With practice you can learn to take insults with so much finesse and panache that they either disappear or never touch you.

Here’s the fifth and final post of 5 that I’m doing on the book “Verbal Judo – The Gentle Art of Persuasion” by George J. Thompson, Ph.D.

It’s only been a few months since I finished reading “Verbal Judo” but I have used the following tactic more than anything else. I’ll admit, I have a hard time taking criticism.

In the past I would just pretend that the hurtful words just weren’t said. But we all know that doesn’t work. A bully, having spoken insults and not getting any reaction will invariably turn up the volume and make you acknowledge him if you don’t the first time.

“The first step in learning to deal with verbal attacks is to acknowledge that crap is being flung. The second step is to admit that it is being flung at you. Then congratulate yourself. It’s okay to be questioned, heckled, or even attacked. If you are willing to take it, you should be commended. The only way to avoid criticism is either to live in a capsule or spend your whole life trying to please everyone. That means playing it safe, surrounding yourself with sycophants, taking few responsibilities, and doing what other people tell you to do.” – Thompson

It’s not that easy. But Thompson goes on to detail the tough position you put yourself in if you insult back or refrain from speaking up for yourself:

“The first principle of physical judo is to not resist your opponent. Instead, move with him and redirect his energy. Ignoring or dismissing a question is the same as resisting it.” – Thompson

So how do you deal with the negativity if you can’t insult back and you can’t just pretend it didn’t happen?

You need to start using “Strip Phrases:”

“Strip phrases are a deflector that strips the insult of its power.” – Thompson

Here’s a list of the strip phrases you can use when someone insults you:

  • ‘Preciate that
  • oyess
  • understan’ that sir

Each strip phrase allows you to retain some self-worth while verbally acknowledging the insult, deflecting it with a strip phrase, then discussing what you actually want from the person.

Here’s an example of how you could use one of the strip phrases:

Let’s say you’re having a hard time talking to an irate customer. They are insulting you and being generally rude. Instead of insulting them back or treating them harshly, take the blow. But deflect the internal damage by stripping the phrase you send back at them.

“‘preciate that sir, but all customers are required to bring in 2 forms of identification before we are able to process their paperwork.”

See what you did there? You took the insult and stripped back your response to overcome the insult.

“That’s how ancient samurai warriors viewed their battles. They lived for them. They were trained to see warfare as a joy and conflict, as a sign that they were drawing more energy.” – Thompson

If you get good at this tactic, you’ll move your head when the spear of insult is being flung at you. I believe the Notorious B.I.G. put it best in the song “Hypnotize”:

Never lose, never choose to, bruise crews who
Do something to us, talk go through us

I hope you enjoyed these last 5 posts on the book “Verbal Judo.” If you have any questions about the past 5 blog posts or want to discuss the book further please email me.

Have a great week!


Author: David Neely

Professional Software Developer. Technology and Web Coordinator at the University of Hawaii's Manoa Career Center.