Verbal Judo: A Safer Way For Everyone

As risk management professionals, you must be concerned with the safety of your city, your organization, and your people. One of the greatest areas of concern must be the front lines where employees meet the public, and what greater area of risk is there than where ARMED employees meet citizens, often under the influence of rage, liquor, drugs, or stupidity? The police are a fertile field for lawsuits of every description, from plain rudeness and racism to overuse of force and brutality. One truism of public service is that people would rather sue us than work, and another is, there are more camcorders and tape recorders out there than there are knives!

What to do? Of all the professions, police work entails the least formal training, yet it is the most difficult and challenging of them all! Since it is not feasible to add years to police training, it is necessary to see that the training officers get will keep everyone safer-the officer, the department, the city or state. Verbal Judo offers such safety by teaching officers how to tactically interact with difficult people. Communication is 97-98% of an officer's job. Before the advent of Verbal Judo, police departments basically hoped their officers would learn on the job. Officers were told "be professional" but that was never defined. How does one stay professional under daily verbal, and sometimes physical, assault?

The answer lies in tactical communication training. Verbal Judo is the only course in America that has its genesis on the streets. Developed by cops, for cops, and constantly refined by cops, Verbal Judo teaches a tactical courtesy that cops will buy into and use on a daily basis. "Sensitivity" courses may look from an outsider's point of view, but cops don't buy into them, so there is little if any change in behavior on the street, and law suits and complaints proliferate.

Verbal Judo training is sweeping the country. I personally have trained over 700 departments, over 160,000 officers, It is now taught in Canada and Australia, and the United Kingdom has recently sent people to the USA to learn the skill. As risk managers, you should have a clear idea of what Verbal Judo can offer your city or organization.

We teach police work as a "performing art." People watch us perform our duty, and as such, we work in a fish bowl. What we say or do Friday night can and will be held against us on Monday morning. As actors, we have a script, the law, but delivery is 93% of our effectiveness. Officers are taught that "natural language" is likely to be disastrous on the street. Natural language flows easily from our lips; it expresses our feelings and attitudes, and as such is likely to be negative because we so often work the underbelly of society, or good people at their worst.

We replace natural language with Tactical Language, words shaped to achieve the precise goal at hand. Officers are not paid to express their feelings; they are paid to change behavior, so their language must reflect that focus. In this litigious society, it is not enough to BE GOOD; officers must LOOK good and SOUND good, or no good! Verbal Judo teaches officers how to look sensitive when not, how to look interested when not, and how to become who they have to be to handle the event in front of them. This chameleon skill keeps everyone safer. I can not teach officers to "be more sensitive," but I can teach them to "look and sound" more sensitive.

The emphasis on ACTING rather than BEING markedly lessens officers' stress (and their resentment at being told "how to be") and fits nicely with the Tactical Schizophrenia necessary in most public service. In other words, George Thompson stays at home, Officer Thompson works the streets. It is SHOW TIME when we work, all the time, and I teach officers to say those words just prior to making contact with people. Such a simple tactic reminds them to step up on stage and perform. Additionally we teach that the essence of professionalism lies in elevating one's performance as the difficulty increases. The more different someone is than us, the better we must handle him, and this is solely a matter of tactics.

The Verbal Judo practitioner is not only an actor, he/she is also a PEACE OFFICER. A true Peace Officer must be a Peace Warrior. Our actions on the streets must in every way be designed to bring peace out of disorder, so we must speak and act more peaceably than those we met. Whenever possible, we replace orders with requests-"Could I ask you to sit down, Sir," rather than "Sit down!" We teach how to use peace phrase like "can you go along with me on this, Sir, tonight?" rather than conflictive phrases like "do it or else!" Peaceable language allows the subject to save personal face, even doing what we ask him. Peaceable language provides ground for the subject to save some dignity even while complying. Officers must generate voluntary compliance-indeed they must win or we will have lawlessness and civil unrest-but compliance is best generated by tactical courtesy. The "two-edged sword" of courtesy is an officer's best weapon. The nastier someone gets with the officer, the more courtesy the officer shows. Such control has a powerful affect on people.

But such tactical courtesy is not natural. Verbal Judo teaches the martial arts of the mind and the mouth, and as such the tactics and disciplines that are Verbal Judo must be practiced. Verbal Judo is a PHYSICAL skill. Lecture and video examples set the stage, but officers must be run through practicals that test their ability to deflect insults and redirect behavior.

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