Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Verbal Judo

...The Gentle Art of Persuasion by George J. Thompson, Ph.D. and Jerry B. Jenkins. Updated Edition.

I believe the best teachers are people who have learned from experience. Including me. I will also say each and every one of the adverse situations I experienced felt draining and oftentimes hopeless. If only I knew while I was in the midst of them what was waiting for me on the other side.

My favorite kinds of books are written by people who include their personal life experiences with the lessons they teach. One example of this type of book is Verbal Judo: The Gentle Art of Persuasion. This book was recommended by a fellow classmate in the course, Powerful Tools for Caregivers. It is filled with different types of situations and suggested ways to handle them, including what to say. In case you need this, Chapter 20 is on How to Fight Fair: Four Steps to a Good Domestic Dispute. 

Before becoming a police officer, George was a teacher. At the beginning of the book, George was 23 years old and found himself teaching a class of hateful juvenile delinquents in an alternative high school. When they refused to cooperate, he discovered by using empathy (standing in another’s shoes and understanding where he’s coming from) and focusing on their strengths vs. their weaknesses by suggesting each kid teach the rest of the class about what they were good at, their low self-worth which reflected in their attitudes transformed into confidence. Students proceeded to graduate with some even getting accepted into college. He managed to refrain from adding additional verbal abuse to what they had already endured.

I highly recommend you read this book to get out of it what you need, but for my own benefit as well as yours in case you don't have time to read it, I will highlight key points based on my own perspective, life situations, and personal needs. If you are a police officer or otherwise in a role which requires more ‘ammunition,’ read the book and perhaps take the seminar. There are tools in the book that apply to all types of situations, including marriages, children, teaching, employment, management, ministerial, or any other position of authority. 

I took a class in Judo many years ago, so I was already familiar with the concept of staying calm when confronted and using the opponent’s own force against them while you remained calm and grounded. I had no idea you could apply these same concepts to verbal communication. No matter what anyone is saying to you or yelling at you, do your best to remain calm and redirect their emotional energy back to them vs. letting it assault you. Just like you can learn to deflect someone striking at you physically with Judo, you can deflect insults as well.

The most common abuse on the planet is verbal abuse. I grew up with it, and without realizing it, I kept attracting more of it into my life. People will most likely heal from physical wounds and abuse but will most likely carry the scars of verbal abuse for the rest of their lives. Remember when I wrote about amygdala hijacks? There’s no sense in jumping into their cyclone and going down with them. You can learn to soften the blows of past verbal abuse by learning new communication skills. You can sway people to comply with your requests without throwing fuel on the fires of their emotions. Thus, the subtitle, The Gentle Art of Persuasion. 

Most of the time, most of what is being said is coming from being emotionally triggered and has nothing to do with you at all. Restate (paraphrase) what you think you heard which invites further conversation. If your emotions are too intense, suggest they give you a minute, a night, or a day to respond so you can calm back down before discussing the situation again. And when it comes to your children, never declare punishment in the heat of emotion. State what you are upset about and send them to their room with “we’ll discuss what will be done about this in the morning” kind of thing.

I think about how I used to freeze whenever I was confronted by an intimidating person. Learning self-defense only pertained to the physical. I love that this book teaches you how to protect yourself from intimidating people verbally; how important it is to stay calm and keep the peace. I believe that even a softie like me can acquire the skills to diffuse an emotional person vs. my previous pattern of avoidance. Perhaps I won't feel like I have to hide from the world as much.

I sure wish I knew these methods while my only child was growing up. Perhaps I can pass on some of what I learn so when his daughter reaches rebellious teenage years, he’ll be prepared. Teenagers often transform into Difficult People who challenge everything with the word “why.” They must do so to develop a sense of autonomy. Don't take it personally. Keep in mind that many adults are still emotionally teenagers in one way or another… where the category of Difficult People comes in.

Here are some highlights from the book:

Most people oppose change. They will fight to keep things the way they are. The secret is simple: It’s okay if someone insults, resists, or attacks you. Laugh it off. Show that it has no meaning, no sting. If you fight back and resist the affront, you give it life and credibility. If you defend yourself, you invite counterattack... an attack carries only the weight he allows it to.

...there are three basic types of people in the world, and each should be handled differently. There are Nice People, Difficult People, and Wimps.

When you shift from resisting to appreciating and even welcoming Difficult People, things become interesting and less tense.

Wimps are the ones who sound like Nice People but are closet Difficult People. They may … compliment you on … but later they get you back, in the back …

This is the communication warrior’s real service: staying calm in the midst of conflict, deflecting verbal abuse, and offering empathy in the face of antagonism. If you cannot empathize with people, you don’t stand a chance of getting them to listen to you, much less accepting your attempts to help--sincere as you may be.

If you take a moment to think as another might be thinking, then speak with his perspective in mind, you can gain immediate rapport. Ill-fitting as his shoes may be, walk a few steps in them. Only then can you provide real understanding and reassurance. Only then can you help that person see the consequences of what he is doing or is about to do. Only then can you help him make enlightened decisions.

We all deal with people “under the influence” nearly everyday. If it’s not alcohol or drugs, it’s frustration, fear, impatience, lack of self-worth, defensiveness, and a host of other influences. Doesn’t it make sense that we should develop a state of mind that will allow us to skillfully interact with these people…

The goal of persuasion is to generate voluntary compliance.

Admittedly, my experience was from a police perspective. But isn’t what I did also what we do when we deal with our children, whether trying to keep them off drugs, get them to come in early, get them to take out the trash, or get them to study? We need to sound as if we care, keep our egos out of it, find the right words to reach them, and present options that will have a powerful influence.


Chapter 27 is a summary of the 26 principles presented in this book.

Chapter 28 is the Five Universal Truths That Fit All:

>All cultures want to be respected and treated with dignity, regardless of the situation.
>All people would rather be asked than told what to do.
>All people want to know why they are being asked or told to do something.
>All people would rather have options than threats.
>All people want a second chance to make matters right. People are human; we err and act in ways we wish we hadn’t. 

Buy the book on Amazon.

https://www.amazon.com/Verbal-Judo-Gentle-Persuasion-Updated/dp/0062107704/

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