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Book Review: Verbal Judo: The Gentle Art of Persuasion by George Thompson

Verbal Judo: The Gentle Art of Persuasion, written by George Thompson and Jerry Jenkins was written in 1994. It is an older read but the information does not seem dated at all.

George Thompson was a English literature professor early in his career. He is a black belt in Judo and TaeKwon Do. He went into law enforcement at 35 years old. He has a training company, Verbal Judo Institute in which he trains FBI, Forest Service, and businesses such as IBM.

He teaches to relate to your audience. This can be done by using analogies that relates topics to your audience’s hobbies or common everyday experiences. The biggest takeaway from this book is to empathize with people instead of arguing with them. More often than not you will gain compliance after showing the other party involved empathy. Also, Thompson explains that just because you empathize with someone doesn’t mean that you have to agree with them. To be in agreement and share the same feelings is sympathy. Empathy is hearing the other side and showing support. Try to explain to the other or others how the disagreement can turn into a win-win situation. He also adds on that if your antagonist can upset you, then he owns you at some level. Instead brush it off. If instead you fight back or try to defend yourself, counter-attack is usually the outcome. As you get further into the book he categorizes people into three categories: nice people, difficult people, and wimps.

He explains techniques that have high success rates with settling conflicts with each type of person. Thompson gives examples of phrases that people commonly use that many times make the situation worse. He analyzes the phrase, sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. Explaining that people generally heal fairly quickly from physical injuries and tend to forget about them. Whereas old verbal wounds may never heal especially when they come from someone that you care about. Thompson also covers that most communication classes teach to be assertive but the take away for many students is interpreted to be aggressive to get what they want. Sure the person will probably get what they want, but the relationship won’t be long-term because the other party will go elsewhere afterwards.

Towards the end of the book, Thompson spends a lot of time explaining techniques to gain compliance and turn situations around with difficult people. He explains how he is also a difficult person and has learned to appreciate working with other difficult people.

I really do recommend this book. It is a very interesting read with enough of his own stories inserted from his law enforcement career to keep the reader hooked. Much of the book is very repetitive but helped me in remembering many of the take away lessons. I like how he explains that if you only take one thing away from this read is the importance of using empathy to persuade others to comply or see their best option available to them. We do have a hard copy of this book in the library. If anyone is interested in reading this for themselves you can stop by the store and check it out.

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