Summary: Verbal Judo By George Thompson
Summary: Verbal Judo By George Thompson

Summary: Verbal Judo By George Thompson

11 Things Never to Say to Anyone

  • “Come here!” is vaguely threatening. It says, “You haven’t obeyed me, so now I’m ordering you to move when I want you to move.”
  • It’s much more effective to casually approach a person and say, “Excuse me, but I need to chat with you a second.
  • If someone with no authority orders you to “Come here!” and doesn’t seem to have legitimate reasons, ask, “Why? If you don’t get a satisfactory answer, become a street person and run like the devil.


  • No matter who this is said to, it puts the listener off.
  • Better to say, “This might be difficult to understand, but . . .” or “Let me try to explain this . . .”
  • If someone brushes you off with “You wouldn’t understand,” insist, “Yes I would. Try me. I want to help.”


  • But if you’re enforcing rules that exist for good reasons, don’t hesitate to explain them.
  • If all you can do is to repeat that “rules are rules and those are the rules,” your listener knows you’re weak and can’t support your order with logic.
  • Should someone—who hasn’t had the good fortune to read this book—tell you “Because those are the rules,” say, “Could you please tell me why this rule was created? It doesn’t make sense to me, and if you could help me understand why it was made, it would be much easier for me to follow.”


  • The phrase angers people because it brands them as outsiders and brusquely cuts them off.
  • Rather than saying, “It’s none of your business,” explain why the information cannot be revealed.
  • If someone barks at you that something is none of your business, and you disagree, gently but firmly point out, “It is my business, and here’s why


  • What a cop-out! The pseudo question, almost always accompanied by sarcasm, is seen as an evasion of responsibility.
  • Rather, offer to help sort out the problem and work toward a solution. If it truly is not in your area of responsibility, point the complainer to the right department or person. If you’re unable or unqualified to assist and you haven’t a clue. Say, “I’m sorry. I really don’t know what to tell you or what else to recommend, and I wish I did. I’d like to help, but I can’t.
  • If someone asks you “What do you want me to do about it?” start by explaining, “I want you to listen to me and help me.” Then politely explain exactly how the person can help.


  • The command flat out doesn’t work. In fact, it almost always makes people more upset.
  • Rather, put on a calm face and demeanor, look the person in the eye, touch him gently if appropriate, and say, “It’s going to be all right. Talk to me. What’s the trouble?”.
  • If someone says “Calm down!” to you, say, “Look, I’m obviously not calm and there are reasons for it. Let’s talk about them.” That should open the door for that person to help, but if he doesn’t respond in a more meaningful way, further discussion is probably unwise. And if you’re not calm, it’s probably better to leave.


  • This snotty, useless phrase turns the problem back on the person needing assistance. It signals that this is a “you versus me” battle rather than an “us” discussion.
  • Rather, say, “What’s the matter? How can I help?” Then you can start a real discussion of the issue.
  • If someone is unenlightened enough to ask you “What’s your problem?” say, “It’s not a problem, it’s just something I need to discuss. Can we talk?”.


#8 “YOU NEVER . . .” OR “YOU ALWAYS . . .”
  • Tell someone he never listens to you and he will either remind you of several times when he has or he will be tempted to spitefully prove you right and ignore you. You also make him angry and leave him feeling there is no way he can ever please you.
  • Better to turn the burden upon yourself and seek his help. “When you are late without calling, it makes me feel as if you don’t care about me or my schedule.” That should elicit an apology or at least an explanation.
  • If someone uses such absolute phrasing to you, see if you can see his point. Say, “I know it seems I never help out, because often I don’t. But let’s talk about it. Is that the real issue or are you upset about something else?


  • And you will probably say it again and again. This threat traps you, because if you’re really not going to repeat yourself, you’re left with one option: action. If you’re not prepared to act, you lose credibility.
  • If you need to emphasize the seriousness of your words, say, “It’s important that you understand this, so let me say it again. And please listen carefully.”
  • If someone tells you “I’m not going to say it again,” just answer with sincerity, “Okay, I got it.”


