Verbal Judo

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous' started by khixan, Jun 2, 2016.

  1. Verbal Judo has several different names and interpretations. Verbal Judo is a very valuable skill both in my professional and personal life. These are my thoughts and some tips on it. I thought some other folks might find this interesting or helpful.
    At it's heart, Verbal Judo is just a way to make communication less contentious. I'm going to concentrate on the written aspects here since most communication on EMC is written and not spoken. I'll try to give tips to de-escalate or avoid confrontations.

    I want to point out, this doesn't mean I think everyone should be doing this for all situations. There are certainly times when boundaries have been crossed or the negativity has gotten too high when the very best thing to do for yourself is walk away. I'd advise anyone to always walk away if that's happened. These tips are for well before that type of thing has occurred, or you have zero choice about being around the other person, such as a co-worker or family member.

    It's all about "I", and never "you".
    When I have something to say that's in disagreement with someone, I try to never use the word "you". I imagine that every time I type "you", that I'm actually poking someone with a stick. I look at everywhere I typed "you", and I work to rephrase it with either "I" or an impersonal statement using "that" for example. The same thing goes for using a direct quote from someone. That's just a way of screaming "YOU". When is it ok to use "you"? Only when I'm giving a compliment or offering something positive. In most other situations, saying "you" can and will be perceived as an attack on the other person.
    Find the positive, and know it's time to walk away when it's not visible.
    The positive is there more often than we might think at first. That said, the positive is rarely visible to me if my blood is up (if I'm passionate about the subject, angry, etc). If I can't see the positive, it's time for me to step away for a break, or even disengage completely. Once I can find the positive, I make sure to include it at the beginning, and perhaps also the end, of anything I have to say. Finding the positive is even more critical when I want to persuade someone to change or work on an aspect of their behavior. None of us can change someone else. If I want to offer guidance or advice though and the other person welcomes it, I will always try to emphasize their good points first and foremost.
    I may disagree passionately with someone over a given topic. That makes it even more critical to find something else that I can agree with them on, and keep that as the focus. I redirect the conversation onto something we can both agree about to avoid confrontation.
    Agreement is also crucial so that differing opinions don't devolve into a "me vs you" or "us vs them" mentality. Any time I give a counter argument, I try to first list where I agree and/or appreciate what the other person has previously said. I never want to set myself against someone in any way by saying or implying "you're wrong and here's why" - that's an attack on a person. I want to show that I respect them, and that I've paid attention to their words. Only after I establish that respect do I present my differing viewpoint or opinion.
    Be open to other interpretations
    My first reaction to something may be negative. I may think someone just said or did something rude or disrespectful. That's when it's time for me to pause, take a breath, and ask the other person what just happened. I don't know what they're going through IRL. I don't know if they just made a horrid typo that they're now cringing over. I don't know if they're young or maybe English isn't their first language. If the person is new to me or acting out of character, I try to be very willing to privately ask questions instead of making judgements. In game, I also try to look more at their actions than what they may type. Just because I took offense does not mean there was any offense intended.
    Redirect Energy
    When something negative has happened or been said, I try not to attack back. I generally do this by using these tips that I've typed up above. Instead, I try to redirect the flow of conversation or activity, I try to de-escalate the situation, or I disengage.

    So finally, here's a really common example that I see A LOT of all over the internet.
    You're rude, Don't be rude, Why are you being rude? - These are all personal attacks. When I use phrases like these, I've poked someone with a stick and escalated a conversation into a confrontation. It violates every tip that I've typed above.
    What are some alternatives that use Verbal Judo?
    I'll ask a polite question if I'm willing to continue the conversation. "I felt that was a bit harsh. Maybe I didn't understand what was typed. Would you please elaborate (or explain more about topic X)?" This allows me to enforce my personal boundaries (I felt that was a bit harsh). I'm open to interpretation without poking the other person with a stick (Maybe I didn't understand what was typed). I've redirected energy by asking the other a polite question instead of returning a presumed attack. If the other person was truly attacking me, I'll find out pretty quickly and be able to disengage. For example - "I'm not willing to continue this conversation" and I'll mute if they don't respect that sentence. Again though, even while disengaging, I made it about me and not an attack on them. I'm still deescalating. That's important because there's always hope for tomorrow :) If the words/actions were not meant as an attack, this approach gives the other person a graceful way to explain what they were trying to say and why.

    There are many MANY more alternatives that use Verbal Judo. Feel free to type some in this thread if you like. I hope folks found this interesting, and thank you for taking the time to read it :D
  2. I like this very much. I see this used in my business very much. Sometimes people trying to actively deescalate conflict can not do so but retreat into dishonesty, with themselves and others involved. Being nice is a good thing, not when it betrays truth though, I think. So be careful and observant when trying to deescalate situations, especially if its not to protect anything but just for the sake of it. I see a lot of classes on similar things in the corporate world. Lots of good strategies out there :)

    With the use of reframing arguments using I, that's one of the things I personally have a problem with. Trying to understand that you indeed are the master of your own emotions and pointing fingers at others doesn't really accomplish much. Which I suppose is another good thing to keep in mind. If someone does something and it makes me angry or upset, I am the one that has decided to react to the situation that way. Assessing our reactions to the things around us and making sure that they are appropriate and the desired reactions from ourselves can help us not only better react with others but understand ourselves and our own convictions better.
    khixan likes this.