tradecraft…your voice (part III)

when you witness someone use their voice like i mentioned in the last post, you feel like you’re seeing something extraordinary…something that borders on the supernatural…

here’s a story from the trenches that illustrates what i mean…

years ago, i worked at cooper village–a juvenile group home in omaha, nebraska (i love omaha, by the way, it’s one of the easiest towns to feel at home in–show up twice at the same bar in omaha and you’re a regular–can’t beat that!  of all of the bars i visited in omaha, my favorite (hands down)…was the homy inn (classic)–two visits were just not enough when it came to this place, cheers!:)

anyways…at this juvenile group home, we worked with a variety of kids who had low-level criminal offenses on their records, other delinquency, alcohol and drug problems, and family issues…it was a minimum secure group home…

one day, a kid comes running down the living quarters hallway–he is shouting and swearing just outside our staff office…trailing behind him, is his staff (our living unit was connected to their housing section and today the door between the residences was open, which was common)…so, upon hearing this, my partner and i come out of our office and approach the youth, thinking ok, we’re gonna have to take this kid down… restraints/ ‘takedowns’ are a part of juvenile justice-fun!:) …but before we get that far, we get a knowing look from his staff (dom)–his eyes say, wait…all the while this kid is pacing back and forth–swearing and muttering that he’s gonna hurt someone…

at that point, dom takes up a position nearby and begins talking to the kid (close enough to jump in on a takedown, if needed, but not too close–like us, he was giving the kid some room to move…the habits of nonverbal interaction)…immediately the kid dials in to dom’s voice and what he’s saying (though the kid is still pacing)…dom continues to talk to him in a calm, reassuring voice…

dom: i know about the phone call you just got, i understand why you’re upset, i would be upset, too…

the kid paces and swears some more…

(dom sticks with it)

dom: i know you’re upset, but right now you’re ‘still good’…you haven’t let it get the best of you, you haven’t let it ‘get out of hand’…it’s what you do next that matters the most–you know that we’ve got an event scheduled for tomorrow and right now, you’re on the list for an off site trip to the library–that hasn’t changed, yet…i know you want to go on that trip, i know you want to get off-site for a few hours, so let me help you get there

the kid is now moving side to side, facing dom–the kid is still agitated…still looks like he could escalate and ‘take it to the next level’ at any moment…bounce off the walls (or us) and what not, a la parkour

(but, dom is persistent and continues)

dom: i want you to listen to me, i want you to follow my instructions, ok?  i am going to help you, i want you to lay down on the ground, i want you to lay down on your stomach…

i’m thinking, yeah right–let’s just grab this kid…come on?!

…a couple more minutes go by and the kid is still upright, moving side to side (and still upset)…so, dom repeats his directives…then, the unbelievable happens–the kid complies!!!  he crouches down on his knees, puts his arms out in front of him, touches the ground, and eases himself down (on his stomach)…

dom: that’s good, that’s right…now, slide your arms out a bit, that’s it–now, turn your palms up…good…

the kid continues to comply (and is now laying on the ground in the typical restraint position)…

dom: relax, just breathe…that’s good

dom crouches down next to the kid and continues to talk to him, continues to calm him down…fifteen minutes later, the juvenile is calm and back in control…dom helps him up and they walk back to his housing unit together…

later, i found dom, shook his hand and told him, “damn, dude…i’ve never seen anything like that–awesome–nice work!”–it was the coolest takedown i’d ever seen…honestly, i was still in shock and thinking, what just happened?!…he had taken a kid down without raising a hand-he had taken a kid down with just his voice…

skills and tactics like this have been referred to as verbal judo and such a designation is appropriate…

critics might say…”well, dom had a rapport and a relationship with the kid and that’s why he did what he was told”…i wouldn’t disagree with their emphasis on “the two R’s”–they are definitely an important part of the de-escalation process–but, how do rapport and relationships happen?  through communication, social interaction, and repeated verbal exchange…rapport is established and relationships are built…”the two R’s” are part of the communication continuum, if you will…and when combined with the words, tone, and volume of someone who knows how to talk to others, how to use their voice effectively …sometimes…amazing things can happen!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: