Addressing The Entire Spectrum Of Human Conflict

Health Care and Treatment

What Type of Instructor are You?


This is Gary Klugiewicz.

I am the director of training for Verbal Defense & Influence that I recently had an phone conversation with Doug Lynch, one of our Vistelar Trainers.  He asked an an important question about the difference types of instructors that I wanted to share with you.

His question to people who provide instruction to others was What type of Instructor are you?

I asked him to provide his thoughts on this question that I posted below:

When I first started as an instructor, I proudly called myself a trainer. I was in front of people and telling stories, showing PowerPoints, getting a few laughs and told to come back again. I thought I could train. But, my students were failing to do what I needed them to do once they left the class. Was it me? Was it them? Was it both? Thus, started my journey.

I sought out mentors and coaches and was lucky enough to meet and learn from some of the best in the business; Gary Klugiewicz, Bob Lindsey, Peter Jaskulski, Dave and Betsy Smith, Jack Hoban, and about a dozen more. I am thankful for their patience and transfer of knowledge. It became apparent I was a Presenter, not a trainer. There was much more that needed to be accomplished in a classroom than just getting people to agree with what I was instructing.

Below is a small bit of that information to help  instructors better understand what they are doing, what they are capable of and what they need to be able to perform to master a style/level. It helps us to explain to non-instructors what to look for and what to expect from different styles/levels. In most cases, these are levels, not styles. Instructors progress through them from 1 to 4 over a career/lifetime. But, there are always exceptions.

  1. Presenter / Presentation: Passive, lays out information for students. Minimal, if any, checks for understanding, learning and performance are done. To become a Presenter, one becomes proficient at public speaking and holding the audiences interest.
  2. Teacher / Teach: Passive, guides students through information, confirms cognitive knowledge.
  3. Trainer / Train: Active, students learn how to perform tasks, ability to perform under stress confirmed.
  4. Coach / Coaching: Efficient, mastery of the levels below them. Able to TRAIN people to be competent at any of the first three levels.

His categories illustrate an increase in both competency and effectiveness that I find thought-provoking.   Do we want our instruction to merely provide information or do we want it to provide skills and changes in long-term behavior?  As with most things, the answer depends on who you are instructing, your purpose, and the length of time you have to do it.

Please post your comments below.

Arma Training Edged Weapons Agency Wide Instructor Program

Dave Young here.

Inmates are the masters at developing and using improvised weapons. Every year corrections officers seize hundreds of improvised weapons confiscated inside their facilities. Everything from a file down comb to sharpen toothbrush to melted down plastic ware.  There is no limit is their imagination.

Your safety depends on your understanding what to look for; how do identifying threat indicators during contact; managing distance to control position; knowing what your escape routes are; and understanding when it is time to disengage.

The class then provided realistic “hands on” and “weapons on” responses to an edged weapon assaults.

In addition, on the front-end, the class covered how to de-escalate the situation and the back-end how to follow through after the incident to keep everyone safe both physically and legally.

Watch the video link below to see the class in action.

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I want to thank all the trainers in the state of West Virginia to include the West Virginia regional jails instructors on a great job, energy and effort this week!  See everybody again soon!


Crisis Intervention: The Power of the Initial Contact

Dave Young, Kati Tillema, and I just finished a great class at the Las Vegas Metro Police Department.   Vistelar has just updated it material with a major upgrade to it curriculum and courseware.  New manual, workbooks and PowerPoints were added. Check out the class photo.

Dave Young made several additional to the material with tactical nuggets that better explain what we do and how we do it.   One of these nuggets explained that the power of the Universal Greeting in that it establishes contact, builds rapport, and gathering information from people who are usually extremely difficult to find common ground.  People remember the beginning and end of conflict situations.  Use the Universal Greeting to make a positive, memorial initial contact.

Take a look at this video where Tom Wiehe from the University of Cincinnati Police Department empowers a person with significant mental health issues to control his her behavior at the point of impact.  Watch this video that emphasizes the importance of using EMPATHY as a tool of Active Intelligence Gathering to quickly get information necessary to keep everyone safe – now and later.  Tom’s thoughtful initial contact made the difference between a positive successful encounter and another viral video on YouTube showing another questionable interaction.

