One of My Favorite Communication Strategies to Help You Keep Your Cool

by Joyce Weiss, M.A. CSP


One of my favorite communication strategies is one that I use when others try to make me defensive. No one can make you feel defensive without your consent. We are in control of how we react. No one is in control of that.

You may be thinking, “Joyce, how can I be in control when others push me?” It isn’t easy. Most of us push back when someone judges us. We are all guilty of losing our cool at times. My secret sauce is verbal aikido.

Communication Strategies #1: The definition of verbal aikido

In aikido, the person who pulls back from an attack is the stronger one. Stop defending yourself when someone yells at you that you are late. Instead of defending yourself by saying, “The traffic was bad,” start using verbal aikido. Say, “You are right, I’m late. I know how punctual you are, and I will leave 15 minutes earlier the next time we meet.”

Communication Strategies #2: Focus on what can be done

It’s more important to concentrate on solutions rather than blaming what went wrong. The next time a meeting becomes a screaming match with a lot of blaming and accusations, use verbal aikido. Pull back by saying, “Instead of the blame game, let’s figure out how we dropped the ball and resolve this issue with our client.” Fixing what went wrong needs to be discussed at another time. We all want our issues to be resolved and we don’t care about excuses or blaming others. Verbal aikido is a tool that cuts through the noise and focuses on the present.

Communication Strategies #3: How Robert Kennedy used verbal aikido

Robert Kennedy knew that he was going to be pushed by the press after President Kennedy appointed him as his attorney general of the United States. Senator Kennedy was prepared when he met the press the day after the appointment was made. A journalist said, “Senator Kennedy, what gives you the right to become attorney general of the United States?” Senator Kennedy took a breath and said, “That’s a great question. You have to attend a good school, know a lot of people, and have a brother who is the president of the United States.” The press melted and started to laugh at this brilliant statement.

Verbal aikido allowed Senator Kennedy to pull back and he caught the press off guard.

Let’s Get Real

There are times when I forget all the skills that I write about. Let’s face it, we are all human! The important thing about forgetting to use these skills is that you are reminded of them immediately after a communication doesn’t go as well as you wanted it to!

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Joyce Weiss, M.A. CSP is a Communications, Career and Coaching Expert. For the past 30 years she has perfected patented strategies that have addressed peer bullying, standing out to upper management, career advancement, and resolving personality conflicts. Clients feel more confident during tough conversations to be direct with respect®. She just launched an online coaching program Communication Skills at Work. You can reach her at

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