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Verbal Self-Defense Begins with a Mindset of Compassion and Empathy

In my last blog post, Changing the Way We Handle Verbal Attacks, I shared that I began a journey in learning Verbal Aikido. What does it mean to learn the art of verbal self-defense? First, it means understanding the purpose and establishing a mindset behind this approach.

Morihei Ueshiba (pronounced Mora-hAY-wAY E-shE-ba) the founder and creator of the martial art of Aikido stated: “True victory is victory over self.” Being able to master oneself in how we engage and diffuse a defensive verbal attack without a counterattack that is equally or more destructive than the original attack takes intention and practice.

Aikido’s main principle supports neither combat nor aggression. In fact, Morihei Ueshiba firmly believed that this was the “..way of joining the peoples of the world together in peace.” Practitioners learn how to defend without harm to themselves and the attacker. The Japanese word “Ai” means harmony or balancing whereas “ki” is the energy force and “do” is the path. Ai-ki-do is the ‘path to balancing energy.’ In other words, being able to take the attacker’s negative energy and adeptly using your skills to shift the energy from negative, potentially escalating verbal exchange to a neutral or even positive shift. The shift would end the verbal exchange and potentially shift it to a mutual and constructive conversation.

Luke Archer, the author of Verbal Aikido: The Art of Directing Verbal Attacks to a Balanced Outcome, and my teacher, shares in his book and training that the mindset is key to setting your intention for this type of practice. First, it is establishing a mindset of compassion and empathy for the other person. For most of us, when we are being verbally attacked, we go into automatic pilot which means a lack of empathy from where the other person is coming from and why they are attacking in the first place. I know for myself personally, my mindset goes into gear with irritation and viewing the other person as an annoying problem or even threat. In that moment, I don’t see that person as human who is hurting or in fear. They are protecting some vital part of themselves. Second, it is important to understand we are trying to assist the other person to remain standing if you will, and ‘save face.’ You might be saying to yourself right now, “Are you kidding me? I need to protect myself too.” And yet, here is the problem. By reacting or counter-attacking with criticism, name-calling, blaming, etc., we are contributing to the problem and potentially making it worse. No one walks away feeling good about the encounter. It is not about winning or being right, it is about making a choice, remaining calm, and engaging the other person peacefully. “It is a way to live in harmony with others.”

Watch why I took the Verbal Aikido training with Luke Archer.  

Patricia M. Porter, LCSW, ACC

CEO and Founder
Conflict Connections, Inc.

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Changing the Way I Handle Verbal Attacks

Angry man photo by Pixabay

This is what you hear “You are late again!”  or “You keep making mistakes…FIX IT!” or “You never listen to me!” All of these statements are examples of a verbal attack. One of my personal challenges is how to deflect and master my in-the-moment reactions to verbal attacks. I don’t know about you but I can be very sensitive to unexpected and unwelcomed verbal attacks and without pausing or thinking, snap sarcastically and defend myself and sometimes with vigor. Then, I feel ashamed that I reacted so strongly given my professional study and work.

Most of my readers and podcast listeners know me as 25-year conflict management and resolution expert. And yet, I recognize the areas of communication struggle in my personal life. When I am working as a neutral or even teaching, training, facilitating or coaching, I have mastered remaining calm in the face of verbal assaults. It is a natural part of my conflict resolution work for people to displace their anger or frustration about the person or situation, they are in conflict with and yet, I have failed to master this at home with close interpersonal relationships.

I decided last year to purposefully pursue changing this destructive habit in my personal life. How do I catch myself in the moment from being impulsive, saying things that are hurtful or judgmental? How can I prevent a seemingly small incident from erupting into an emotionally-charged argument and see it grow into a conflict?

I went back into my Texas Conflict Coach® podcast library to revisit the work of Luke Archer on Verbal Aikido: Manage Verbal Attacks Peacefully and Effectively. I contacted him in late 2017 to revisit his work and invite him to be a guest expert on the Challenging Workplace Behavior Summit launched in 2018. It would be to my surprise when Luke informed me, he would be in Texas training Verbal Aikido principles and techniques at Sam Houston State University (SMSU) in October 2018 during Conflict Resolution Week. This week sponsored by Gene Roberts, Director of Student Legal and Mediation Services is a colleague. He and I both served back to back as Presidents of the Texas Association for Mediators (TAM). Gene invited me to be the keynote speaker for SHSU during the week and join Luke Archer’s training. It was a serendipitous moment. I felt blessed to be part of this week and meet Luke for the first time.

After the initial 2-day training, it was crystal clear that this would take practice and guidance by an expert. Luke offers a virtual “dojo” or practices mat to verbally spar with partners using the 3-step process we learned in training. We not only learn how to ground our basic foundation but we learn additional strategies to carry out each of the three steps. It is fun meeting people from different countries to practice around real-life examples.

My next few blog posts will focus on my journey, stumbles, strengths and insights into mastering verbal self-defense.

Patricia M. Porter, LCSW, ACC
CEO and Founder
Conflict Connections, Inc.

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Free Expert Interviews for the 10 Toughest Behaviors at Work – Challenging Workplace Behavior Summit

Whether it’s gossip, harassment, or time-sucking interruptions we have all encountered challenging behaviors in the workplace.  Have you ever wished you knew what to do when they happened?

If you’re like us, the answer is yes.  That’s why we spent a year finding ten top global experts to help us understand and manage the ten toughest behaviors at work.  Register now for free access to the Challenging Workplace Behavior Summit to watch our interviews. The summit launches on Tuesday, November 13th and it covers:

  • Workplace Bullying

  • Gender-Based Violence

  • Workplace Incivility

  • Verbal Attacks

  • Workplace Gossip

  • Non-Stop Criticism

  • Time-Sucking Interruptions

  • Hostile Work Environments

  • Passive Aggression

  • Impulsive Reactions

Each day, we’ll share action-oriented expert interviews about these challenging workplace behaviors.  Part 1 of every interview focuses on understanding the behavior. Part 2 is all about strategies.

Register for free at www.workbehavior.us/register – all it takes is your e-mail address and we’ll let you know when the programs go live.

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Verbal Aikido for Youth – Manage Verbal Attacks Peacefully and Effectively

Luke ArcherStephen - 1Verbal Aikido is a means of communication that enables the practitioner to transform verbal attacks, both effectively and peacefully. This philosophy comes from the Japanese martial art of Aikido that seeks to transform ‘attackers’ into training partners. It’s a fun and easy-to-learn approach that can be learned from ages as young as 5 years old. Regular practice of Verbal Aikido considerably increases self-esteem, altruism, and the confidence to manage conflict in a self-affirming and harmonious manner.             

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