Dealing with difficult people under almost any circumstances using verbal judo tactics

Bill Gorman


When I was undergoing training to become a licensed Security officer – an unarmed security officer – in the state of Florida I realized rather quickly that my ability to talk myself out of confrontations would be critical to my success in 99% of the case where I would be confronted with difficult people.

I was so lucky that in my course, I was exposed to Verbal Judo concepts as outlined by Dr. George J. Thompson.

For those unfamiliar with the name, George J. Thompson was the author of a book called: Verbal Judo – The Art of Gentle Persuasion.” It was originally developed to help train cops as a means to teach them how to use their mouths instead of their nightstick and guns.

It was felt that it was cops on the street, whose lives literally hang in the balance if they don’t use language properly.

The same, of course is true for security officers and rent a cops. Especially ones like me who worked for very low pay & no benefits and were not even allowed to carry pepper spray or a Mag Light flashlight because our employer didn’t want to have to deal with the liability if I had to smack someone with it – even in those situations of self defense or protecting my employers property.

So utilizing verbal judo would be the only thing I could count on to save my life or for that matter keep my job, which admittedly was already extremely difficult, if not impossible given some of the circumstance I was placed in by my employer in gang infested, high crime rate areas in Tampa, Florida.

But the main lessons I learned were Thompson’s five step hard style and five universal truth.

Thompson’s five universal truths of human interaction:

1) People feel the need to be respected.

2) People would rather be asked than told to do something.

3) People have a desire to know why.

4) People prefer to have options over threats.

5) People want to have a second chance.

Thompson’s five step hard style approach is a highly effective communication tactic that arms you to deal with extremely difficult people under almost any circumstances. Key principles include:

1) The setting of context (telling why).

2) The presentation of options and choice (that are in the other person’s best interest).

3) Confirming (that some kind of cooperation is forthcoming or not) by way of practical appeal.

4) Preparing to act.

5) Acting decisively.

These tactics were by far the most valuable tools I learned in the course.

See related articlesThe art and science of Verbal Judo 

See article: The spiritual side of Dr. George Thompson reflected in his book “Verbal Judo”

See article: Your most “important relationships” in life are with people, says Dr. George J. Thompson 

See article: What differentiates “Verbal Judo” from other books on communications – a perspective from a certified Peer Support Specialist

See article: “Empathy” – the single most important skill in verbal judo

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