Excerpts From Suzette's Verbal Self-Defense Books


From The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense at Work
(Prentice Hall 2000)

On page 88...

When I explain techniques for using Satir Modes and Sensory Modes in my seminars and workshops, I can always be certain in advance that someone will rise to protest. Typically, these people say that the techniques are manipulative, and that they do not approve of -- and would never stoop to uise -- verbal manipulation. ... The problem with classifying any variety of language behavior as maniuplation is that to do so assumes the existence of a variety of nonmanipulative neutral language behavior to contrast it with. But there is no such thing. The idea that neutral language behavior exists is a myth; it feeds and supports our treasured image of ourselves as Nice People.

All language is manipulative; all language is attempted persuasion. Anytime you talk, you are attempting to persuade the others present to listen to what you have to say, rather than talking themselves; you are taking and holding the floor. When you talk, you want to be listened to, believed, respected, appreciated, accepted, agreed with. No matter how much you may wish to be neutral in your communication, you cannot not manipulate. As speaker, you are controlling the conversational space, whether you like that idea or not. And you cannot escape by refusing to talk, either; unilateral silence is one of the most manipulative forms of language, and one of the most negative.

Since you cannot choose between manipulative and nonmanipulative communication, your only choice -- unless you are willing and able to withdraw totally from all human interaction -- is the choice between skilled manipulation and unskilled manipulation. It is my firm opinion that since you must manipulate others with your language, it's best for you to know what you are doing and do it with skill.


And on page 256....

Hearing is the most reliable sense for spotting lies. This comes as a surprise to many people and contradicts popular wisdom. Our mainstream culture devalues hearing, giving far more weight to such visual information sources as the printed word, movies, television, maps, charts, and diagrams. We say, "I won't believe it till I see it," and we defend items that we have seen "right there on the page in black and white." We tend to assume, therefore, that we will be better able to tell that people are lying if we can see them. That's false. For at least two very good reasons.

First: The face and body are easier to control than the voice is; the face is easiest of all. People are good at putting on false expressions and can become highly skilled at doing so. Learning to assume false intonations, on the other hand, is very difficult indeed. Most people, especially under stress, are hopelessly bad at this.
Second: When you are face-to-face with a speaker, there is a lot of competing data to be processed. You have to observe facial expression, posture, gesture, distance the speaker maintains from you, etc. Factors that have nothing to do with the speaker's honesty -- such as physical appearance, clothing, expense of surroundings, and presence or absence of status symbols -- can seriously distort your judgment. When you have nothing to attend to but the voice, on the other hand, none of those distractions can interfere.

When you have reason to wonder about someone's honesty, then, the best way to proceed is to talk to that person on the telephone. Never go into a face-to-face meeting for delicate negotiations without talking to your negotiating opponents on the phone first, if you have any choice in the matter.



From BusinessSpeak (McGraw-Hill 1995)

On pages 108-109....

"Only a Wimp Would Let That One Go By!"
Over and over, I hear this kind of objection: "I understand what you're saying... But I just could not let that person get away with it!" (Because the bait in the particular attack was so cruel or so totally false or in some other way so intolerable to the victim.)

There are two basic misunderstandings here. First, you should expect the bait [in verbal attacks] to be like that. Of course the bait is going to be as outrageous as the attacker can make it. Of course, if the attacker has personal knowledge of something that will be especially hurtful to the victim, it will be used as bait. When you go fishing, you don't bait your hook with something that will bore the fish; you choose whatever you think is most likely to get the fish's attention. "VAPPers" are doing the same thing. They choose the bait not to hurt you, but to hook you; the hurt is just an unavoidable side effect. Attackers want your attention; they want to demonstrate that they have the power to get and keep your attention; they want from you an emotional reaction that is evidence of that power. They will always use as bait whatever they think is most likely to be impossible for you to ignore. This should not surprise you in any way; certainly it should never surprise you into making a strategic error.

Second, it's an error to think that letting the bait go by without challenge is "letting them get away with it." No matter what is in the bait, it's the trivial part of the attack.
Think about it. You had a plan for how you were going to spend the next 15 minutes or so. There were things you wanted to do with that time. But the attacker has a different plan: that you will spend that time engaged in an undignified verbal fight in which you demonstrate how easy it is for the attack to pull your strings and make you dance. Doing that -- not ignoring some ridiculous insult -- is letting the attacker get away with it. No matter how the fight itself ends, the loser (and wimp) is the person who provides the attacker with Victim Service, and the attacker who can get you to provide that service is the winner.

[Note: BusinessSpeak is out of print, I'm sorry to say, but your library
may have a copy. If you find it, please ignore the cover, with its picture
of a giant woman ruling over a line of tiny colleagues; I didn't choose the
cover, and it has nothing to do with the book's contents. -- Suzette ]




From Language in Emergency Medicine:
A Verbal Self-Defense Handbook
(Xlibris 1999; details -- and more excerpts -- at http://www.xlibris.com)

On pages 86-87....

We're not used to thinking about our communication goals. We may know the final behavioral result we're after -- to get a signature on a form, to get a transfer, and so on -- but we forget to identify the goal that comes before that one. In most situations of potential disagreement, you have a choice of three communication goals:

1. To get your own emotions, whatever it is that you're feeling, off
your chest.

When this is your goal, it doesn't much matter what you say. As long as you feel better afterward, you've succeeded.

2. To educate or inform the other person -- perhaps to do what's called
"raising his/her consciousness."

This goal requires you to construct what you say in the most persuasive manner possible. You'll need to use rhetorical devices such as vivid metaphors; you'll need to offer compelling facts such as statistics and research results; you're likely to need a good anecdote or two. Unless you're one of those rare charismatic people with the ability to charm the snakes down out of the trees, this takes careful preparation and is likely to take considerable time.

