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Verbal Judo: The Gentle Art of Persuasion

After reading the intro and the first chapter, I was prepared to dislike the book. George spends an enormous amount of print establishing his bonafides. I really don’t need to know how great you are. For me, it is off-putting. However, I am glad that I stuck to it. He tells about himself so that he can relate later stories with his experiences. That saved the book for me, and I am glad it did. Further, I realized that George died of cancer in 2011, and the book remains as evidence of his life’s work.

The title gives a clue to the content of the book, but may be misunderstood. We think of judo as a form of combat, but nothing could be further from the truth, as George explains. Judo is a defensive art, one that uses the aggression of others to throw them off-balance thereby taking the tension out of the situation. Communication, especially what is seen as conflict, is difficult to handle and is often frustrating. Even in the most simple of transactions, we are misunderstood or misunderstand the other person. We fall in the trap of listening to respond and not to understand. I know I am guilty. We all do it. It becomes so much harder when the situation is tense or a confrontation has arisen. Thompson said it best- When you react, the event controls you. When you respond, you're in control.

George J. Thompson is a former police officer, accomplished martial artist and PH.D. Just as the title suggests, he takes what he has learned in the marital arts and blends it with his experiences on the beat dealing with difficult people. Using empathy, he teaches us how to engage with people and defuse a heated confrontation. The book is peppered throughout with law enforcement references, but they work in civilian life as well. It is helpful for anyone dealing with a difficult boss, employee or interactions with rude and thoughtless people. The biggest take-away for me is that to be effective, you must take your ego out of the equation. You don’t have to be right, you just have to be effective.

The book is filled with clear and examples and instructions to do communicate and really reach an understanding. The police stories he uses to illustrate his points are interesting and well told and he relates them well to everyday life.


George J. Thompson and Jerry B. Jenkins,


William Morrow Paperbacks; updated edition



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