Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Martial Communication! Your Classes Should be Noisy!

Martial Communication! Your Classes Should Be Noisy!

by W. Hock Hochheim

"Are you yellin' like the real kind of yellin' that people really yell?"

Your classes should be noisy. A lot of police training classes are noisy. If not? They should be. The training partners playing the bad guy part should yell a lot. The officers are yelling at their "suspects" ordering them to surrender, etc. 

The best martial classes do this anyway, but many don't. One way to build the verbal abuse callousness of your students is to use a lot of yelling and angry words, curses, and tones, along with angry faces. Even Drill Sergeants do it. Pursuant to this idea, here is a reprint of an older published article I wrote quite a few years ago in a police magazine about the subject and tones of words used by officers, soldiers, or regular citizens trying to win the good fight or get out of a bad one. The beef of the material comes from Bill Lewinski's Force Science research.

    * * * * * * * *

A conflict ensues. You are either a main subject of it or a citizen, police officer, or military personnel trying to mediate, break up, or end the problem. You start out really well with a strong, confident command voice. The actual words will vary situation by situation but in general, strong words are:

“Get out here now!” 
"Stand over there!" 
“Get down on the ground!” 
“Put your hands behind your back!” 
“Leave him alone!” or "Leave me alone!"
“Let me go!” 
“No!” or "Stop!" 
“Move and I'll kill you.”

"Stop fighting me."

Words to this effect. You get the idea. They are often sentences that I've called exclamation-point sentences, because the emotion and voice are exclamatory and if written down would end in such a punctuation mark.

In 2007, Minnesota University Doctors Bill Lewinski and Dan Houlihan began calling them “Alpha Commands.” By designating them as alpha, they may have allowed for a continuum of letters to begin which may define and re-define conflict communication. This title comes as a result of conducting law enforcement studies on personal observations, reviewing documentaries, and the recent flood of “squad car” footage. Their theory is also based on the years of study in the education fields of recalcitrant children, classroom teacher control methods, and working with the autistic. All are excellent study groups in this subject matter, and the results bear great fruit.
They have not only coined the term "Alpha Commands" but identified lesser and confusing orders they call “Beta Commands” - those of less precise tone and instruction and are somewhat confusing, maybe even pleading. 

Alpha and Beta Command examples are:

* Alpha Command: Stop resisting now!”    
* Beta Command: “Now, you had better quit this ... you are only going to get yourself into more trouble." 

I have heard this dialogue in many, many arrests! (In the middle of fights.)
* Alpha Command: Stop fighting me now!    
* Beta Command: "You don't want to do this. This isn't going to help."    
* Alpha Command: “Get out of here!”    
* Beta Command: “ I think you had better re-consider what you are trying to 
  do, and it would be very wise for you to leave.”

Dr. Lewinski cites more Beta examples: (I added the questions in parenthesis.)

* Beta: "Move," (where?)
* Beta: "Give it up," (how? what?)
* Beta: "Don't be stupid," (this relates to doing what?)
* Beta: "Stop screwing around," (this relates to doing what?)
* Beta: "Knock it off," (knock what off?)
* Beta: "Don't make me hurt you (or kill you)."

In this "don't make me" category ... how many times have we heard a parent, a police officer, or a coach say, “Don't make me do (this or that).” Dr. Houlihan cites an incident from the law enforcement studies in which an officer was in a standoff with a suspect who was gripping a knife. "The officer told him five times, "Don't make me kill you," before he finally did shoot the suspect. "A terrible command!" says Houlihan. "He might have thought he was conveying an order to put down the knife, but that's not what he communicated. It was left up to the suspect to interpret what the officer meant and what action was expected. In effect, the suspect was put in the position of having to control the officer's behavior!"

Pleading - "Now please, I ask you please stop resisting me," or, 
                    "Please stop fighting me."

Pleading - "Don't make me hurt you," or, "I don't want to have to hurt you."

These get murkier and more odd. Dr. Lewinski observed that, "In violent confrontations, the research revealed officers' command styles tended to be dramatically different. As threats appeared and escalated, officers overwhelmingly employed primarily 'beta' commands." This would seem to be a mistake and less productive yet happens frequently. I can attest to seeing this numerous times, and I am unsure if I even myself haven't engaged in such language at times with suspects. How exactly may this be a mistake?

Alpha-Commands on Down to Beta-Pleading? 

It seems obvious that Alpha Commands would be better than Beta Pleadings when the fight starts. I believe that people may get themselves into trouble when they start first with Alpha commands, a struggle ensues, and then it drops down to some Beta and even pleadings. In these Beta commands, aren't the once command/authority figures suddenly, more-or-less pleading with their subjects on the first signs of resistance? Have they lost command and are now losing their focus and confidence? At times they sound pleading and desperate.

Allow me to take this one step further. What does the suspect think of the Alpha to Beta drop down to a Pleading drop on a subliminal level? What will most recalcitrant children think? I think, and others think, that many if not most will translate the Alpha-command drop to the Beta and Pleadings as signs they are starting to overcome and win the situation or debate. The suspect/aggressor has gained a bit of ground as you have lost ground, and this loss may inspire them to continue their ways and intentions. This may make him push on to see what else happens.

There was a police study years ago that revealed that it was the really friendly, "nice" police officers who got beat up or killed more than the less friendly, less nice officers. I would quote the study, but I can't remember the source or how to find it now. Possibly it was another Lewinski study.

But it's a fine line to walk (a fine blue line, huh), and it takes a required, developed "acting skill" to pull off. Much of this comes back to "command presence" or the image, tone, etc., you are presenting to whether a citizen, soldier, security, or cop.

Please take note of this point. One of the BIGGEST problems with this type of confrontational training is the lack of knowledge on the subject matter in the staged argument. If you are going to have an actor-partner-trainer yell at you and confront you over nothing, it can turn into mindless, worthless rambling that is unsolvable and builds no other ancillary verbal skills. At the very least, have the participants pick a subject problem, like road rage or a spat over a parking space. Yes, a robbery or mugging, too! For police, a disturbance or arrest. How about a domestic disturbance with your drunk uncle? Something that both parties can at least get their teeth into to some degree when bantering.

"Don't write wolf tickets you can't back up." As we said back in the 60s in the New York City area, "don't sell tickets with your mouth that your body can't cash." In other words don't be Barney Fife where your Alpha, even Beta, orders have no teeth.

It's hell being a professional, and if not professional? It's hell acting like one. But striving for professionalism means at the very least having a working knowledge on all these issues. It takes a certain "touch" or skill to decide what kind of language works with various people and their personalities. And lest we forget, your silent demeanor and appearance counts in the equation, too. Your ability to communicate, vocabulary, cadence, etc., ..."reach"... makes you a success or failure in life. There are many really professional conflict resolution classes out there. I would avoid the ones that make you become a better manipulative salesman or those from people who have no psychology background. Well, like me. My purpose here is just supposed to inspire you to find solid sources.

So back to the simple, original, opening paragraph here. Back in a single lane. Hand, stick, knife, and gun training classes should be really noisy with all this stuff!

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