When I lived in New York, ages ago, I took a self-defense class.
The big selling point of classes like these is the idea that you’ll be able to take care of yourself if you’re the victim of an attack. And that makes sense—no one wants to be at the mercy of a stranger who grabs them out of the blue. And in fact, the instructor made a point of saying
this–“I’ve watched people out in the early morning for their run, headphones on…it would be the simplest thing in the world for someone to just snatch them up, and they’d never be seen again.”
The instructor spends a lot of time thinking about exactly this topic. This is her thing—she is really invested in being fit and prepared for an attack. So it follows that she sees the world as a minefield of potential threats.
The law of the instrument, or Loevinger’s law of irresistible use, is the idea that to a person with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. And I’m going to posit here that we all have our own version of this. Not only do we want to use our own special tool to address the problem, but we also can’t see what’s actually going on because of our bias.
And it matters. It matters because the actual threat of being attacked by a stranger in the United States is about 0.146%. But when we look at the world as if that scenario may be imminent, it changes our mindset and our behavior. We may become more suspicious, less generous, less willing to connect with others in our communities.
My hammer is communication skills, being intentional about how we connect with other people. But not all coaching needs to have that as a focus, and often we can get away with “okay” communication. If I insist on wielding my hammer all the time, I won’t see what else is going on. I’ll limit my own learning and understanding.
What’s your hammer?