Law Enforcement

“The Verbal Defense and Influence Course Has Changed My Life”

Dan Cordero, a member of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department volunteer program, explains that Verbal Defense and Influence has changed his life and the way he deals with people. He also talks about the success he had, recently teaching a class to over 70 civilian members of the LVMPD.

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“If you are not an instructor, you should be”

One Voice: Managing the Chaos at the Point-of-Impact

Years ago, I provided my initial training at the Milwaukee County Behavior Health Division. There I met Delores Linear-Wilson, a registered nurse, who shared a concept that called “One Voice” that I have shared ever since.  See the infographic posted above.

I have taken this mental health concept and shared it with 100’s of trainers over the years sharing it with police, corrections, military, and security trainers.  Gerard O’Dea, our Verbal Defense & Influence representative in Great Britain, shares it with his teachers and social services professionals for use in the classroom.  See the video posted below.   Let us know what you think of this tactic or have used it in the past in the comments section.

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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.

Are you really trying to persuade a person to do something or are you just checking off the boxes.

Hello,  This is Gary Klugiewicz.

Dave Young and I just finished facilitating a four day Verbal Defense & Influence Instructor Class at the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office located near Minneapolis, MN.  It was a very interesting class with lots of interaction with the instructors in the class.   Daniel Zeller, a security patrol lieutenant for Mall of America, brought up an interesting observation that he had made about how officers sometimes use persuasion during officer / citizen contacts.   In VDI training, we spend a great deal of time on the Persuasion Sequence that is a five step process for persuading a person to do what an officer is asking them to do.   Dan has seen this process sometimes circumvented so that it becomes a checklist that allows an officer to take action rather than a vehicle for de-escalation of conflict.   This problem goes way beyond public safety applications and impacts all contact professionals who have to deal with difficult persons.

Read on to see what this VDI Instructor has to say about this issue:

“In regards to the Persuasion Sequence when we are in contact with a subject and want them to do something, some officers may view it as merely a checklist or steps they need to follow in order to make an arrest. Rather than using the technique to generate voluntary compliance, cooperation, and collaboration, they fly through the options and confirming non-compliance because their department policy states that is what they are required to do prior to making an arrest under these circumstances. Although this does not occur with regularity, it can be assumed that it does occasionally happen.

With the newer officers they should be reminded that time is on our side. They should take the time to attempt to persuade the subject and not be so quick to throw on the handcuffs. It would be in our best interest to address it with our line officers and remind them that the Persuasion Sequence is there to do just that, persuade the subject to comply, rather than be taken into custody. We need to be in the guardian mindset and treat these people with dignity and respect.”

Thank you Lt. Zeller for this insight into the challenges of persuasion.   Tom Cline wrote an interesting article entitled “Are You a Helper or Hunter” in American Street Beat that can be accessed at  Are you functioning and using the persuasion sequence as a helper, i.e. protector or as a hunter, i.e., an enforcer?  While public safety officers and other contact professionals have to enforce laws, policies, and rules,  they must always remember that their primary function is that of a protector.   Remember that the purpose of the Persuasion Sequence is to generate voluntary compliance, cooperation, and compliance – not to be a vehicle to quickly take action.   By efficiently and effectively asking, explaining why, presenting options, and giving the person a second chance, you will have the best chance of persuading the person and not have to resort to taking action.

Please post your comments below.


Rudeness can be perceived as racist


This is Gary Klugiewicz.

I saw this electronic post a couple weeks ago and I have been thinking about it regularly.  I wanted to respond to it but didn’t know exactly how to do so.   The comment made by the chief in the original article linked below was that the comments were rude, not racist.   While he got the types of comments right being “rude” and “racist”, the “not” was not exactly right.

In our Verbal Defense & Influence training, we focus attention on the importance of the term “empathy” and our attempt to look at a situation through the other person’s eyes.  We refer to this as “Active Intelligence Gathering” and explain that, if you don’t know where the person is coming from  i.e., their perceptions, how can you know how to get them to assist you in taking them where you want them to go.

The trouble with being rude is that it is by itself unprofessional and counterproductive.   When your unprofessional behavior is viewed by someone who already believes that you may be a racist. then your rude behavior rapidly becomes what can be perceived as racist.  We spend a great deal of time in our training practicing the Universal Greeting, a professional introduction of “non-escalation” so we never start the slippery slide downhill from rudeness toward what can be perceived as racist behavior.   While we can’t change someone’s preconceived notions of us, we can do a lot to not escalate the negative atmosphere that often exists in a conflict situation.  Keeping the conversation professionally polite even when faced with an angry person will allow you to use “Active Intelligence Gathering” to find out what is causing the conflict. This will allow you the best chance of generating voluntary compliance, lead to cooperation, and even end up in collaboration.

Remember that you are not responsible for the bad decisions made by the person that you are interacting may make but you are responsible for the process.   You want to look good on camera, i.e. professional, where ever the situations ends up.

I look forward to your comments.  Please post them 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!


The Power of the SHOWTIME Mindset

Hello,  This is Gary Klugiewicz.  Dave Young and I are teaching a class next week at Access Services, a paratransit services company, located in El Monte, CA.   We will be training both law enforcement and transit professionals.  Watch for additional updates from the class.

I wanted to share this e-mail that I received that addressed the power of the SHOWTIME Mindset in preparing for and prevailing in stressful situations.  The fact that we are training transit professional next week provides a real tie in to this incident.   Cheryl Schattschneider, a Milwaukee area correctional officer, was assigned to drive her facility’s prisoner transportation bus and had to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL).  Posted below is the e-mail that she sent me telling me about her experience and the power of the SHOWTIME Mindset in successfully completing her task.



I just wanted to take a moment to thank you. Without even knowing it, you (and VDI, really) helped me to pass my CDL road test. Allow me to explain with a bit of a background story added.

Since I am a K9 handler and weapon certified officer at the House of Correction, I was required to obtain my commercial driver’s license (CDL). I literally procrastinated as long as possible on doing this, as I am a self-proclaimed horrible driver and had absolutely NO desire to drive a bus. Unfortunately the day came that my administration held me accountable and I was pushed to achieve this goal that was set for me.  I was given four days of driving training and experience with Milwaukee County Transit (MCT) on a city bus, and scheduled to take my road test (including a long and technical pre-trip inspection portion) on a cold and snowy December morning. Keep in mind now, I am not at all mechanically inclined and I was afraid to drive a huge bus in even nice weather. Needless to say, I arrived for my test more than just a little bit nervous.

As I arrived early to my appointment, I spent about 30 minutes nervously waiting to meet my examiner and head to the dreaded bus for my test. Then, due to technical difficulties with her computer, I got to be nervous for an extra 30 minutes or so before we were ready to begin. When it was finally time, the examiner looked at me and asked, “Ready?” I nervously replied, “I think so.” The next thing she said to me was, “Okay, SHOWTIME!”

It was amazing how that one simple word had so much power in that moment. I felt myself smile for the first time all morning, and instantly had a sense of calmness and focus. “Showtime”…. I am NOT a mechanically challenged bad driver that should move to a place where it never snows. “Showtime”…. I AM a highly skilled bus driver that knows exactly what I’m talking about when pointing out all of the different parts of the suspension, engine, and brake systems. “Showtime”…. I got this!

So, long story long – I passed. I actually performed better than I thought I would. Not perfect, but pretty darn good. I’m sure the training I received throughout the week played a large role in that. But I also am positive that “Showtime” was what helped me to pull it all together in that moment and succeed.  So, THANK YOU and the VDI team for providing such great training to Milwaukee County Transit that they are clearly utilizing to help train others.

Cheryl A. Schattschneider


Cheryl,  Thank you for sharing your experience with us and reminding us that the SHOWTIME Mindset apply to all stressful situations.

Please provide your comments below to this post.

We would love to hear from you.  You can post your written or video post directly to me at using the vistelar password.  I will review your posts and contact you with any questions.  Or, you an contact me directly at  I look forward to your submissions.

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.