Allison Sands has all the tools to stay safe and stop violent conflicts whether she is in the alleys of Chicago or the center of extremism in the Persian Gulf. As a former FBI agent, she is trained in tactics to take down an attacker or disarm a person with a gun pointed at her head. But the skills she uses more often, and teaches through her company, Project Hummingbird, are those that can derail violence and actually keep everyone safe. She started this business because she realized that the way we’re doing things now just isn’t working. Every year there are a thousand fatal officer involved shootings. She says this isn’t new. It happens every year. Although she was trained to physically dominate an opponent, as a woman, she says that most of the time she couldn’t outfight or outrun him, so she has to outsmart him. And for that, she relies on her earlier education in psychology and religion, where she set out to learn why people behave the way they do.
Allison says that her whole life has been a combination of her call to use skills and research for practical applications. The mixture worked well in the FBI and in counterintelligence and counter espionage when she used it to hunt terrorists and recruit spies, and it served her well in corporate security too. She founded Project Hummingbird to have a greater impact to provide solutions for this critical need, not only in law enforcement, but in security in general. Through Project Hummingbird, she teaches unique skills and techniques geared to avoiding violence rather than physically dominating an opponent. It directly applies to crisis counselors, healthcare professionals, and anyone who might potentially face a violent encounter. In today’s world, that really could be anyone.
Project Hummingbird’s Individually-Based Approach
There are definitely instances where lethal force is necessary, and Allison admits that we need training for that and says that she is not trying to replace it, but rather complement it. She says, “There’s a huge gray area between a peaceful confrontation and lethal force encounter.” It’s that middle piece where we learn to have conflict more effectively and constructively that will keep us safe. Allison called it “individually-based approach,” where each person is coached to understand their own stress responses and conflict style. Next, assess your surroundings—is action required at this time. Third, is to assess your desired outcome. What do you want to achieve? Next control your stress responses and stay true to your values. Is it really a conflict or are you just reacting instinctually to the situation? Finally, engage with communication to induce compliance. Project Hummingbird has standard statements to achieve that end. But the important thing is to control yourself and stick to achieving the outcome you desire from the situation.
There Is a Better Way
Allison says that the big picture is to recognize and accept that there is a different way—a better way than the reactionary way that we’re handling violence now. With all of the police shootings, year after year, we need to make this a foundational skill that should be taught in schools. That means completely reversing how we’re doing things now and using the so-called “soft skills” or “feminine skills.” Allison says that it will take a lot of patience, practice and introspection. It will also require strategies to put value-based skills at the center of the conversation, which aren’t as measurable and quantitative as physical toughness and speed.
Watch or listen to this podcast to hear more of Allison’s advice about how not to make yourself a victim and her analysis of how Capitol Police handled the assault on the Capitol and what would have helped them do a better job. For more information about Project Hummingbird, check out the website, project-hummingbird.org or Allison’s own website allisonsands.com.
Allison’s personal advice for women is to get over being polite. It’s okay to be rude. It’s better to be rude, cross the street, don’t answer your door to strangers, and stay safe than to become a victim.