Quick Nav


Quick Search




Pin it

George Thompson is a former police officer and black belt in Judo and Taekwondo. Through his experiences, he trains law enforcement professionals how to use their mouths instead of their nightsticks and guns. His simple approaches can help superintendents be more effective with conflict. His strategies are intended to reduce stress by using effective and powerful communication techniques that establish rapport and empathy. To understand the various ways others can confront you, consider developing an appreciation for the wisdom of Verbal Judo.

Know Your Audience
Often the best way of reading your target audience is to see the person the way he sees himself. Use language that connects with your audience on a personal level. Albert Einstein was brilliant at using balloons and oranges to explain the most complicated concepts. Communicate simply, making complicated issues easy for others to understand.

The Gentle Way
In Japanese, ju means “gentle” and do means “way”; thus, Judo means “the gentle way.” Many people are confused by this because they assume that Judo must be warlike and violent. Develop the discipline to remain calm, which is a particularly valuable art. If your antagonist can upset you, she owns you on some level. Talk with people with such finesse that neither of you loses face.

The Sucker Punch
When people are angry, they can attack you with insults and threats toward you or your school system. Develop the ability to take insults with subtlety and panache so insults either disappear or never touch you. It is important to remember that the more intensely you live and the more you choose to make a difference in the world, the more you are vulnerable to verbal bumps and bruises.

Difficult People
Difficult people will not do what you tell them the first time you ask. They are usually eager to argue a point. They may not even care about the consequences of failing to comply. But they are always interested in how they might benefit. The first principle of Verbal Judo is not to resist your opponent but to move with him and redirect his energy.

Empathy has Latin and Greek roots. Em, from Latin, means “to see through” and pathy, from Greek, means “the eye of the other.” So to empathize means to understand and see through the eyes of another. There are always two kinds of problems in any difficult encounter: your problem as you define it and the problem from the other person’s point of view.

The ultimate empathetic sentence is, “Let me be sure I heard what you just said.” By paraphrasing, you’ve hooked the other person. You’ve taken control because you’re talking and he is listening.

Persuasion generates voluntary compliance. By explaining the context of the situation, you weave together what they want with your interests. One of the great psychological urges is the desire to know. Tap into that and you can usually generate compliance. Provide context by painting a picture of the situation.

Active listening is a highly complex skill that has four different steps:

  1. Being open and unbiased.
  2. Hearing literally.
  3. Interpreting the data.
  4. Acting.

Do you listen to argue or listen to understand?

Effective mediators go between or across experiences, enabling others to see something in a new way. In short, they educate, making sense out of things by putting them into perspective.

The most dangerous weapon in the world could be a “cocked tongue,” which can lead some leaders to shoot off their mouth. Carefully choose words that redirect the negative forces of others toward a positive outcome. Mastering verbal Judo is about speaking with people without escalating conflict. These skills can help improve your performance and diminish your personal stress. The gentleness of the art lies in the techniques superintendents use every day.


Thompson, G., & Jenkins, J. B. (1993). Verbal Judo: The gentle art of persuasion. New York: HarperCollins.


Article taken from Galileo for Superintendents. To learn more about this publication, please visit: www.masterteacher.com/Publication-for-Superintendents

Thought for the Week

Simply pulling a strategy “off the shelf” or defaulting to the most recently read article or staff development session topic may not generate the results we seek.

Share Our Page

We're in your corner!

Sign up to have the weekly publication
delivered to your inbox.

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Share Your Tips & Stories

Share your story and the tips you have for getting through this challenging time. It can remind a fellow school leader of something they forgot or your example can make a difficult task much easier and allow them to get more done in less time. We may publish your comments.

Sign up for our Newsletter

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.