I first read this book about ten years ago. I then took a course by the same title at the police academy. Essentially, Dr. Thompson tries to take a few simple concepts and by simplifying them further, give police officers a way to de-escalate conflict. My first thought as a negotiator was that these concepts had been dumbed down too much, but I decided to give it a chance in the real world. For the most part, it works. Every time I used his techniques on a police scene, the situation was settled without force.
I believe that this book is a good starting point into the arena of active listening. The area that should be expanded on is the response... i.e. situational response based on more factors than a book can cover (personal experience, perception, urgency, etc...) vs. the patterned responses suggested in the book.
I recommend the book, but I would consider twice before taking the expensive follow-up seminars (unless of course - your department is paying for them :))
on February 6, 2013
The author compares effective communication with martial arts, particularly judo, and illustrates his points through police stories, which makes the book both useful and interesting to read.
Throughout the book are interspersed quotes from Sun-tzu, like "To win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the highest skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the highest skill."
He distinguishes between 3 kinds of people: the nice, the difficult and the wimp. The nice people will do what you ask them the first time you ask them. They like to cooperate. Difficult people will not do what you tell them the first time you ask. It is their nature that makes them say "Why? What for?"
He adds that the 4 most popular questions Americans would ask are "Why?", "Who do you think you are to tell me what to do?", "Where do you get your authority?", and "What's in it for me?"
And wimps are the ones who sound like nice people, but are closet difficult people. To your face they say "Oh yes," "I agree," "You're right", but later they get you in the back. Wimps hate authority, but they don't have the guts to challenge you. They want revenge because they feel the need to even the score.
The first principle of physical judo is to not resist your opponent. Instead, move with him and redirect his energy - and the communication skills presented in the book follow the same pattern.
The author mentions 11 things never to say to anyone (some of these statements may be more applicable to policemen on duty): "Come here!", "You wouldn't understand", "Because those are the rules", "It's none of your business", "What do you want me to do about it?", "Calm down!", "What's your problem?" "You never ..." or "You always ...", "Im not going to say thing again", "I'm doing this for your own good", "Why don't you be reasonable?" He does clearly suggest what you may want to say or do instead, and also what you may want to say or do when someone else says those things to you.
The bottom line of communication that reduces conflict and tension is empathy - as in standing in another's shoes and understanding where he's coming from - and communicating with the person in a way that he can relate to. The communication warrior's real service is 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.
The author points out that we 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 - and that when we react instead of respond to the challenge, we run the risk of giving the greatest speech we'll ever live to regret, by saying the first thing that naturally comes to our lips.
Instead, like a samurai, we must first center ourselves - because if we cannot keep a still center, we cannot stay in control of ourselves or the situation. In this centered state we remain open, flexible, impartial, not biased.
To deflect antagonistic behavior, the author shares a selection of "strip phrases", where you let the other person verbally vent, followed by requesting what you need the person to do, as in "'Preciate that, sir, but let me see your license, please."
The next technique is "paraphrasing" by saying "Let me be sure I understand you. Let me be sure we're on the same wavelength." and then stating back what the person said, using his key words - as different words have different meaning to different people.
The goal of persuasion and the essence of Verbal Judo is to generate voluntary compliance. To execute it, the author suggests a 5 step process:
1. Ask the person what you want him to do
If he doesn't comply
2. Set Context by explaining why do you want him to do what you ask of him
If he doesn't comply
3. Present Options and point out the consequences of each option, then let him choose
If he doesn't comply
4. Confirm their choice by asking "Is there anything I can say or do at this time to earn your cooperation? I'd sure like to think there is."
And if he still doesn't comply
5. Act out the consequences of the choice the person made
The rest of the book teaches specific skills that help you to improve your ability to communicate and persuade. They begin with knowing yourself and the person you're talking to, using the language and the model of the world of the person you're talking to.
The author then shares five basic tools to generate voluntary compliance - listen, empathize, ask, paraphrase, and summarize.
You will also find examples of steps to solve domestic disputes, how to effectively criticize, how to obtain compliance through praise.
