A couple months ago my department sent me to "Verbal Judo" training. Verbal Judo or Tactical Communications was founded by Dr. George Thompson. Dr. Thompson was a college professor who decided he wanted to be cop. After some time serving as a police officer Dr. Thompson noticed that some officers were able to talk anyone into compliance while others, more often than not, ended having to go hands on. Thompson began studying the officers who were able to generate voluntary compliance and eventually "Verbal Judo" was born.
Today Verbal Judo is taught all over the world. At the time I was sent to this training I had no idea how big a deal this stuff really is. Several state POST boards have adopted Verbal Judo into their official academy curriculum and many federal agencies actively train in tactical communications.
My introduction to Verbal Judo occurred at a large hotel near the airport. My class consisted of local, state, and federal law enforcement officials. Almost everyone in attendance was a field officer with a few mid level managers (i.e., sergeants, etc.) interspersed throughout. Our instructor for the entire course was Mike Manley.
I was very skeptical about the quality of training I was about to receive when I walked into the conference room and saw one guy with a lap top and a projector standing at the front of the room. All the tell tale signs of death by power point were present. Our instructor stood and watched everyone intently as we all mingled with each other. Then when it came time to start, it became apparent that we were in the presence of a master.
Mr. Manley is a very polished professional speaker and instructor. I looked around and it was clear that everyone was riveted on what he had to say throughout our training. Yes it was power point, but it was dynamic power point, expertly crafted with an engaging speaker who has honed his skills in the training and presentation world. Video clips and footage flowed very well into wonderfully timed and appropriate personal anecdotes taken from his long career as a New York City police officer. Breaks were given regularly throughout the training and he never seemed to lose steam. Throughout the training Mr. Manley would give bits of information about himself instead of the typical 10-30 minute introduction most speakers I've seen tend to do. This was a nice change and worked well. Each anecdotal story he told gave us a little more insight into who he was and kept me interested in what he had to say.
The course that I attended was a shortened course that condensed two days of material into a 9 hour block. This was the only 9 hour power point presentation that I would gladly pay my own money to attend again. It was that good.
During the course of the day I learned some valuable skills that I have since implemented into my professional and personal life. The meet and potatoes of the course are two styles of communications. One is called the 8 step soft style and the other is called the 5 step hard style approach. After learning about the three kinds of people in the world we learned how to communicate with them using one or both of these two styles in order to generate voluntary compliance. Video re-enactments emphasized the main points and illustrated how these techniques can be used in every aspect of police work. Manley frequently explained that these techniques can also be used with parenting and other personal communications.
I went home with a new sense of empowerment. I really felt as if I had picked up a new and valuable skill for my "tool box." It has been several months now and I have seen a difference in my professional and personal life.
On the professional side, I have adjusted my traffic and pedestrian stops to incorporate the two styles I mentioned above. I have seen a huge jump in the amount of voluntary compliance I get from my "clients." This may sound crazy but I am even being thanked by many of them after I arrest them or issue them a citation. Who would have thought?
On the personal side, I have found a new way to bond with my middle son Luke. He has always been our difficult child who likes to argue and violate one of our big family rules: "Obedience The First Time, Every Time." Since practicing my new found verbal judo skills with him, he feels like I listen to him and understand him. He has told me this in his own way when no one else is around and has begun to follow this family rule. This training has really changed my life in a great way.
Verbal Judo takes practice. One 9 hour course is probably the bare minimum needed to teach someone like me the basics. From there I have found that practicing on a regular basis has helped me hone the flow of my tactical communications with suspects and the general public.
Verbal Judo is a perishable skill, just like almost every other skill we have to be proficient in. If I get lazy and don't use it, I'll lose it. I am always looking for new ways to improve as a police officer, I can honestly say that this is one of those skills that is helping me do that. I have no doubt that many of the officers who are reading this are familiar with Verbal Judo. But if you're not, you owe it to yourself professionally and personally to seek out this training and get proficient. Tactical communications is a valuable tool that everyone should have in their tool boxes.