Verbal persuasion in Nonviolent Self-Protection

Verbal persuasion is language that can cause a bully to willfully comply with a Nonviolent Self-Protection (NSP) practitioner...

The important word here is, ‘willfully’.

We want the bully to choose compliance. If they're forced into it they'll feel angry and seek revenge.

NSP teaches two different types of verbal persuasion: emotional resilience, and verbal judo.

Emotional resilience

Emotional resilience basically means refusing to get upset. It’s a good strategy if the bully isn't actually physically touching your pre-teen/teen.

The bully's goal is usually to get their victim upset. If they're successful, they win and the victim loses. But, if your child stays in control of their attitude and doesn't let the bully control their attitude, your child wins and the bully loses.

Emotional resilience is built by playing a series of improvisation role-playing games in which the person playing the bully tries to upset the person being bullied.

In the first level of the game, the person in the role of the one being bullied is encouraged to be defensive and get upset.

This demonstrates the speed with which the bully’s fire is fueled. The bully wins.

Then your pre-teen/teen learns certain verbal/emotional tools: key phrases and attitudes which will defang the bully.

The next level of the game encourages the person being bullied to not get upset and use their newfound verbal self-defense tools. Here we see that the bully gets no satisfaction and can be quickly shut down. The bully loses.

But what if the bully tries to hurt more than just your pre-teen/teen’s feelings?

Verbal judo

If the bully gets physical, that's called assault and battery. That's a crime. That’s when it’s time for verbal judo.

Of course, if a bully throws a strike or tries to grab, it’s time to employ the minimum necessary force (defensive martial arts) part of NSP, but anything short of that — a poke, push, etc. — requires a verbal judo response.

The original verbal judo was created by George J. Thompson for American law enforcement officers. The purpose was to teach officers to communicate effectively under real pressure.

The concepts behind NSP's version of verbal judo are the following...

  1. People want to be asked, not told.
  2. Tell them why they shouldn’t continue their current behavior.
  3. Give options, not threats.
  4. Give a second chance.
  5. Make yourself ready & ask the “magic question”.
  6. Run or subdue them.

NSP employs a version of verbal judo as a style of using persuasive speech and behavior to give a bully every chance to rethink and change their behavior… before it becomes necessary to restrain them.

Verbal judo is the last line of defense before it’s time to use physical persuasion.


At first, emotional resilience and verbal judo can seem unnatural to employ. But the more good practice and repetitions an NSP student gets in, the more natural these techniques become.