  • It begs the sarcastic comeback, “Oh yessssss. Sure, I bet.”
  • If what you are doing really is for the other person’s benefit, show him that. Offer reasons. Give concrete examples of how his life will improve because of what you’re doing
  • If someone tells you “I’m doing this for your own good,” ask for specifics. If he says doesn’t match your notion of what constitutes your own good, say so. Remind the person, “No one knows me better than I do. I’m the best judge of what is for my own good, just as you’re the best judge of what is for your own good.”


  • People may know they’re a little forgetful or flaky or out of it, but they’re not going to admit to being unreasonable.
  • Instead, allow people to become more reasonable by being reasonable with them. Use the language of reassurance, saying things like “Let me see if I understand your position,” and then paraphrasing their own words.
  • If someone asks you “Why don’t you be more reasonable?” force yourself to slow down. Take a deep breath and in a slow, thoughtful, nonthreatening voice, say, “I’m being as reasonable as I know how, and with any luck, I’ll get better. But apparently I see the issue differently than you do.”


The Most Powerful Word to Diffuse Tension

Are you looking for an instant tension buster? A way to stop gossips and backstabbers dead in their slimy little tracks? Want to turn snarling antagonists into personalities as sweet and smooth as honey sliding from a jar?

The answer lies in one word, which represents the single most powerful concept in the English language: empathy.

To have empathy for someone does not mean to sympathize with him. It does not mean to love or even to like somebody. You don’t have to approve of him. And you are certainly not required to agree with what he says or accept his invitation to Thanksgiving dinnern

Empathy has Latin and Greek roots. Em, from the Latin, means “to see through,” and pathy, from the Greek, means “the eye of the other”. Empathy is the quality of standing in another’s shoes and understanding where he’s coming from.

Empathy absorbs tension. It works every time.


Take the Giant LEAPS

The five basic tools to generate voluntary compliance, and—you guessed it—they fit into an acronym: LEAPS. 

#1 Listen

When you listen you’ve got to look like you’re listening. Project a face that makes it obvious. People often say things that are not worth hearing; you’ve heard them all before. A person may not even make sense. But the moment your eyes glaze over as if you’re uninterested or don’t care, conflict can erupt. So it’s even more important to look interested than to be interested.

#2 Empathize

Empathizing essentially means standing in the shoes of another or seeing through the eyes of another, I’m not suggesting you have to agree with that person. everyone is entitled to a point of view, right or wrong, just or unjust. Don’t agree; just try to understand where the person is coming from.

#3 Ask

There are at least five different types of questions.

  1. Fact-finding (who, what, when, where, why, and how). Fact-finding questions ask for specific data.
  2. General. By definition, general questions are open-ended, for example, “What really happened here today?
  3. Opinion-seeking. Opinion-seeking questions ask for an opinion and allow latitude. “Is there some way we can solve this problem?
  4. Direct. Direct questions are basically your yes and no questions. “Did you dump the garbage on this man’s lawn?”
  5. Leading. Leading questions almost always anger people because essentially they put words into their mouths. “Isn’t it true that . . . ?”

The advice is to start with a series of general questions to loosen people up, then ask some opinion-seeking questions. Gradually, naturally, move to the more direct and fact-finding questions. Resort to leading questions only when necessary.

#4 Paraphrase

When someone comes at you with verbal abuse, forget the tone and the emotion. Put the complaint in your own words and play it back for him. Even if you’ve misunderstood, he can see that you’re trying, and he’ll want to help you get it straight.

#5 Summarize

Summarizing is a different use of language altogether. By definition it means condensing, taking all that’s been discussed and putting it into a simple, concise statement.


The Five Truths That Fit All

  1. All cultures want to be respected and treated with dignity, regardless of the situation. When treated with disrespect, all people want to fight and get revenge.
  2. All people would rather be asked than told what to do. To ask is a sign of respect; to tell is often a sign of disrespect.
  3. All people want to know why they are being asked or told to do something. Not telling people why is a sign of disrespect and lowers morale in all organizations, including one’s own family.
  4. All people would rather have options than threats. Again, offering people a choice of action shows respect and allows people to save personal face. Threats are not only disrespectful, they force people, if they have any backbone, to resist and fight.
  5. Finally, all people want a second chance to make matters right. People are human; we err and act in ways we wish we hadn’t. Whenever appropriate, people value being given a second chance to get it right.

You’ll make fewer errors in dealing with people whose culture, lifestyle, and background are not like yours by knowing the five universal truths.