How you can use “Verbal Judo” to deal with people like a police officer

Matthew Dickson
4 min readJul 16, 2021

One of the biggest sources of stress in people’s lives is other people. Counselors and psychologists say that when people come to them to talk about their problems, they often talk about the other people in their lives who are causing them grief.

One of the best ways to deal with other people can be found in a book called “Verbal Judo: The Gentle Art of Persuasion” by George Thompson, a United States police officer.

I’ve read many books on people skills and “Verbal Judo” has changed the most of what I actually do in real life.

Verbal Judo is simple, once you know its main concepts:

1. Stay calm if other people are getting upset. Don’t get swept up into the emotion of it all.

2. Find out where other people “are”. Are they lonely, angry, depressed? Are they even listening to you when you speak? Where “are” they? What state of mind are they in? You have to be able to read body language and have emotional intelligence to do this.

3. Talk from their frame of reference, not yours. So often we say what we have to say, when the other person might not be listening, for example, or when what we say isn’t what the other person wants to hear. Their mind might be on something totally different than what we’re talking about, so it doesn’t sink in as well. We just plow ahead with what it is we have to say.

George Thompson discovered Verbal Judo when he first started training as a police officer in the States. He saw some cops using it unknowingly and having amazing results.

He began to study them and then created a formal training program for it, which he called “Verbal Judo”. Over the next years it spread from state to state. The Verbal Judo website says they have trained over 1,000,000 people worldwide.

Knowing the main concepts of it can allow you to have the right words for the right time. Cops say when they’re on the street, they don’t have time to think about all the steps — “Okay, step 1, step 2, what was step 3 again?” You need to have the right words and right away.

When people are upset or giving us trouble, it is often because they have no one to listen to them. In “Verbal Judo” George says that too many people have never heard words of encouragement and praise. Their thoughts and opinions have been neglected, which then makes them feel alone and separate from others.

A lot of the time people simply need to vent for a bit. Let them blow off some steam. Sometimes, but not often, people are past the point of being listened to, and that’s where you have to use force (I am not knowledgeable about weapons, but for a great resource on self-defense, see Tim Larkin’s books here).

“Verbal Judo” has helped me tremendously. I don’t get upset as often and by letting other people do more of the talking (if that’s what they need), I find my interactions with other people have become calmer.

George says it is not a perfect system and that sometimes he is the one getting upset. But for the most part, it makes for easier relationships. I highly recommend you pick up a copy and read it. Maybe even give it to other people!

I’ve given copies to my friends and family. I’ve put some copies in my local libraries. I think, personally, that it should be taught in schools.

Often people on their deathbeds say they wish that they had spent more time with the people in their lives, or that they listened more to others. Try to live a life of getting along with people!

There are other tips in “Verbal Judo” that I haven’t described here. It is well worth the read! The book may take 6 or 7 hours or so to read, depending on how fast you read.

But for that small investment of time, you will have some of the best and easiest people skills in the world! And you will have it for life! All for the grand price of $20-$25 or so — whatever your book store charges. Of for free if you can find it in a library. Why wait?



Matthew Dickson

Advocate for people with mental illness in developing countries at Bicycled across Canada twice, books, nature, fitness, learning, dancing!