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You do not lead by hitting people over the head - that's assault, not leadership. Dwight D Eisenhower
Alpha /Beta Street Status
On this page:
What is an Alpha? | Alphas Look Out For The Group | Alphas Are Trustworthy | Alphas Communicate | Alphas Have Extra Resources | Insecure Alphas | Alphas Allow Others Their Place| Betas Fight More | Alpha Male in Writing | How To Get Attacked
This mini-hub serves five purposes.
First it is to help people whose job it is (or are elected by default) to restore order(1). There is a whole lot more to putting an end to unacceptable behavior than just yelling and threatening people. Your career as a professional problem solver will end with you leaking blood if you don't take this idea to heart.
Second it is to help people who routinely deal with aggressive and dangerous people develop more effective methodologies. There are ways to co-exist and function other than having to bust someone's head every five minutes. Constantly having to stay on your guard is a drag. These pages will help you understand how to deal with people in ways other than constant conflict.
Third is to help individuals who are new to management positions learn what it takes to be a leader. Effectively managing people is a skill closely tied in with understanding alpha status. As there is a difference between leadership and management, there is more to management than just telling people what to do.
Fourth is two sides of the same coin. One side is to help young men and women understand how to establish social standing. To improve your standing in a group and function better and more easily in society.
The other side is to help them recognize when someone is giving them bad advice about what to do to gain respect and self-confidence. It is critical to understand that bad information on this topic is dangerous. You need to be able to spot it when some internet forum fruit-loop or blowhard starts up with what it takes to be 'respected' or how to establish your alpha status. Usually their advice encourages you to become a macho asshole. Being an aggressive, obnoxious, selfish prick does NOT put you in control of a situation. Nor does it improve your standing as an alpha in your community.
In fact, it weakens it.
Following that kind of advice is bad enough in your day to day life, but -- in potentially violent situation -- that advice is a disaster. It WILL get you killed or hospitalized if you try it on the wrong people. It may sound appealing in the safety of a group gathering (or from the safety of looking at it on your computer screen), but following these internet warrior's advice is one of the fastest ways to get your brains blown into a fine pink mist out in the streets.
Fifth purpose is to help writers, directors and actors create more believable characters in their works. Writing violence and action scenes that are believable isn't easy. Nor is writing strong characters that aren't one dimensional caricatures. This is a resource for the publishing and entertainment industries.
What is an Alpha?
Let's start with the fact that being an alpha is a whole lot more than just ordering people around or intimidating people with the threat of violence (that's called being a bully). And it's definitely more than just being able to beat people up.
Being an alpha has to do with one's involvement in a group. More specifically, it's about the helping develop and maintaining a group dynamic, hierarchy and the functionality of the group. And this not just for your own benefit.
Being an alpha is about leadership and taking care of others.
Below are a list of traits that you will see in human alpha leadership. These are the traits that those engaged in the macho parody of manhood just ... don't ... get. And because they don't 'get it,' not only will they not be respected, but they won't be trusted. Instead of being looked upon as 'warriors,' they'll be looked upon as loose cannons on deck.
Alphas Look Out For Group
Before you can understand what an alpha is, you first need to understand something about the nature of power. Namely: Power is granted to you by the group. You don't have power unless other people give it to you.
Here's the catch, the group gives you power on the condition that you look out for their needs. That's the deal. You get extra power to serve them. If you violate this trust then you will be stripped of your power by the group.
That simple point is the biggest stumbling block for people who want to be leaders but are not cut out for it. Such people are incapable (or unwilling) to look out for anyone's interest except their own. And that brings us to the next point.
Alphas Are Trustworthy
Trust is a fundamental issue of being an alpha. People do not give power to someone they do not trust to look after their needs.
When we say this people always reply with comments like "Well what about Hitler?" Realize first of all there is a difference between power and force. Although the Nazis used force to dominate other nations, the German people had elected Hitler. They had given him power. Although he would later abuse this power, at the time they granted it to him, they believed he would serve them better than anyone else.
But also realize that the people who enforced his subjugation of other peoples and nations trusted Hitler to restore the glory of Germany -- and benefit them in other ways as well! It is easy gloss over this idea in hindsight, but even Hitler had people who trusted him enough to give him power. Power, he held until the end(2).
Even among criminal gangs the gang members give the leaders this trust. That just proves that even a villain has to share the wealth. And quite frankly, you will often see that dictators are deposed by their own supporters when they forget this to share the wealth.
Taking this from the national level to the street corner, you still will see that trust is an issue in alpha behavior. To avoid violence, the person demanding submission must be trustworthy. The deal he is offering is 'submit and you won't get hurt.' If he isn't offering that deal, or is untrustworthy, there is no reason for the other person not to fight back. In fact, now he has lots of motive to do everything in his power to kill the aggressor.
An alpha needs to keep his word. If he offers a person a chance to walk away safely, he needs to stick to it. He doesn't increase his alpha status by suddenly changing his mind and attacking the person, he actually undermines it in the eyes of others. Because quite frankly that's a very beta trick.
