Verbal Judo: Conversational Tactics for Volatile Situations and the Psychology of Conflict
George ("Doc") Thompson, PhD, President of the Verbal Judo Institute and author of Verbal Judo
Daniel Ames, Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Associate Professor of Leadership
After a decade as an English professor, George Thompson left academia to be a police officer. Thompson discovered that the most effective source of power in volatile situations was not a weapon or fists but words -- conversational tactics that defuse conflicts. The principles Thompson extracted from his experience, summarized in his book, Verbal Judo, apply to almost any tense conflict, whether on the streets, at home, or in the office. Thompson has trained over half a million people in his methods, ranging from New York City police officers to front line health care and airline workers to corporate leaders. In this workshop, Thompson will demonstrate Verbal Judo methods for non-escalation (how to keep situations from spiraling out of control) and de-escalation (how to bring a verbal conflict back into a productive conversation), such as reflecting back others' perspectives. Thompson's workshop presenting lessons from practical experience will be followed by a discussion by Professor Daniel Ames of current research on interpersonal conflict. Ames' work (see Ames & Flynn, 2007) has shown that interpersonal conflict is a major factor in the development and effectiveness of organizational leaders. Ames will discuss research on the perils of conversational escalation and the potential benefits of perspective taking, both of which are central to Thompson's portrait of Verbal Judo. After Ames' comments, the workshop will end with an integrative Q&A session in which students can seek advice about conflict techniques from both the practice and science experts.