You see a strange man standing in your backyard looking around....what do you do? Are your children playing nearby? Can you afford to wait for the police? If you choose to confront the stranger, how will you go about it?
You're going to your car in the public parking lot, and you see a man standing nearby. As you approach he doesn't move, but just stands there staring at you.
You're at a mall or a park, and a stranger is hanging around your children too close for your comfort...
This article will address how to approach a subject of unknown intentions or capabilities in a professional and effective manner, and how to verbally confront the subject in a way that gives the greatest likelihood of a positive resolution. In particular, overcoming verbal resistance in a confrontation will be covered in detail.
This method is adapted for civilian use from the methods I was taught as a Law Enforcement Officer. "Verbal Jujitsu" is used by LEO's every day, and I can personally attest to dozens of situations where I gained compliance with my commands without resorting to force, using this method.
Follow this step by step proceedure for the initial approach:
1. Observation: Is the subject acting in a manner that shows him to be an immediate threat to your family, or other innocent people in the area? If the answer is Yes, then tactical action is required.....attack, retreat, seek help, etc as you choose, but ACT.
If the answer is No, then take a breath and calm down. Observe the subject's appearance, dress, behavior, activity, and body language. Note the presence of vehicles, tools or weapons on his person or in the vicinity. Look carefully around for signs of any accomplices. Make a tactical assessment of the situation.
If there are no people in harm's way, it would be advisable to stay back and call the police if you feel there is a potential threat. But if you are too uncertain to call the law, or if, as in the example above, your children or others are in the back yard nearby, you may well choose to approach the subject. If you choose to do so, be certain that you are well prepared in the event of a worst-case scenario.
If you decide to approach and verbally engage the subject, use the principles of the S.A.T. acronym to enhance your security. These are "tripwires": when any of the SAT conditions are violated, you must act, whether to attack, defend, run away, or seek help.
Security: Whenever others are in immenent jeopardy, or property under your control is threatened, ACT. (however, in most jurisdictions a civilian's right to defend property is somewhat limited)
Attack: Whenever your personal danger zone is violated, and you believe yourself in immediate danger of attack, ACT.
Too much Resistance: When there is no voluntary compliance to repeated verbal appeals and commands, and all verbal options have been exhausted, ACT.
2. Approach and Greeting : assuming there is no overt threat, it is advisable to be polite and appear relatively casual in your approach. However, you should maintain a tactical distance to allow yourself a safety-zone and reaction room. Initial approach and greeting should be done from a distance, 15 to 25 feet....don't get close enough to shake hands, not at first...hand-shaking distance is also easy-sucker-punch-range. If some obstacle, such as a parked car, can be put between yourself and the subject, so much the better If you can approach slightly from the side, or put yourself between the subject and your loved ones, do so. Greet the person in a polite casual manner to avoid setting off hostile reactions. .
If a close approach is absolutely necessary, attempt to interview the subject at an angle, rather than a frontal approach. The subject's own "ten oclock" and "two oclock" angles are an ideal position to be in for such an approach. Standing directly in front of the subject in a confrontation, within arm's reach, is known as "standing in the kill zone".
3. Identify : Identify yourself in some manner, and indicate that the subject should do likewise. Examples: "Hi. I'm Joe Blow....and you are?" or "Hello. I'm the homeowner....you are?" If the person fails to take the hint and identify themself in return, this is a "caution flag" about the subject's intentions or mental state. Continue to observe carefully during this stage and be ready in case the situation suddenly goes Code Red.
4. Explanations : This is where you define the situation, and/or ask the person their business. Some examples of what you might say are: "Can I help you with something?" "What can I do for you?", "Sir, I would have preferred that you come to the front door and ring the bell instead of walking around into my back yard; what was it you wanted?". If the subject is hanging around your car in a public parking lot: "I noticed you looking at my car, is there something wrong?" If the subject is hanging around your children in a public place, you might ask "Do you know my children from somewhere?"
The answers that you get in this stage are vital indicators of the actual situation. A reasonable person with no ill intent will usually usually explain theirself in a sensible manner. If the subject declines to explain himself, ignores you, or says something noncommittal or that makes no sense, this is a strong "caution flag", and you may proceed to Verbal Compliance Engagement.
5. Verbal Compliance Engagement: confronting a questionable subject verbally, and obtaining compliance with your wishes through verbal engagement, is a skill, and it is rarely taught outside of Criminology (and Sales School:).
Many people engage in verbal confrontations with a "hard style" approach. That is, they deliver their speech forcefully, and if the subject voices disagreement, they simply repeat themselves *louder*. This often escalates into a shouting match, which besides being ineffective may further escalate into violence. Don't raise your voice when you should instead reinforce your point.