There are three important skills in leadership
And contrary to what some betas posers would have you believe, there's more to communication than "My way or the highway." That is usually the attitude of a beta aping this critical aspect of leadership.
Most people only think of someone 'as a leader' when he/she is making decisions, but the simple fact is that most of a leader's time is spent listening. And asking questions to gain more information. That's because a huge part of making good decisions is having good intel about what is going on.
Another huge aspect of being an alpha is negotiate. Whether it is resolving conflicts between his followers or establishing workable compromises between people. And to negotiate well, you need to be able to communicate to whom you are dealing with (and on whatever level).
Alphas Have Extra Resources
A layman's definition of stress is: The belief that you don't have the resources necessary to deal with a problem.
Now that's pretty simplified, but it does convey an important point. And that is if you don't think you can handle something -- or you feel it is too great of drain on your resources -- you're going to get stressed. And when you are stressed you drop into an adrenal state. When that happens your brain start functioning differently. When you are stressed you get nervous, agitated, angry, aggressive and fearful. You tend to over-react, engage in threat displays and invade other people's space. In short, you do all the things that are likely to get you attacked.
What's ironic about this is that you are getting attacked because your stress created the same in the other person.
We thought about calling this section "Alphas are calm in the face of adversity" but the simple fact is, the reason they are calm is that they know they can handle it. They have the resources.
To be more specific, they have diversified.
It is not uncommon for betas to believe in simplistic solutions. In other words they commonly believe that if they become the 'best' at something they feel everything else will fall into line (e.g. the idea that becoming the best fighter will make them an alpha). Another common failing among betas is the belief that they are 'good enough' (i.e. because I'm good enough I don't have to try to improve myself). Because of this when a situation occurs that taxes their limited resources they tend to overreact.
Alphas on the other hand have experience looking at problems from several perspectives and seeing alternative solutions. This allow them to be more calm and remain in their logical brain instead of their emotional one.
Insecure Alphas is a term we picked up from the Dog Whisperer Caesar Millan. (Who, if you want some really good insights into how alpha/beta behavior works in pack animals, we highly recommend that you watch his TV show).
Basically Caesar's summation of an insecure alpha is a beta dog that is thrust into a leadership position. This dog lacks alpha attributes. Most of all it doesn't have the calm assurance of a true alpha. As such it is unstable and overly aggressive. An additional problem with this is other dogs in this situation also become unbalanced and aggressive.
Now it doesn't take much imagination to take this out of the kennel and imagine the same dynamics occurring under a bad manager. A stressed out manager, gets the entire department upset and on edge.
This concept is especially applicable in a street confrontation, where fear of perceived loss of 'respect' will often motivate a beta (who is trying to convince everyone he is an alpha) to over react.
Here is where you get into a problem common among what if monkeys, lacking inner calm they project their insecurity onto everyone and assume they will act the way they would.
Let's give an example, often violence can be avoided when you take 'the bad guy's advice.' A great deal of violence would have been avoided if, when the bad guy said "You better get out of here," the other person had just done so.
The person was given the option to leave or alter his/her behavior ... but for whatever reason, decided not to. Believe it or not, the 'bad guy' is trying to avoid violence by giving you the chance to leave. Unfortunately all to often the soon-to-be-victim decided something else was a priority and refused.
When we talk about this in seminars, despite the offer to leave safely (remember trust?) inevitably someone pops up with the question "What if he follows you?" Usually by someone who is the sort who would refuse to leave for this very reason. Stop and think about that, he could have avoided violence by leaving, but his fear of violence following made him stay, thereby guaranteeing violence to happen!
We should also point out this is also the kind of person who would feel it necessary to taunt someone for taking up the offer. Feeling the need to 'get in the last word' is a great way to get attacked. This turns the other kinds of potential violence into predatory. Not because he meant to be a predator, but because YOU broke the accords.
Are there such things as individuals who will follow you? Yes, but the simple fact is those are more predatory to begin with and they never meant to let you go in the first place. But, in comparison to the number of people who provoke the attack by trying to salvage their pride with a parting shot, these are much rarer than you might think.
Alphas Allow Others Their Place
It is perhaps here that the absolute worst misconception about alpha behavior is made. It is also one of the fastest ways to spot a beta trying to ape an alpha. One version of this attitude is "I'm the alpha, I get the best, you get the scraps." Another version is "Everything is mine and you have no place."
Realize humans are social animals. We need other humans in order to exist. The nature of the social hierarchy is two-fold. One is so the greatest number of people can 'get by' in order for the group/species to survive (it organizes and protects the group). Two is it allows individuals within that group a place of security to obtain what that individual needs in order to survive.
Reread that last paragraph, it's THAT important to understanding alpha behavior.
The first reason is why the alpha looks out for the group. The second reason is why people are part of the group. And why they put their trust in the alpha, because he also makes sure that THEY can get what they need to get by.
