Verbal Skills - The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Today, Steven O'Connor, SAFE International Certified Partner in Melbourne, Australia is offering his thoughts on Verbal Skills in self defense which is one of the most lacking topics in my opinion with the majority of instructors focusing on the physical side of self defense.  Please check it out and send us any questions you may have.  Take it away Steven......

In this blog I thought I would address VERBAL SKILLS, what do they mean exactly? We hear all the time terms like VERBAL DE-ESCALATION and VERBAL DEFUSION. But what do they really mean and how do we use this skill to our advantage? We hear all the time on TV/ YOUTUBE clips, words like CALM DOWN and BACK OFF but is this really a good verbal tactic? Let’s take a step back and think to ourselves for a moment, think of a time where you were angry at your partner, work colleague or a friend, you were angry for whatever reason it was at that person and whilst you were yelling/abusing them, how did you feel when they said something like “JUST CALM DOWN” did you calm down or just get more aggressive with them? I’m guessing you would have gotten more aggressive as they are the reason you are upset in the first place right!

So if saying words like calm down or back off makes you angry imagine what this might do to a complete stranger that is looking for a reason to hurt you. Add to the mix the possibility that drugs and/ or alcohol may be added, now you have more than likely a recipe for disaster. Can these words actually work though? The answer is yes of course but in the right situation, are they ideal words to use though? In my experience I would have to say no, there are far better methods of verbal skills you can use to help reduce the chance of a physical confrontation taking place.

It’s easy to get caught out when dealing with someone you don’t know and what to say, we have grown up learning very basic methodology of words that in theory sound like they will work quite effectively, but in reality when faced with someone looking for a reason to hurt you, your words could be and in most cases are all they are looking for to take it to a physical level. The right words can determine what type of person you may be dealing with, is it a good person having a bad day or just a bad person? Using words like CALM DOWN or BACK OFF to a good person having a bad day will more than likely escalate the situation as you are now telling them what to do, and that’s the last thing you want to do if you want to determine what type of person you are dealing with. So why do so many self defence companies still choose to teach the assertive words like CALM DOWN and BACK OFF? Is it because it is easy to remember? Or is it because it’s the only verbal skills they were taught in the past? Whatever the reason it’s not a one size fits all answer. Just the other day I went in to Melbourne with my family so my daughter could take some photos of street art graffiti in certain Alleyways, one particular Alley is very popular with the tourists and it was quite busy as we walked through there taking some great pictures. This Alley had a side Alley which went around in a u shape, we decided to check more of the street art down this section only to find around the corner three people whom seemed to be under the influence of either alcohol or drugs yelling at people to F… off and don’t take pictures. People stopped in their tracks and turned around as they didn’t feel comfortable with the situation. There was no verbal communication just the three abusing all the tourists wanting to take a few photos, now at this point I could have done the same thing and just turned back but instead I responded to them with “I am admiring al the street art you guys do” and with me saying that they turned around and said you’re ok you can take pictures. Now if I had have said “HEY JUST CALM DOWN AND LET US TAKE SOME PICTURES” what do you think their response may have been? I am betting they would have at the very least told me to F..K off. So our words really do change the outcome of a situation we may find ourselves in, although they were being aggressive towards everyone for whatever their reason, I treated them with respect and in return I received the same respect back. We got some fantastic pictures that most people would have missed out on, and put some simple verbal tactics in place to determine what type of people I was dealing with. I was dealing with people that were angry but deep down didn’t want to really hurt anyone.

I didn’t challenge them, I didn’t threaten them, I didn’t tell them what to do, I treated them with some respect and made them feel good about their artwork, I tapped in to their mind to make them feel good about what they are doing. Could they have still told me to F..K off? Of course they could have but they didn’t, I’m not saying what I said would work every time but it is in my opinion a better approach to verbal communication.


Steven O’Connor

SAFE International Melbourne 

For more information on SAFE International Melbourne, please visit www.safeinternationalmelbourne.biz or you can reach Steven by going to our Find An Instructor Page

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