Verbal Jujitsu is based on principles of clear communication, progressive appeals, and turning the subject's verbal-resistance against him in an indirect manner.
Clear communication is a must. Often we fail to say, *exactly and precisely*, what we intended to say; what we *say* may be garbled by background noise or partially lost due to inattention; what the subject then *hears* is "filtered" by his preconceptions and biases, and what he THINKS you said may be very different from what you intended to communicate! You must speak clearly and plainly, use common and easily understood terms and phrases, AIM your communication at the subject based on his apparent cultural background, and otherwise try to make yourself as clearly understood as possible.
Deflecting Verbal Resistance: This is a very vital point in verbal engagement. Just as a jujitsu expert does not confront force with force, but instead moves aside and throws the attacker, you must avoid nonproductive back-and-forth arguing with the subject. This is done by Deflection.
Usually the subject will attempt to offer unacceptible or irrelevant excuses for his behavior, or express negative emotions verbally, or otherwise say things that are simply intended to take you "off track" or change the context of the confrontation. When the subject does this, their intention is to prevent you from verbally forcing compliance, by weakening your will to argue or angering you or distracting you. Do not let the subject deflect you from your goal, and do not get drawn into side issues, pointless arguments, nitpicking or personal insults. Stay on track with the 5 step engagement method. To the subject's arguments/excuses/attempts to distract you from your goal, simply say "Sir, I appreciate that, BUT....", "Ma'am, I understand how you feel, BUT....", "Bud, I hear what you're saying, BUT....", "Dude, I know where you're coming from, BUT...."
After the BUT, return to the stage of the Verbal Compliance method that you were at before the subject tried to interrupt, distract or deflect you with his statement, and proceed with the progressive appeals. This may sound simplistic, but it WORKS in most cases...I've personally used it dozens of times with hard-case criminals. A subject once responded to a simple question by cursing me very harshly, and at length....my response? "I'm sorry you feel that way, Mr. So-and-So, BUT...." It worked, and I resolved the situation without force.
The subject's weakest link, his vital point most vulnerable to attack, is usually his mind.
Progressive Appeals: This is the 5 step method of overcoming verbal resistance. Be sure to maintain your SAT tripwires during verbal engagement.
1. Ask (ethical appeal). Examples: "Sir, you are on my private property. Please leave now."...."Sir, I need to get in my car now, please move aside."....in the case of a stranger hanging around your children in public: "We have to go now, good bye" (this is indicating that you/your family are leaving the area and that the subject should not follow, without directly saying "get lost creep!")
2. Set Context (reasonable appeal). This is where you explain the situation and why you are asking the person to leave or stop what he is doing. "Sir, you are tresspassing on my private property, and I don't know you....you need to leave, now, please."....."Sir, that's my car and I need to get in it. Why are you standing in my way?"....."Mister, I don't know you, and you're making me nervous staying so close to my children; I'd like you to leave, please."
3. Present Options (personal appeal). This is where you politely spell out that you are running out of patience and that there will be consequences if the subject does not comply. "Sir, if you don't leave my property right now, you're guilty of criminal trespass, and I'll have you arrested."...."Mister, you are blocking me from getting in my car; you need to move away or I'll assume you mean business."....."Look bud, you need to back off from my children right now. If you don't, I'll yell for the cops or back you off myself if I have to."
As unlikely as it would seem, the subject might be an idiot who failed to realize how much he was pushing you until you made the situation, and the consequences, clear to him. If this is the case, he will back off. Also, many times a criminal will back off if he realizes his intended victim is prepared to take action.
If the subject does not comply at this point, the situation could be considered Code Orange...high probability of threat.
4. Confirm (practical appeal). The essense of this stage is the question "Is there no way at all that I can convince you to comply (ie: leave/move back/get away from my children/etc)?" The subject's answer to this question, along with his body language, facial expressions, behavior and apparent attitude, should make clear to you if he is a real threat, and what level or type of tactical response to employ. Another, more confrontational but very clear way of verbalizing this stage is to calmly say "This is your last chance to back off, then I assume you're a threat and do what I have to do."
Very few people who are *not* either a threat, or incredibly stubborn, will progress past this point if the result you are trying to get is halfway reasonable.
5. Act. If you have gone through the four stages of verbal appeals correctly without any hint of compliance or reasonable response, it is unlikely that further verbal engagement will have any positive result. Now, you must decide whether to withdraw, seek help, or enter tactical (attack/defend) mode, based on the circumstances.
Always keep in mind that the situation could suddenly turn "Code Red" at any moment, and that you must be mentally and physically prepared for this at all times.
As always, the choice to use this information and the consequences thereof are the personal responsibility of the reader, as is compliance with local law and regulations.
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