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

Posted on Jun 10 2019 under Blog Posts, Blogs and Posts

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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