The author has provided examples both from police stories and those related to civilian issues.
on December 18, 2005
I am a Sgt. with A State Corrections Agency and have used the technique(before I even finished the book) in the steps so clearly stated: 1)Act,2)Set it in Context,3)Present Options,4)Confirm,5)Act(last resort force). Staff even were suprised how I diffused a few intense situations. You do have to work at it and I would suggest making a list of situations or conversations you have been in, then follow the book. Eventually I think it will become second nature. I attended a 2 hour free seminar, posed a question and received a 100% clear answer to the situation. After the session the book was much clearer. I have since read the book and ordering copies for some of my staff. A must read for any law enforcement. The way the information is organized in the book I rate about a 4, but content (The 5 steps) gets a 5. Overall rating is closest to a 5. You must apply the information. The book is one of my top 10 keepers.
on December 16, 2005
I couldn't describe this book as a complete system of communication, but it definitely does have some useful things to say about dealing with difficult people.
It puts the subject in good perspective and gives the reader some tools to deal with the inevitable aggression that everyone has to deal with in day-to-day transactions.
What I like about this book is that gives guidelines so that the reader can create a convincing illusion of, or even a genuine episode of empathy with the person they are dealing with.
But what I really like is the author's emphasis on the fact that he doesn't really have to care about the difficult people he deals with, he just has to pretend he does.
In that way, we put on a suit of professionalism when we go to work and we leave our personal selves at home.
The professional self never loses their cool, never lets insults get to them and does what they need to do in order to successfully complete their daily transactions.
The verbal judo ideas are not exactly a scientifically-proven system. They are what the author has picked up from his and other police personnel's experience.
This minor point aside, this is a book worth reading by anyone who has to deal with difficult people and wants to know how to keep their cool and not feel they are giving in to the enemy.
If you are one of these people, I'd recommend you check it out.
on July 19, 2005
Dr. Thompson's now widely taught system of conflict resolution, called Verbal Judo, does have some merit. It is taught at many police academies, law enforcement agencies, and civilan companies as a way of deescalating anger through empathetic speech. His book is a collection of techniques mixed in with some entertaining police stories.
The first problem I had with Dr. Thompson's book was that the techniques on Verbal Judo were hidden among all the police stories and it became unclear what the actual steps to Verbal Judo was. Granted, the book was entertaining to read, but if you wanted to cut right down to the step-by-step guide on how to resolve conflict with verbal judo, then good luck finding it because it is hard to find.
The second problem I had with the material in the book was that the principles Dr. Thompson teaches to resolve conflict are a bit oversimplified. Essentially, Dr. Thompson is preaching active listening skills to address the concerns of the other party, but this is only one small portion of the bigger picture--and that is reaching an agreement through negotiation. Dr. Thompson touches on a few aspects of negotiation, but not enough for any rookie police officer to gain a firm understanding in. I would have liked to have read more about how to deal with verbal attacks, which was not very clear in the book.
on May 3, 2011
The purpose of this book is to train the reader to become a "communication samurai," as the author puts it, and to show how to get through to difficult people and persuade them to do what you want them to do. With a focus kept mostly on using the emotions of the situation to your advantage, Verbal Judo offers a number of specific techniques and advice on how to go about this in the real world. Topics discussed include a way to categorize people in regard to situations regarding persuasion, Verbal Judo vs. Verbal Karate, how to effectively use empathy to gain compliance, things never to say when trying to persuade someone, and many, many more.
The first of my favorites of the material found in this book is the categorization that Thompson presents as a tool to divide personality types in order to more effectively persuade them: the Nice Person, who rarely gives trouble and is almost always agreeable, the Difficult Person, who is willing to give you crap regardless of the situation, and the Wimp, who masquerades as a Nice Person, but is really a difficult person in disguise. Thompson states that Nice People are pretty straightforward, just make sure not to mistreat them and lose their loyalty. Difficult People are the people who must be given reasons to do what you ask, and account for the majority of the usefulness of this book. Last, the Wimp is by far the most dangerous, as they act agreeable, but then turn around and betray you when you're not looking. The best way to handle the Wimp, says Thompson, is to call them out publicly and watch them retreat to the safety of anonymity.
The next subject of particular interest is the sharp contrast between Verbal Judo and what Thompson refers to as Verbal Karate. In physical Judo the practitioner attempts to harness the energy and momentum of his assailant's attacks, and redirect them in order to render them harmless and ineffective. The goal is to ensure that no one, neither you nor your attacker, is harmed, but the situation is instead brought to a peaceful resolution. Verbal Judo is aimed at reflecting this method by utilizing the energy and momentum of the situation, then redirecting it in order to avoid harm to either side. On the other hand, physical karate is a strike-based method of defense that utilizes an assortment of counterattacks intended to use to best your opponent and win the confrontation. Karate is aimed at winning, where judo is aimed at reaching a peaceful end.
