03/27/2009

Dr. George ThompsonVerbal Judo Tactics & Techniques
with Dr. George Thompson

Tactical Civility: The path of power and safety

Tactical Civility is the safest and most powerful way to interact with others, particularly with those who may be potentially dangerous or explosive. Let me define the component parts of the term Tactical Civility: Civility is the quality of showing courtesy or respect; the opposite of being rude or discourteous; it is Tactical because I choose to use it for a determined purpose.

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When people assail us with vulgarity, they expect it will work—they expect to upset our balance and suck us into their dynamics. Their discourtesy and rudeness is a street tactic designed to elicit a prescribed response. Remember the lesson of the movie ROADHOUSE. Patrick Swayze makes this very point to his bouncers. When we react we become personal and lose our professional power. Worse, we become controlled by the other!

Swayze makes the point that when people become disruptive, “be nice until it’s time not to be nice!” When we have to act and throw someone down or even use some higher force option, we do it! We’re pros. We do what has to be done.

But, as my colleague Gary T. Klugiewicz says, we then become “nice” again, and get them the best medical attention money can buy! We do this not because we are weak but because we are making our court video as we go. In Verbal Judo we believe we are more than practitioners of an art, we are a national standard of care that begins and ends with tactical civility—because it’s good for us!

Our move should be to employ Tactical Civility. First, because we know the other’s goal is to control us, we do the opposite of what s/he expects: we grow calm inside, smile to ourselves and become polite. My operating axiom has always been, ‘the nastier you become to me, the more polite and courteous do I become to you’ because it is good for me, good for me at the moment, and good for me later, in court or when called before a supervisor or IA. Don’t use words that will betray you later!

Moreover, employing civility allows us to get closer should we need to use physical force of some sort. Rudeness and threats make people back up and become defensive, aware of pending attack. Why give such early warning? Civility disguises movement, allowing us to take a tactical position without seeming to. Why alarm or arm the antagonist with notice? Further, rudeness closes the eye of the other and once insulted, s/he sees nothing, hears nothing and knows nothing! Gone is any chance of developing a source of intelligence!

Some of you may think, ‘politeness can be taken for weakness’ by the wolf, but I assure you the wolf will find himself mistaken. Thinking so doesn’t make it so. If he makes that assumption he plays into our hands. To be under estimated is often a good tactical advantage. Let the other be surprised! Do know as well, however, that wolves know danger when they see it, and they will see danger in an antagonist who is calm (when others might not be) and balanced. Many wolves will prefer to deal with someone else!

Maintaining a polite civility helps keep us focused on the goal—winning—and prevents us from uttering words that will escalate the situation and draw us into the cycle of anger. Colonel Grossman points out (in a memo, 11-28-2006 to Gary T. Klugiewicz), “As the blood drains from the face (due to vasoconstriction) the blood also drains from the forebrain, and the midbrain (the part of the brain that is the same as your dog) takes over. The reason why you cannot have an argument or a rational discussion with a frightened or angry person is because there’s nobody home!”

Let that happen to others, not to you!

Similar to Colonel Grossman’s point is the information that appeared in Force Science News #43 several years ago (April 28, 2006). The surprising findings that ‘language style can be an important element in where many encounters end up’ relate directly to our subject of anger. Their research showed that under calm, normal conditions, officers are capable of issuing Alpha Commands, straight forward, clear commands and requests, but under stressful or potentially violent situations, they cannot, and they fall back on Beta Commands, which are unclear and leave decision-making to the subject (“Don’t make me kill you!”).

Moreover, for our purposes here, when this Alpha to Beta deterioration begins, the level of profanity rises significantly, with the “f-word” flying all over the place! Dr. Lewinski of Force Science feels this transition may indicate the “officer is feeling he is losing control.” Again, anger and profanity reveal weakness and indecision! Such findings again suggest that officers should strive to act with calm civility under all conditions because it is that act that keeps us SAFER, 8 to 5!

Part of our Peace Warrior armor, then, is the face and tone of Tactical Civility. If anger means ‘there’s no one home,’ we cannot afford that public revelation or that public act. Anger blinds, shows weakness — and, is one letter away from DANGER! Avoid it!

About the author

Dr. George J. Thompson is the President and Founder of the Verbal Judo Institute, a tactical training and management firm now based in Auburn, NY. For full details on Dr. Thompson's work and training, please visit the Verbal Judo Web Site.
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