Verbal Judo

Verbal Judo: Conversational Tactics for Volatile Situations and the Psychology of Conflict

Friday April 10th, 2009, 10:45 AM -12:15 PM, Uris 303

Practical Skills:

George ("Doc") Thompson, PhD, President of the Verbal Judo Institute and author of Verbal Judo

Science Commentary:

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.

Related Reading:

Ames, Daniel R. and Flynn, Francis J. (2007). What breaks a leader: The curvilinear relation between assertiveness and leadership. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92, 307-324.

About the Speakers

Dr. George J. Thompson is the President and Founder of the Verbal Judo Institute, a tactical training and management firm based in Auburn, NY. He has trained more than 700,000 police, corrections, and security professionals and his Verbal Judo course is required in numerous states. The course has been tailored for other organizations, including mental health, the gaming industry, and hospitals.

Daniel Ames is an associate professor of management at Columbia Business School. Professor Ames's research focuses on social judgment and behavior. He examines how people form impressions of individuals and groups as well as the consequences of these impressions on prosocial behaviors (e.g., trust, cooperation, helping), competitive interaction (e.g., conflict, exploitation, aggression), and justice judgments (e.g., praise, blame, punishment). A central aspect of this work is how people "read minds" to make inferences about what others think, want and feel. Learn more about Professor Ames