Chris Blattman

Seven things to never say to a criminal suspect or convict (or your toddler)

George Thompson teaches “verbal judo” to cops and prison guards.

If you deal with cagey street people, or indeed difficult people at all, anywhere, you need to watch your tongue! The “cocked tongue” can be more lethal than the 9 millimeter or the 45.

He gives seven commonly used statements that essentially make people do the opposite.

1. “Hey you! Come here!”

…You have just warned the subject that he is in trouble. “Come here” means to you, “Over here, you are under my authority.” But to the subject it means, “Go away-quickly!” The words are not tactical for they have provided a warning and possibly precipitated a chase that would not have been necessary had you, instead, walked casually in his direction and once close said, “Excuse me. Could I chat with momentarily?” Notice this question is polite, professional, and calm.

The six other statements that work against you?

2. “Calm down!”

3. “I’m not going to tell you again!”

4. “Be more reasonable!”

5. “Because those are the rules!”

6. “What’s your problem?”

7. “What do you want me to do about it?”

Good read.

Meanwhile, great credit goes to Dave Gilson at Mother Jones for this insight:

Reading Thompson’s article made me realize two things: One, I needed to rethink how I talked to my children. Second, raising kids isn’t totally unlike being a prison guard.

h/t @zunguzungu

(Postscript: Hm. Does this count as a mommy blog post? I just know Katmanda are judging me now.)

25 Responses

  1. Having those drilled into my head before starting Teach for America would have saved me some significant grief.

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