Thursday, June 25, 2009

Have a Family Duress Code

Whether it's signalling to leave a boring dinner party, or being held at gunpoint while answering your wife's phone call, it is a good idea to establish a duress code. Take a few moments with your loved ones to agree on a specific word, phrase, and body language that can be used during such occasions. It could really be the difference between life and death, or at least minimize the discomfort of attending a function where you don't know anyone.

Picking a Duress Code:
  • Words - Try picking words that don't come up regularly in conversation, and will not sound strange when used. Your friends might become suspicious if you start saying "Abbra Cadabara" every time you are about to leave. You might consider choosing a less conspicuous word like automobile, newspaper, heartbeat, or streetlight that can easily be inserted into a sentence. To be even more subtle, have a secret pet name for your significant other like hunny, or sweetheart to be used only in the perils of danger. It may seem silly to dedicate a special word, when most couples have a knack for reading each other, but it could be crucial in a telephone or email conversation. Its better to have a duress code word and not need it, than to need it and not have it.

  • Phrases - Using a phrase can simply be a sentence with your secret word in it, but it can also be a metaphor. Suppose your secret phrase is the "car trouble". This allows you to use the different words every time. You could say the cars making noises, having trouble starting, acting funny, or the battery is won't hold a charge. This gives you much more variety in dialogue, and could be used to interpret the severity of a situation. If you want to leave a party, you might say that you recently noticed the tires look low. If you are being held at gun point you might say that yesterday the car started making loud grinding noises during gear shifts.

  • Body Language - Simple gestures like scratching your elbow, or cracking your knuckles can also relay the message of duress. It doesn't have to be as elaborate as a major league catcher signaling the pitcher, just enough to get your point across to the intended recipient. Being able to signal your wife could come in pretty handy the next time someone invites you to attend their child's fifth grade piano recital, and expects an on the spot answer.

It is a good idea to incorporated all three of these methods when creating your duress code. This allows for the most flexibility for sending signals. Use some creativity to determine your own personal duress codes, and never tell anyone.

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