3. To change the other person's attitude and/or behavior.

The two most useful tools for achieving this goal are the three-part message and the irresistible metaphor. Both usually require some forethought, but they take very little time to put into practice.

You can't accomplish all three of these goals at once. You can't accomplish all three with the same kind of language. You have to decide in advance which one has top priority for you, and then shape your message accordingly.

[Note: The "three-part message" mentioned above was first developed by
effectiveness trainer Thomas Gordon. Here are two examples of three-
part messages: (1) "When you don't water the tomatoes, I feel angry,
because plants die without water." (2) "When you take the files home
with you and forget to bring them back, people feel angry, because they can't do their own work without the files." -- Suzette ]




From Try To Feel It My Way: New Help
for Touch Dominant People and Those Who Care About Them
(John Wiley & Sons 1997)

On pages ix-xi...

Everywhere you look today there are books and audio programs and seminars on dealing with "Difficult People." Bosses who never stop complaining and criticizing, no matter how good your work is. Relatives who always find a way to pick a fight, even when everybody present is determined not to let it happen. Colleagues who aren't happy unless everybody else is miserable. Employees that nobody can talk to without feeling insulted and infuriated. Kids who whine and sulk and have no friends. JERKS...the people you duck into doorways to hide from if you can, because even a few minutes with them leaves your head pounding and your stomach churning. We all know and dread these people. (Some of us are these people, and have to live with the knowledge that others find us hard to get along with.)

This book won't give you yet another set of tips for easing your encounters with difficult people. Instead, I'm going to demonstrate to you that many "difficult people" aren't difficult at all. They behave the way they do because they are reacting much as you would react if you found yourself forced to use a foreign language for understanding and learning and communicating. These people aren't difficult -- they're touch dominant. You may never have heard that phrase before; let me explain.

By the time children get to be five or six years old, they discover that one of our major sensory systems (sight or hearing or touch) works better for them than the others do. And just as their being right- or left-handed does not change, the dominant sense will not change. The sight dominant, for whom what matters is how things look, will have an advantage, because sight is the sense our culture values most. The hearing dominant, for whom what matters is how things sound, are somewhat less advantaged, but they'll still do all right. The majority -- the Eye Tribe -- are willing to agree that hearing also has importance and significance.
But what about people for whom the most important sense is touch? For touch dominant people of all ages, information for the eyes and the ears isn't enough. To understand and learn and remember, they need information for the flesh. When they are tense or upset, they need to use the words and body language that go with touching, the vocabulary of the skin and the gut. (Do "information for the flesh" and "vocabulary of the skin and the gut" make you uneasy? Why? They're neither obscene nor inflammatory. Stay tuned.) We cut these individuals no slack in our culture, and the result is their most constant lament: "I just don't get it!"

Think about it: What would it be like to be touch dominant?
Imagine being someone whose dominant sense is touch, in a "Don't TOUCH!" society like ours where everything that matters most to you -- down to the very words and body language you use under stress -- is rejected by others. How would you manage? How good would your "people skills" be? Might you not rub people the wrong way and earn the label "difficult" for yourself?

This book will take you into the world of touch dominance and help you understand that world... ... I will show you that when "difficult" is really "touch dominant" a set of simple language techniques can bring about changes that seem almost miraculous. And if you are yourself a touch dominant person, you will find yourself, for perhaps the first time, understanding why "getting it" is often so hard for you.




From The Gentle Art of Communicating with Kids
(John Wiley & Sons 1996)


On page 9...

PRINCIPLE THREE: Children are born with the ability to learn the grammar of their language just by observing the language others use in their

Children don't learn languages the way pigeons learn to peck at a bar to get a piece of corn. At birth their brains already contain the complete set of possible specifications for a human language. What the kids do is learn which of those specifications apply in their language, by observing the language used around them. They're not born already knowing a language. If they don't see and hear language during this critical period they'll never be able to use it normally. ... The input they get from others who already speak a language is very important, because it's their model. But they don't learn languages the way adults have to learn them -- painfully, by memorizing rules and patterns that have to be constantly rehearsed and struggled with. Children's brains have language-learning equipment that adult brains don't have...


And on pages 10-11...

PRINCIPLE SIX: Talking to a child, especially after the age of five or
six, is essentially the same thing as talking to an adult you outrank.

This principle is often hard for people to believe. Because children's vocabularies are smaller, because they sometimes say "wabbit" for "rabbit," because their experience of the world is limited, we tend to feel that there must be some special way of talking to a child of six and another way of talking to a child of nine and yet another special way to talk to a teenager. That's not how it works.

Once a child knows the basic grammar of the language, by about the age of five or six, talking to children should be no different from talking to adults who are our subordinates (that is, adults we're allowed to give orders to). This means that -- within reason -- we should listen to children with the same attention as when we listen to adults. It means we should be no more likely to interrupt a child than to interrupt an adult; we should give children in conversation the same benefit of the doubt we give adults. It doesn't mean that we should spoil children or let them say any old thing they want to say, or that we should let them dominate our conversations and make adult conversations impossible. It does mean that many adults need to make some changes in the way they communicate with children.


And, from pages 161-164, here are "five broad guidelines" for communicating with kids...

1. Always remember that your language behavior is the model that
the youngsters you interact with use to learn their language behavior.

2. Don't lecture children to teach them something; model it instead.

3. Do everything you can, honorably and within reason, to prevent
loss of face -- for everybody involved in any language interaction.

4. Try not to lie.

5. Listen when the child talks, and show the child how good listening
is done, every chance you get.


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