Verbal Judo: Disarming With Words

In this day and age everyone likes to jump into physical contact. But what if you could deescalate a situation without even getting close to a person. What if I gave you three things to never say that could take a situation that before had the potential to escalate, to a calm exchange, not resulting in no more than a disagreement.

In this article I want to give you some ways and words that you can try one day if you ever find yourself dealing with someone who is not capable of controlling their emotions.

1. The Term “Come Here!”

Many believe this term actually means “go away”. Come here can sound like a demand being given to another person who was not listening, and for an adult, taking offense to a demand from another adult is not unlikely. Try “Excuse me, may I have a word with you?” Change it from a demand to a question, that gives them the option and time to think about their actions before responding to hastily.

2. The Term: “Calm Down!”

Have you ever told someone to calm down and their response was “don’t tell me to calm down”? That’s because telling someone to calm their emotions is a criticism on how they are behaving, and implies that they do not have the right to act or respond the way that they are. Try instead, reassuringly, understand their feelings opposed to criticizing them. “I know your upset, but clear your head first so the problem doesn’t get worse and nobody does something they will regret.” It’s understanding and it provides a solution.

3. The Term: “What’s your problem!?”

Turning the issue back on the other person is not going to help the situation at all. In fact it will most likely make it worse. This term is snotty and useless,  you want to disarm not give them more ammo. Try “What’s the issue?” “What’s wrong?” Or “How can I help you?” Give the option for an explanation rather than shutting it down by telling the person they have the problem, you just want to know what it is.

There are always the ones who will not respond to anything except violence, and that’s why this is just one of the many tools you can use as a self defense. For the ones more prone to physical contact, try it, it may be a more suitable way for you in the long run. For those that try their hardest to stay away from confrontation, use the tools you have of gentle persuasion to see yourself out of a hairy situation.

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SGT ERIC DEGARMO
UNITED STATES ARMY

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