Book review: Verbal Judo

George Thompson was on patrol with a fellow cop at two A.M., when they were called out to break up a nasty domestic dispute in a bad part of town. Upon arrival they found the couple arguing wildly, and this is where Thompson’s partner adopted an outrageous tactic: He walked straight in without knockin, sat down on their couch and started reading the classifieds.

Bruce kept reading and the couple kept arguing, occasionally looking at the cop on their couch. Bruce rattled the newspaper. “Folks, folks, excuse me, over here”. The stunned husband flashed a double take. “What are you doing here?”

Bruce said, “You got a phone? Look here, a 1950 Dodge! Cherry condition! Can I borrow your phone? I need to call right now.” The husband pointed to the phone, incredulous. Bruce dialed, mumbled into the phone, then hung up. “Can you believe they wouldn’t talk to me just because it’s two in the morning?”

By now the fight had evaporated, the couple standing there as dumbfounded as I was. “By the way,” Bruce said, “is anything the matter here? Anything my partner and I can do for you?”

Verbal Judo, the gentle art of persuasion by George Thompson is a book about non-violent, respectful communication by the one person who may be the most qualified to write it; Thompson is a cop and a self-admitted hot-head (making it necessary for him to develop good verbal skills) and has black belts in ju-jitsu and judo – not to mention a Ph.D. in english.

The book contains many excellent insights into communicating efficiently in difficult situations. The book’s lessons can be applied equalle well on the job or at home. It is also refreshingly different from most of todays management fare, which can seem glib and superficial. This book by contrast has heart, and Thompson obviously cares deeply about his message. In his line of work there’s a lot more at stake, than whether a business meeting goes sour – and his stories of using the techniques to calm down irate would-be attackers are fascinating and often touching.

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