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Please post your comments below.


Correctional Contact Professionals: Proper Response Requires …

Gary Klugiewicz and I will be training with the Alaska Department of Corrections all week.   We will be teaching our Verbal Defense & Influence Instructor Class in Palmer, Alaska.   This training will be emphasizing the first half of Vistelar’s training curriculum that trains correctional contact professional i non-escalation and de-escalation tactics for minimizing the need to utilize physical force to overcome resistance.   The second half of our training consist of those “Physical Alternatives” that are necessary when Words Alone Fail.   But no matter whether verbal or physical force is needed to manage the situation, proper response in required.

For a contact professional working within a correctional facility, proper response requires that you remain alert, be decisive, and have a preplanned practiced response in mind.

Be Alert:

Start with the acceptance that safety begins with remaining ALERT to your surroundings. Being aware of your surrounds is especially important with you are experience direct inmate contact.  Watching the interactions between inmates and other staff.  Learning the non-verbal cues and signals that inmates exhibit.  Observe the distance and positioning between these you, inmates, and other staff members.

Be Decisive:

Being Decisive begins in managing your state of readiness.  Using your eyes, ears and nose.  Practicing your skills to increase your level of performance to be ready to take action when needed.  Trust you gut feelings – they seldom lie.  Know what you can and can’t do – physically and legally.

Have a Preplanned Practiced Response:

Have a preplanned and practiced response means you are practicing the skills you have learned in training.  You are developing your own ability to execute when your life depends on your performance and minimizing mistakes that can literally cost you your life.

“Being ready to take action is more than being hopeful.”  It depends on your alertness, your decisiveness, and your preparation and practice of your verbal and physical skills.

We look forward to our week with the Alaska DOC.

Watch for additional Facebook Posts updating you on our training.

Saying or doing the unexpected to catch a person “off guard” during verbal conflict

This is Gary Klugiewicz.
Jeff Mehring, a conflict management consultant and trainer, has shared a number of his concepts with us in our Vistelar posting in the past.  This time he focused on how to put the brakes on an escalating verbal conflict situation by interrupting the person’s thought processes with unexpected verbalization and body language.  Check it out.   I think you will find it very interesting.  We have already incorporated it into our distraction redirection training.
Could you read his post, try it in your work environment, and get back to us with your feedback in our comment section?
We would love to hear from you.

The Power of “Huh” and “Hmm”


Often, in a conflict management situation, particularly when someone is attempting to redirect or persuade another through verbalization, words don’t easily come to mind.  There is a lot to take in while trying to formulate just the right thing to say, so the verbal redirection or persuasive argument has its desired effect.  It’s at times such as this that saying and doing the unexpected, thus catching the other person off-guard, can be very helpful.

Saying and doing the unexpected has several advantages.  First, it causes the other person to pause and make sure that what was heard is accurate.  The pause, even if for a second, breaks tension and causes an individual to reconsider what is taking place.  Second, saying or doing the unexpected creates doubt in the mind of another concerning what is normal, in essence instantly establishing a new norm which causes hesitation and the need to reorient, which allows you to stay one step ahead and establish a position of advantage or control.  Third, when the pause or hesitation takes place, it provides you with an assessment opportunity to determine if the other person is reasonable or not.  Remember, you cannot reason individuals out of a position they didn’t reason themselves into.  If the other person doesn’t respond in a reasonably predictable fashion, pausing or hesitating, you will need to switch gears and move to another tactic.