An insecure alpha works against those two standards. It's all about him; about what he wants, about what he feels and his perceived needs. Such an individual doesn't allow others to achieve their goals. This is also why such an individual is viewed by the majority of people as unstable, untrustworthy and overly aggressive, because who knows which way his next whim is going to take him?
One of the biggest mistakes that betas trying to ape alphas make is that they do not allow others to achieve their needs. For example instead of allowing people to stay within the group/establishment -- provided they follow the rules --a bully will pick someone and drive them out of the area just to show how big and bad he is. By driving that person out of the group/establishment the bully reduces that person to a scavenger -- who must get by however he/she can.
The simple fact is that most of the alpha's communication is aimed at allowing people to function so everyone can get what they need -- not what they want, but what they need in order to get along.
Betas Fight More
Many years ago Marc, his girlfriend and their cats shared a house with a woman; who also had her own cats. What was interesting was that both groups had an alpha cat. Their first meeting was 'unpleasant.' But after that both of these large male cats proceeded to share the same space by studiously ignoring each other. One would think that they were invisible to each other, except there was a very subtle pattern of never being in the same place at the same time. Or conveniently being 'asleep' (or otherwise occupied) as the other passed through an area occupied by the first. (Incidentally the other passed at a distance, great enough that the first could pretend not to notice).
However, the constant fighting occurred between the two beta males. Those two cats were not only constantly at each other, but actively sought each other out -- to continue the squabble. Both wanted to drive the other out of the territory, but were incapable of doing it, so the war went on and on. In fact, one could say those two cats were obsessed with each other.
It is interesting to note that you can see the same behaviors among humans. Contrary to what you might think, human heavy hitters do everything in their power to find ways to co-exist. Generally by 1) Ignoring each other (while at the same time doing the human version of what the cats did) 2) Becoming friends 3) If not friends, then friendly/polite towards each other in a kind of middle ground between these two points.
It is the betas who get their fur all fluffed and walk stiff legged with their backs up. This basically occurs because betas do not understand the concept of sharing space ... yes, we just said they don't know how to play well with others. What they especially don't understand is that it isn't all about them.
And that is why they end fighting more ... with other betas. They aren't proving that they are alphas when they do this, they're just jockeying for position in the pecking order.
Alpha Male In Writing
Marc has been writing about street survival, crime and violence for 20 years now. A lot of things have changed in those fields, while at the same time staying (sadly) very much the same ... in other words, very human.
We're accustomed to people reading our information as a means to remain safe and feel less afraid. What came as a surprise to us, however, was how well known we are to authors, screen writers, actors and the entertainment industry in general. In fact, they study our work to make their fictional characters more believable.
In order to help both writers and actors, Marc wrote a series of MySpace Blogs about how to create a convincing strong male character. Even though they are tailored for writers, if you are interested in learning more about how alpha male characters operate (and why) this can help you understand male psychology a little bit better.
Alpha Male In Writing Part One.
Alpha Male In Writing Part Two
Alpha Male In Writing Part Three
How To Get Attacked
Speaking as a professional who's job it was to tell nasty people "no," we noticed there were people just seemed to be wearing a sign that said "ATTACK ME!" While many will think we're talking about people who project 'victim' that bullies zero in on, we aren't. We're talking folks who'd Mother Theresa would want to throw them a beating. These people have an innate talent to just piss off violent people. It almost seems like these folks have a checklist of ways to provoke an attack.
Believe it or not, there really is a checklist. There are certain behaviors that will get you attacked! This page will help you prevent from running down that list. And yes, it does have everything to do with insecure alpha behavior.
Return to top
1) Although people tend to think of use of force in terms of self-defense, simply put, that is only a small percentage of situations. Most violence is to achieve an end. While the definition of violence includes an "unjust or unwarranted use of force" this is what distinguishes violence from use of force. Use of force is commonly used for stopping unacceptable behavior and rule enforcement. If it is your job to do this -- or a situation arises where you are called upon to do it -- this is NOT self-defense. If instead of leaving you find yourself heading towards trouble, you've stepped out of the realm of self-defense. It is you using force to put an end to an unacceptable situation. The rules of engagement are different. Return to Text
2) Although history tends to think of them as Hitler's Henchmen there was a huge power cabal that kept Hitler in power. And by extension, kept themselves in power -- as well as rich. By the end of the war -- even though the average German citizen was suffering terribly and had long turned from believing in national socialism -- the Nazi party planned to remain in power. Return to Text
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Safe in the City
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Ending Violence Quickly
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Street Safe: How to Recognize and Avoid Violent Crime
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The Bulletproof Mind
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Violence, Blunders And Fractured Jaws: Advanced Awareness, Avoidance and Street Etiquette
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The Missing Link: Self-Protection Through Awareness, Avoidance and De-Escalation
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Meditations on Violence
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The Combat Perspective: A Thinking Man's Guide to Self-Defense
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The Deadliest Men
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Carlos Hathcock: In His Own Words
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Do You See What I am Saying? Reading Body Language
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