5 'Universal Truths' for home and street
Most cops are reluctant to bring the street home with them when they go off duty, but PoliceOne trainer Gary Klugiewicz believes there are certain rules of the street that you should post prominently on your family refrigerator, just as he has done.
These are what he calls the “Five Universal Truths” for interacting successfully with suspects, victims, and witnesses on the job — and with the occupants of your own household and others you encounter in your personal life.
First articulated by the late Dr. George Thompson — founder of the Verbal Judo Institute — “these principles are a powerful tool to help protect you on the street by making you more effective in de-escalating volatile confrontations, reducing complaints, and increasing compliance, cooperation, and collaboration,” Klugiewicz says.
“And they’ll make you more persuasive and influential in preventing or resolving conflicts off-duty as well, because they reflect the ways that all people like to be treated, regardless of their status or circumstances.”
Klugiewicz explained the concept during an officer safety/conflict resolution presentation at the annual ILEETA training conference earlier this year and elaborated on it during a recent interview. He is the director of the PoliceOne Training Network and teaches about Universal Truths in the Verbal Defense & Influence Training Program, the revised, updated, and expanded version of Thompson’s internationally acclaimed Verbal Judo course.
Here’s how he describes the truths that, recognized and used skillfully, can give you the edge in person-to-person interactions.
1.) All people want to be treated with dignity and respect. “Many officer assaults occur in situations where people perceive that they’ve been treated disrespectfully, through taunting, belittlement, abusive language, unnecessarily rough handling, and so on,” Klugiewicz says. “Regardless of race, gender, age, social standing, or cultural background, people behave differently when they feel they’ve been disrespected, and that behavior generally won’t be to your advantage.
“In some situations, suspects may be so dangerous or disruptive that words are not appropriate and you may have to take immediate physical action against them—they need to get knocked down. But afterwards, respectful treatment—helping them up, brushing them off—can help you calm them and keep them under control.” In other words, “you’re nice until it’s time not to be nice, and afterward you’re nice again.”
The first Universal Truth — treating people with dignity and respect — is unconditional in all situations, Klugiewicz emphasizes. As for the other four truths, you act in harmony with them “whenever you can. And that depends on whether it seems safe for you to do so, based on your reasonable perception of threat.”
2.) All people want to be asked rather than told to do something. “A request is much more palatable than an order,” Klugiewicz says. “The subject saves face by appearing to make his own decision to comply rather than being pushed around and forced against his will. Commands often set up an escalation of conflict. Not only the words are different, the voice tone and facial appearance tend to be different too and they send a whole different message.”
3.) All people want to be told why they are being asked to do something. If a subject questions the reason for your request, “Because I said so” is not a useful answer, Klugiewicz says. “That only tends to deepen resistance. You may need to explain the law and the purpose behind the law, but your tone of voice needs to be matter of fact—devoid of emotion. You are merely explaining the rule, policy, or law that justifies your request. An angry response is evidence that you’re losing control.”
4.) All people want to be given options rather than threats. “If verbal resistance continues, now you need to move into salesmanship. You need to “sell” why they should comply with your request or direction. Start with the good options—what they’ll gain by cooperating with you. Then if necessary, move into negative options, like going to jail if they don’t comply. And end with a positive twist (‘But I don’t want that to happen’), which allows you to remind them of the possible positive resolution if they comply.
“People generally have their self-interest at heart. We all listen to radio station WII-FM — What’s In It for Me. Use the Greed Principle: If someone has something to gain or lose in a situation, you have something to work with.”
5.) All people want a second chance. If things appear to be headed unalterably toward your telling a subject what to do and backing it up with assertive action, give him/her one last opportunity to comply if that’s safely possible. Maintaining a collaborative tone, ask whether there’s “anything I can say at this time” to gain cooperation, repeating “in very specific terms” what you want the person to do.
“If you can’t persuade them to cooperate, this confirms their noncompliance and justifies your taking whatever action is appropriate,” Klugiewicz says.
The Five Universal Truths don’t require extensive conversation or argument; “You can move very quickly through them,” Klugiewicz explains. Even if the dialog ultimately proves ineffective, “you look good doing it.” And in today’s ultra-transparent world of cell phone cameras and media saturation, that can be vitally important in justifying your enforcement actions.
“If you don’t want to end up on YouTube, act professionally. Where officers tend to go off the rails of decency and common sense,” he says, “is that they make the mistake of treating people in the same disrespectful ways that people sometimes treat them. That only makes things worse.”
The same mistakes that heighten conflict on the street can heighten it at home, he says. That’s why he has posted the 5 Universal Truths on the refrigerator in his kitchen. “It’s a reminder to the whole family that respect benefits everyone by producing much better results.”
For more information on Verbal Defense & Influence training, contact Gary Klugiewicz at: gtKlugiewicz@cs.com.