All this being said, what are some unexpected things we can say or do?  One is understanding the power in two small and seldom used words in the beginning stages of a conflict.  Those words are “huh” and “hmm”.  When coupled with a quizzical tone of voice and a facial expression, which in and of itself conveys interest, there is great potential to catch the other person off-guard and move the confrontation in a positive direction.  Saying “huh” or “hmm” in a confrontation is unexpected, and since words and actions must match, a quizzical facial expression should be employed and will be equally unexpected.  When individuals become aggressive, they expect an equal or greater response or reaction; the unexpected is a preplanned and practiced response instead of a “tit for tat” reaction.  In addition to the “huh” or “hmm”, use follow-up words which match what you are trying to convey.  For example, “Huh, that’s interesting, tell me more” or “Hmm, I didn’t know that, let me see how I can help”.  “Huh” and “hmm” should be seen as a means of opening gateways to further communication.

Unfortunately, all too often our verbalizations close doors, for instance statements such as, “I understand”, when the other person is convinced you don’t understand, or “You must feel frustrated”, which is the same as saying “I understand”, since you have assumed how the other person feels instead of asking “Are you feeling frustrated?”  There are also common phrases such as “calm down” or “settle down” which close us off from others, but are used on a regular basis.  All of these verbalizations are expected by others, learn to say or do the unexpected.  Start with a quizzical “huh” and “hmm” and watch the doors of opportunity to resolve a situation through redirection and persuasion fly open.  There is power in those words.


Non/De-Escalation Training: A Gap in Training in your Organization?

Non/De-Escalation Training:  A Gap in Training in your Organization?

Hi Everyone.  Robert Whiteside here.

Please see this (link below) recent article in the Washington Post.  It speaks to the value of de-escalation training, the need for it to become a more standard part of training for all Public Safety and Law Enforcement agencies, and the resistance toward it from some.

Considering the points of this article, I share that it’s an interesting experience working, first, in law enforcement, and now overseeing a force of healthcare Security Officers and healthcare-specific Law Enforcement Officers.  All of our non-sworn Security staff do not carry firearms (though they are trained to carry other intervention tools).  And these non-sworn Security Officers constitute the bulk of our force.

As these non-sworn personnel lack a firearm (though they possess other less-than-lethal tools), their Verbal Defense & Influence (VDI) training which they all receive prepares them to handle most any event without any physical use of force whatsoever.  They handle extremely volatile situations daily such as the management of very violent psychiatric patients.  Without these trained and practiced verbal communication and conflict management skills, we would very likely have many more physical hands-on use of force events than we do.

Public Safety and Law Enforcement Officers routinely tell us that they (the Public Safety & Law Enforcement staff) either would not or cannot deal as expertly with the things our personnel deal with daily, that is, with “just” the skillful use of communication.  Plainly put, after working in this field for many years, it’s obvious that our non-sworn healthcare security staff have much more professionally developed non/de-escalation skills than the average Public Safety and Law Enforcement Officer.

Let’s come back to the article above.  What is the deficit or push back within the ranks of Public Safety and Law Enforcement in America in reference to embracing, in a greater or new way, professional verbal non/de-escalation skills?  Is it a belief that using verbal non/de-escalation skills compromise Officer Safety?  If it is, I would argue that this just means the verbal non/de-escalation training, and how it’s embedded and trained in the overall use of force policy/training of an agency, is simply not sophisticated enough.

Or is the push back due perhaps to some collective ego of Public Safety and Law Enforcement, wherein there is the perceived need to maintain power, along with a deeply held and unhelpful sense of us versus them.  I think there is something to these points, and hence the need to hire high-quality Public Safety and Law Enforcement candidates so that Public Safety and Law Enforcement culture in the United States can evolve in a positive direction.

One can measurably track the benefits of training staff (any field) in high-quality non/de-escalation training such as the Verbal Defense & Influence (VDI) program.  These benefits include: increased personal safety, decreased use of force incidents, decreased injury rates, decreased workman’s comp claims, enhanced professionalism, decreased complaints, decreased vicarious liability, less stress, court power and articulation, and increased staff morale.  These benefits cannot be ignored.

I’d love to hear back from others on how they are ushering into their organizations and agencies high quality verbal communication and conflict management training.

Across the board, we must improve.



How to distract a person in crisis

Learn how to redirect a person in crisis by establishing credibility through common experiences.

Dave Young and I have been traveling all over the country training contact professionals from a wide spectrum of disciplines from public safety to healthcare to educators.   Our attendees have shared a wide range of peace stories demonstrating the power of non-escalation and de-escalation with appropriate physical intervention tactics.   These peace stories are very powerful because like Chuck Remsberg, author of the internationally known Street Survival book series, likes to say “No one says it like the people.”   His comment refers to the fact that no story is better told than by the person experiencing the event.   A video recollection by the person experiencing the event is the most powerful retelling of the story because now the words are supported by the person’s own tone of voice and facial expressions.  This video recording of the story allow the viewer to experience the reliving of the event by the person telling the story.

The peace story video linked below is a case in point.   Keith Molinari, the director of public safety for Castleton University, recalls a response to a student experiencing a PTSD episode.   One of the responding security staff made an immediate connection with the veteran and was able to stabilize the situation by being able to redirect the student.   While we caution contact professionals not to say that they “understand” what the person is experiencing, if they have experienced what the person in crisis has experience, it can be a powerful tool establishing credibility and build an immediate relationship that can allow for a peaceful resolution to the incident.   Learn more by watching the video and make sure to comment below.

Dave and I would like to thank Keith for sharing this powerful peace story.

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Rockville Centre, NY PD 2016 VDI Instructor Class introduces new VDI Material

Hello there.

Gary Klugiewicz here.

Vistelar introduced a number of significant changes to our courseware at the recent Beyond Conflict Conference held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  At last week’s Rockville Centre, NY Police Department Verbal Defense & Influence Instructor Class, Dave Young and I first presented this material.  We introduced the new manuals, workbooks, and PowerPoints.   The material was very well received.

Watch the video below that explains how we now review incidents using the Point-of-Impact 6 C’s of Conflict Management.  This new incident review concept included Context, Contact, Conflict, Crisis, Combat, and Closure to describe how conflict can be prevented and/or managed.  This video also describes how the revised Communication under Pressure Card helps contact professional to manage these conflicts.   Please comment below on your thoughts on my explanation of these changes.

Let’s keep everyone safe.

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Exit Language: Making an unobtrusive exit from a conflict situation


This is Gary Klugiewicz.

Vistelar has introduced the 6 C’s of Conflict Management that examines how conflict develops and what we can do to recognize it, prevent it, manage it, and resolve it.

The 6 C’s in include Context, Contact, Conflict, Crisis, Combat, and Closure.

Dave Young and I have been focusing on the Closure Component of the 6 C’s of Conflict Management in order to minimize the changes of conflict escalating to crisis and combat due to the need to physically control an out of control person or prevent a physical assault.   We have discussed exit strategies in the past, i.e. how to verbally or physically exit a situation where “communication is breaking down and personal safety might be compromised.”  Jeff Mehring, a security consultant and Vistelar advisor, expands on this concept and takes it to another level.   I think you will enjoy his article posted below.   Everyone needs to spend some time developing their EXIT LANGUAGE so they safety disengage before verbal conflict escalates to a crisis or combat situation.

Please post you comments below.




Jeff Mehring

Security Consultant and Analyst

Security Assessments and Analytics LLC

Milwaukee, Wisconsin


All of us at one time or another have been involved in conflict management situations in which words alone fail, creating the need for us to leave the situation.  The difficulty at the point the decision is made to leave, is how to accomplish the exit?

It is great to be able to tell someone, “just leave”, but how one goes about doing this can escalate a situation, or it may set up the next person, who needs to assume the interaction, to fail before he/she even arrives on the scene. Some examples:

  • If you leave an interaction with someone without an explanation as to why you are leaving, or providing some kind of next step information, the person you are interacting with will become more agitated, because you have just given the impression you are “blowing them off.” Then again, if your explanation sounds something like this, “You are rude and I don’t need to put up with this kind of behavior!” and then you leave, you may have just pushed the individual off an emotional cliff, with escalated behavior to follow.
  • There is also the exit language which sets up the next person to fail. That sounds like this, “I’m calling security.”  Now think for a moment, when someone from the general public is informed security is on the way, what is the expectation of what is about to happen?  Most individuals equipped with the knowledge that security is coming prepare themselves for World War III, after all most individuals assume security comes to either kick someone out or hold them for the police, thus setting the stage for aggression before the fact.