Certain ideas must be kept in mind in order to reach the goal of peaceful and productive resolution, especially that your opponent is likely to suffer a variety of types of emotional harm if you use Verbal Karate instead of Judo. She is likely to incur hurt feelings, or, more importantly, lose face. One of the best ways, Thompson states, to prevent yourself from gaining compliance from an individual is to embarrass them or cause them to lose face. When they feel powerful is ironically when they are most likely to do as you ask. What you must do is to allow them to feel however they desire, even to say whatever they desire (with certain exceptions that mostly involve bystanders), as long as they do what you say. Take whatever emotions they may be feeling and direct them toward your goal; resist the urge to counter them and beat them to submission.
The most powerful word in the English language, says Thompson, and also the cornerstone to Verbal Judo, is empathy. If you are capable of standing in another's shoes and showing them that you understand how they feel, indeed, that you would feel the same if you were in their situation, tension will be absorbed. When this tension has been effectively redirected, the person is much more likely to listen, and in turn, do as you ask. The key here is genuineness. If a person feels like you are fake, or are putting on an act in order to gain compliance (regardless of whether or not you actually are), the whole situation is likely to fall apart. You must convey to the person in question that you really get where they are coming from, and show them that you understand and accept their feelings.
There are many things we can say that can have a significantly negative impact on a situation in which we are trying to gain someone's compliance. Eleven examples of these are given in the book, and I will now list a few of my favorites. First, "come here" is used to get someone to voluntarily move herself to our location, but it ironically will come off to many as "go away." Authoritatively making demands is not often part of the practices of Verbal Judo, and will often work against you. A much more effective alternative would be something like "excuse me, could I chat with you a second?" Imply that the person has some level of choice, and she is more likely to comply.
The phrase "because those are the rules" is offensive to just about anybody for a number of reasons. It basically comes off as "regardless of the reason, you must comply with this because I am in charge of you." You are likely to be seen as insensitive, weak, irrational, and on a power trip. A practice that is infinitely more effective is to, whenever possible, offer an explanation whenever it is asked of you. If you can put things in context and perspective you are much more likely to gain understanding by allowing the person to save face.
My absolute favorite of the examples given in the book of what never to say to someone you are trying to persuade is "calm down!" If you want to alienate as many people as possible, and get people to do the opposite of what you ask, then throw this phrase around like you are handing out promotional fliers. This, above all of the other examples, will immediately cause a person to grow much less calm, and most likely will result in his passionate resistance of whatever you ask of him. A much more effective alternative would be to ask him a question along the lines of "what's the trouble?" Instead of appearing critical and putting him on the defensive, you are showing that you are on his team, and that you want to help.
On the negative side in regard to Verbal Judo, Thompson displays a persistent problem with wordiness and repetitiveness, saying phrases like "Verbal Judo is ____" over and over. It seems to me that he is either trying to bring the reader back to the underlying philosophy of the material in order to drive home his point, or he is simply trying to fill pages. An example of this can be found in most chapters, often in their beginnings or after giving examples.
Don't get me wrong, reminders and consistency are good, it just seems like the book could be made much more concise without losing any rhetorical quality or overall impact. In fact, I would wager a guess that this could be done by eliminating up to a third or maybe even a half of the words found in the book. This being said, this is not exclusively negative, in that Verbal Judo is one of the fastest 200+ page books that I have read, considering how much of the material can be skimmed or glazed-over.
While I wish that Verbal Judo was a little lighter in the chaff department, it is still what I consider to be a very good read, with material that could potentially help any and every law enforcement officer out there become better at his or her job. Until the publishers decide to put out a condensed Verbal Judo: Pocket Edition, I will continue to strongly recommend this book as my favorite entry in the "how-to-persuade" field, due to its many strengths, including above all its simplicity, straight-forwardness, and practicality-based ease of use and translation to the real world.
on December 9, 2007
Did you ever experience a situation when you talked to somebody and for one reason or another you were not heard? When you or your message was ignored or dismissed? I'm sure it didn't matter if the conversation involved your spouse, your children or your colleagues, the resulting feeling was equally intimidating and frustrating.
Mr. Thompson is an English literature professor who became a cop. Rest assured this man knows what he is talking about. The content of his book is very practical. It tells you how to deal with nice, difficult and whimpy people. It outlines what you shouldn't say in case you want to avoid conflict. You will understand that in certain situations a carefully conducted dialog can save lives.
