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.