The Last Word


Police Officer talking

Hi All,

Please see this brief article targeted at a leadership audience.  As the author of that article makes clear, getting the last word when involved in a verbal retort with someone is an ego-boost.  The ego, in its drive to be correct, wants the last word, and we often find ourselves doing whatever it takes to get it.

For Law Enforcement, Public Safety, and indeed any Contact Professional charged with maintaining the peace and creating safer conditions, getting the last word is just plain unsafe.  The ego can get you hurt or killed, as well as earn you unnecessary complaints and unwanted litigation.

The creator of Verbal Judo, Dr. George Thompson, spoke to this through one of his (many) catchy quotes.  He said: “You can have the last word.  I’ve got the last act.”

When the person being detained or arrested is doing what you’re asking them to do, and assuming s/he is not violating the fighting words doctrine, then their words are merely that…words.  Don’t fall prey to word-baiting.  Fall prey, and you potentially compromise any conditions of safety you have already gained.

People will often try to rope-a-dope you (many thanks to Chief Harry Dolan for the teaching on rope-a-dope) with words, name-calling, insults, and pretty much anything to get under your skin where they can access your personal face.  When you allow someone to access your personal face (i.e., your personal feelings), they then own you.  You’ll start personalizing things, losing your rational detachment, and then saying or acting in a way that will land you on the evening news.

So…the next time you ask the young man to leave the scene, and he starts walking away, but grumbling underneath his breath some insult, just let him walk.  He’s doing what you’re asking him to do.  He can have the last word.  You have the last act (compliance)!


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