When the starting position is one of conflict you want to create a raport. What do you say to defensive, fearful, impatient people? Do you lash out or are you aware of your purpose? Can you control your mind and your feelings enough to win your point?
You do not need to sport a uniform and a gun to put this technique into practice. It is about human contact, dignity and respect.
Mr. Thompson will teach you how to get your message across in a most effective way. However, be prepared to practice diligently, make mistakes and learn from them.
Verbal communication can be both serious and fun.
'A man holding hostages once told me, "I want a million dollars and an airplane!"
I said, "So do I!" and I laughed. [---] I went on, "Sir we'd both like those things, wouldn't we ? But let me tell you something I think you already know. That's not going to happen.'
Who knows, you might need the same approach and attitude as a cilivian at home while talking to your teenager who's unwilling to hear you out and cooperate. But be prepared, the kid might use the same technique, Verbal Judo!
on January 31, 2009
I reside in Scandinavia and am a taxi driver who drives primarily from 5 p.m. to 6 or 7 am.
I meet allllllllll kinds of people. Everywhere from 3 guys who are each twice my size and are very aggressive to elderly who need to go to the grocery store to buy something.
A friend of mine who was always up to date with my little stories on how I felt every time I had a dispute with a customer.
In short, I used to get nervous everytime I saw a dispute coming or once it had unexpectadly started. I would think about little things for days and be crossed with myself for feeling so handicapped almost everytime something happened.
Therefore my friend lent me this book. He told me to read it. I am not a fan of books AT ALL!!
BUT! If you have seen the movie `The Mist`, when in despair, you will jump onto any opportunity which promises a solution to your problem.
I just started reading the book and the author pretty much had me hooked from the first few pages of chapter 1.
I felt great!!! I kissed the book, I Thanked God, I was feeling a HUGE relief!!!!
One thing which is very important to point out, this book is not about hypnosis or persuading people into getting your way since you are a selfish person. On the contrary, the book urges you to be truthful to people (and believe me, it is part of human nature to be honest, therefore it is very easy).
The book is entertaining, easy to read and in my view is the best way of communication.
Once you start communicating the Verbal Judo way, you will look beyond the words that come out of people`s mouth and rather see what they `really mean`, making it easy for you as the person you are speaking to will feel understood. When people feel that you understand where they are coming from, they will like you and listen to you.
Re-read the book every 2 months or so, just to make sure you don`t start going into the old pattern. Reason why I say that is cause when going gets easy, you tend to get off track.
Verbal Judo combined with Awaken The Giant within by Anthony Robbins is an excellent combination.
Verbal Judo alone changed my life. I used to get ticked off over small things and my brain would just not work. The intellect goes into standby when one is angry.
on July 13, 2015
I will update my review when I finish it, but so far I am 50 pages in, and the author is still giving reasons and examples for why it's good that I'm reading this book. I'm starting to wonder if there will ever be any content.
I sort of tapered off after the 130 page mark. This book is just not applicable to me, an office professional. I think this book should focus more on its core audience of police officers and people who deal with the general public.
Overall, I found it to be heavily padded. This book could definitely be condensed to a small pamphlet. A whole chapter on having empathy? I'm not in 6th grade. I know what empathy is. I know to put myself in the shoes of difficult people before I act. This book basically told me everything I already knew how to do intuitively.
The author has one good analogy: don't stop difficult people in their tracks; use their energy against them (like in Judo). But this principle is already illustrated better in "Getting to Yes". So there's some stories thrown in there, but even those seemed a bit embellished. Also, none were applicable to me, as I'm not a police officer.
Again, I'm glad this guy is training police officers with this material, but there are way better books for dealing with difficult people in office contexts.
on July 25, 2011
I ordered this book after hearing of the death of Dr. Thompson, and with every chapter I regret a little more that I didn't read this years ago. I believe I could have spared myself many disputes, resisting arrest encounters, difficulties on the homefront, etc. had I known how to more effectively communicate with others prior to this. This book is highly recommeded for anyone with a spouse, children, co-workers, clients, or anyone else with whom you might encounter different opinions or all out conflict. It is very easy to apply to the law enforcement folks, but much of it can be applied and effectively used anywhere and any most situations. Needless to say, I was very impressed and surprised this has not been mmore widely endorsed by police trainers and academy staff.
As a bonus, the chapters are laid out in such a way as to make it a very easy and quick read, perhaps 5 or 10 minutes at a time if that's how your time runs.
I took several pages of notes before I passed the book on to others in my circle. AAA +++