Exit language needs to be tailored to the situation one is trying to leave.  It must convey to the other individual that you have listened to what is being said, it must acknowledge that you need assistance in some form or another to help the individual with the concerns that have been voiced, and it must be open ended enough so as to not limit your response options, or set the next person up to fail before he/she even has a chance to say a word.  The language should advise the individual that you are going to continue to work to address the concerns which have been voiced, but at the same time inform the individual that, for whatever reason, you aren’t the person who can resolve the issue(s).  Some examples of “exit language”:

  • I don’t seem to be able to help you with your concerns, but I will contact someone who can and get right back with you.
  • You have concerns I don’t seem to be able to help you with, but I think I know someone who can help. I’m going to step out and make a call and get back with you.
  • Your concerns deserve greater attention than I can give them, but I think I know who to call to help you.
  • Your concerns are important to me, as a next step let me talk to my supervisor to see what can be done.

It is important not to identify who you will be calling, as some contact options represent a step of escalation, or are even seen as a threat.  Once you have made your exit, contact the person or people best suited to advance the conflict management process to a peaceful resolution.  Who you contact can vary greatly depending upon the concerns and needs.

It is equally important that you don’t set up the individual you are dealing with to “lose face” or suffer embarrassment through the response option you select.  For instance, if you need to involve security, be prepared to explain to the individual why security is the most appropriate party to address the concern(s), or at the very least prepare security to provide that explanation if reentering the scene is not safe or prudent for you.

Additionally, stay away from words such as “problem” or “issue” in your exit language, i.e. “I can tell you have problems.” Or “You have lots of issues.”  These are trigger words. You might just as well tell the individual “You are the problem” or “You are the issue.”  The word “concern” works very nicely in these situations as it conveys that you have picked up on the person’s distress and want to help elevate the causes.

There is a second set of exit language which also must be considered.  This is language that is used by someone else to extricate us from a confrontational situation, or in a situation where it is immediately realized that the potential for harm is more than you can handle and you need to “get out” gracefully and warn others in the area.

In the former, I recommend language which would appear to be common in the workplace, but is actually “code language” for leave the situation.  For instance, in a hospital setting the code may be “MRI 99” and could be employed by saying, “The doctor needs to see you in MRI 99, let me see if I can help this person.”  Then transition and leave the situation.

In the latter, one may have a situation in an office setting where a customer comes through the door angry and intimidating and approaches a receptionist and states in a demanding voice, “I want to see someone right now about this letter I received!”  The receptionist responds, “I have to step down the hall to get that person’s attention.  I also have a printer alert which I just received, so as I go down the hall I need to let the office staff know about the alert, which takes me in the same direction.  I’ll be right back.”  Then leave the desk and start letting individuals know there is a “printer alert” which is the code language to begin a preplanned practiced response in such situations.

Whether you are the person responding to try and resolve the conflict, or the conflict comes to you, you need to take time to think about the exit language that will best suit you and your workplace.  Usually two or three practiced statements will allow you to exit safely, maintain the emotional safety of the person you are interacting with, and keep everyone physically safe.


Vistelar conducts a VDI Instructor Class at the Dearborn, MI PD


This is Gary Klugiewicz.

I just finished facilitating a Verbal Defense & Influence Instructor Class at the Dearborn, MI Police Department.  We had a great class with lots of high level collaboration going on as the participants shared their experiences and stories.  We were able to add the new material that will be rolled out at the Vistelar Beyond Conflict Conference that will be held this week in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Please watch Bill Thompson from the St. Joseph’s County, IN Police Department performing the Five Maxims Elevator Speech Video that explains the Vistelar Core Concept of Treating People with Dignity by Showing Them Respect.   This is done utilizing the Five Maxims which explains how to show people respect.   Bill Thompson did a great job.   Please comment below.

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