile. It is visible not only in the mouth but also in the eyes. 

Starting every interaction with a smile is one of many ways to "level the playing field" and utilize that smile to infect a light-hearted or happy feeling in the approaching person. When greeted with a smile and a cheerful demeanor, even a person in a foul mood can change their emotional state.

Lifting the hands in the air, waving, or smiling are all examples of behaviors that can help to promote a positive attitude and feeling when interacting with others, which can be crucial for security professionals.

Open Body Language Behaviors

All interactions start well before any words are spoken to one another. 

Picture walking into a store where the first person greeting you is in a security uniform: their arms crossed across their chest, a straight emotionless face, and their feet shoulder-width apart, positioned strongly. That uniformed guard would not "feel" very approachable and would likely receive a negative attitude from those entering the space or venue. 

Now, imagine approaching the building, where a security officer greets you with a smile, holding their arms out slightly from their waist, bent at the elbow in a welcoming manner. Their feet are shoulder-width apart no longer in that strong fighting stance  and equal distance apart and in line with their body, not offset or at a 45-degree angle.

The interaction with the security officer in the second scenario is likely to be positive, and that's because showing open body language is an effortless way to set the tone before any interaction takes place. Open body language is defined as showing or exposing vital portions of the body such as the ventral portions of the arms and legs, exposed abdomen and neck, and positioning of the body in a comfortable manner.

While starting the conversation or interaction with open body language is excellent, it can also leave vital areas of the body exposed. Security officers have to mitigate that exposure as best they can for their safety by staying out of the "movement of violence" zones and paying attention to spatial distancing.

Stay out of the "Movement of Violence" Zones

Understanding basic body mechanics and "movements of violence" help to shed some light on where the security professional should position themselves before, during and after an interaction.

Most punches, kicks, or other melee attacks happen only within reach of the individual carrying out the attack. If the person can't reach their victim, they will have to move toward them before initializing the attack. The security officer can keep at least six feet between themselves and the person(s) they are interacting with to minimize the risk of injury.

Being conscious of the reach and body mechanics while interacting with them is the quickest and most effective mitigation technique to reduce the opportunity for violence for the security officer.

Pay Attention to Spatial Distancing

Another concept to be aware of is spatial distancing. In western culture, there are three major spatial distancing zones:

  • Zone 1 is the Unknown Persons/minimal relationship zone. This zone can be observed as six feet or greater between people during an interaction.
  • Zone 2 is the acquaintance zone. The distance between the people is less than six feet, but more than four feet. In that case, one can assume some known relationship between the two parties. Still, the relationship is not an intimate one. This zone of spatial distancing is seen most often in the workplace.
  • Zone 3 is the intimate zone. When the spatial distance between two people is close (between one and three feet), it can be assumed that there is some intimate or close friendship.

The spatial distancing rule stated above is most commonly observed in American culture. However, some cultures in different world areas have other spatial boundaries. Therefore, a "Baseline of Behavior" should be created in those areas before utilizing these assumptions.

This article originally ran in Security, a twice-monthly security-focused eNewsletter for security end users, brought to you by Security Magazine. Subscribe here.