What do bouncers and magicians have in common? If you answered top hats, white gloves, and waxed moustaches, you are amazing……ly incorrect.

Seriously though, what do they have in common? Both magicians and bouncers use distraction techniques.

Magicians use distraction to keep you from noticing how they perform their trickery. Bouncers use it to get you out of a club, gather information about your state of sobriety, or keep you relaxed while they discretely call for backup.

Let’s first examine why distraction techniques are an important part of a bouncer’s bag of tricks…

It is a known fact that alcohol severely restricts attention while arousing our aggressive tendencies. And according to research studies, in hostile situations, drunks who are inclined toward violence tend to focus on aggressive, provocative stimuli. Nothing is more unpredictable than a violent drunk and anything that you can do to get their attention and pull them away from their source of agitation may get them to work with you instead of acting out in a violent or aggressive manner.

There are two types of distractions: physical and psychological. Both are viable and they can often be used together. A drunken patron’s restricted attention is often narrowed to the most obvious, attention-grabbing thing and a good question or loud noise can fully consume an intoxicated individual’s diminished mental capacity.

Physical distractions are anything that gains someone’s attention via auditory or visual means. Here are some examples:

  • Waving a flashlight on a group of patrons during an altercation
  • Snapping your fingers in front of an individual’s face
  • Lightly grasping a patron’s elbow or placing your hand on their shoulder
  • Clapping loudly while maintaining a calm tone of voice
  • Loudly announcing “Security! Break it up!” when approaching an altercation
  • Turning on the “house” lights at the end of a night

These techniques tend to work better in a smaller, quieter environment as noise and light help to jar individuals out of their “zone” and back into “reality”. In larger nightclubs, use of flashlights is often the best way to get an individual’s attention. (If you are going to use a flashlight, aim it DOWN at their chest or waist, not UP into an individual’s face…unless it is your intention to blind them)

One of the best techniques I have seen (and used) for getting an intoxicated individual’s attention is to ask for their ID and walk out the front door with it. Unless completely blacked-out, the patron WILL follow you. After all, everybody wants their ID back! (This also works wonders when try to remove an individual from the premises without resorting to physicality.)

Psychological distractions are also useful. The key with these techniques is to try and hit on a distraction that is important to the individual or captures their attention. This can be an item, person, or situation. Using the distraction in the form of a question is best.

Some good examples:

  • “I like that coat you have on. Where’d you get it?”
  • “Can you tell me where your friends are?”
  • “Do you have your ID with you?”
  • “How crazy was that game tonight?”
  • “What kind of drinks have you had this evening?”

(Notice that we ask, “What kind of drinks?” not “How many?” This makes the individual think, allowing you time to assess their sobriety level during the question and based on their response. If they answer “Six.” there is a good chance they’re intoxicated)

Getting the patron’s attention, having them cooperate with you, and keeping yourself safe are the ultimate goals. By asking distracting questions you are getting the patron to focus on you, which in turn will help you to build a rapport with them. Though you may be about to remove them from the premises, distracting them with random questions and a light manner can often get them out the door before they realize what happened.

But how do you get them out the door now that they are distracted?

As the announcer says…Tune in next time!

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