Non-escalating Verbal





When someone insults you, tricking your emotional system into thinking they're more important than you are, you can quickly become hurt, angry, or confused. The way out is to intercept the insult with reason, before it can even hit your emotions.

For instance, if a teen-ager says, "Who cares?" you can lighten up the situation by immediately responding, —Wise up!  . . . —After all! . . . —Some people . . . —Try harder! . . . —Not you!


Or if a businessman tries to smother you by saying, "That's debatable," you can reply, with some amusement, —Anything new?


Finally, if a bully raises tension in the cafeteria by saying, "Taking a break?" you can stick up for yourself by sensing your belly and saying, —Afraid not . . . —If only  . . . —Loafing around!


Then you can go on and say anything you want.


Part 1: Wings


An effective insult evolves into a torpedo, with an outer shell, or form, and an inner meaning, or bomb. Effective "Wings" let you fly away from their insult "trick" and transform its inner meaning before it has a chance to explode.

Getting angry at the person who delivers the insult is a waste of time, because what is it going to do for you? And going out of your way to appease or mollify them is an insult to yourself. The only way out is to have some fun!


"What are you reading?"




"Can't you read?"

—It's a mystery.


—You're smarter than that.


—What's wrong with this picture?


Two-word responses are even better. They can hide inside another sentence, fly through the air almost unnoticeably, adapt like crazy, dramatically alter or subtly influence the flow of a conversation, and fill the air with real poetry. Other people use lots of words to make you smaller—to contract you. Try to expand.


"Your Japanese must be useful."


"Find a mess and you'll find Jeanette."


"Nice breeze."


—Heard all over the world.


—All over.


—All over.








"Back for thirds?"


"Where are you going to advertise?"


"Do you have any friends?"


—All over.
—Best ever.


—All over.
—You'll see it.


—All over.
—They wear you out, don't they?


Part 2: Dangerous People


There's no such thing as a safe neighborhood, because dangerous people can go anywhere. If they're acting really bad, their aim is really to meet a few police officers and go to jail — eventually. Any system of Non-escalating Verbal Self-Defence has to take dangerous people into account from the very beginning. The safest thing to do is to prove you hear what they are saying, and that you can stand up to it.

You don't want to talk too much, because it's like throwing firewood into a bonfire. You don't want to act smarter, or more important, better, or even worse than they are. You don't want to tell them what you really feel, or what you really think. You don't even want to be right.

You do, however, want to be honest — in some sort of benign way. It's easiest to work from a script, because when you try to act like someone else, you're actually acting like yourself!


"Hey, man,
what's up?"

"So, what's

"What's that
supposed to mean?"

A diversion.

—Nothing special.

—Nothing fancy.


—One thing after another.






The only thing I would match is their tone of voice. If they're pretending to be easygoing, with a casual drawl, I'd pour a Southern accent on really thick. It's better to act a little bit goofy, or not quite right. Then you won't remind them of a powerful mother, father, brother, sister, or school teacher. And by responding to them at all, you're proving you're not weak. So what's left for them to attack?


Part 3: Follow-Up


If someone attacks you and you defend yourself, they'll almost always have enough energy to attack you again, pushing you back over the edge of the pirate ship, and onto the plank. They sense it, too, just one ... little ... push. However, you can be ready with three more "Wings!"


FOUR subtly sarcastic "WINGS" (to fly away from Baiting)

Apparently not.

—From old country. Get it?

—All that.

—Can't see.. WHY?


Now, here's the situation: Standing in the check-out line at your local mini-mart, the man in front of you suddenly cries out, "I came back, man! It's cool! It's cool!" You realize he's talking to the cashier. Suddenly, he turns to you and says, "He kicked me out last time I was here!" You say, Apparently not. He cries out for the whole store to hear, "I'm not a dangerous person!" You say, —From old country. Get it? He continues addressing you, "Do you think I'd hurt you?" You say, —All that. Then he wraps it up with, "Hey, man, it's all right! I'm cool." And chuckling, you say, —Can't see.. WHY?





"Not bad, for a girl!"

Apparently not.

—It's the animal in me.

"I hate walking down the street with you – It's so embarrassing."

—From old country. Get it?

—Looking for fudge in all the wrong places.

"I've got to kiss up to the sergeant." [At a Police Department coffee break]

—All that.

—Got any cherry pie? That's the blood from my broken heart.

"It's good to see you did one thing right."

—Can't see.. WHY?

—Don't say anything to anybody.


Part 4: You Have to Work Backward


If an attack has more than one Code Word (in red), and you feel in the mood, respond in reverse order, the way disc jockeys identify a song set.


Respond to the ATTACK from the end

"Wings" for each piece of the attack

"You break me up. That was so funny,
I forgot to laugh."

—Stashed around.

"You break me up. That was
so funny, I forgot to laugh."

—What more?

"You break me up.
That was so funny, I forgot to laugh."

Night sky!

"You break me up. That was
so funny, I forgot to laugh."

—Sounds serious!


Things happen so fast out in the real world, you don't have time for much "transactional analysis of verbal arguments." Even if you did, you shouldn't act too smart. The purpose of this website is to provide specific verbal tools for conflict resolution, to add to your knowledge and understanding of thorny verbal interactions, and to show you precise ways to stand up to troublemakers with professionalism.

The framework of this website is a Japanese mental hospital, «seishin byooin», with almost one hundred "clinics" in which to observe the person who attacked you. Your attacker will be the Patient, you'll be the Doctor, and I'm the Taxi Driver. Remember, don't let them know you're observing them (inside the «seishin byooin»). Don't do it! No! Don't tell! And when you're finished, E-mail me a little "tip!" As they say in the downtown Chicago Loop, "If you like doing it, We do, too!"

Construction of the «seishin byooin» began on 24-FEB-1999, and as each new clinic opened for business, its links became activated.


Part 5: Appeals to Sympathy






Argumentum ad Misericordiam

(Appeal to Pity) An argument appealing to the compassion of the listener; a plea for mercy.


Argumentum ad Verecundiam

(Appeal to Reverence) An argument using venerable authority to produce an illusion of proof, so that its answer risks a breach of propriety.


The Authority of the One

Plays upon our reluctance to challenge famous or smooth-talking people. Competence in one field does not necessarily indicate competence in another.


Appeals to the Superego

A person needs to balance their capacity to help others with the aims and desires of their own life.


Argumentum ad Captandum Vulgus

(Appeal to the Rabble) An appeal to the lowest instincts, for the sake of pleasing the crowd. Incorporates as many other fallacies as will serve, including violence.


The Authority of the Select Few

Exploits our feelings we are aristocrats at heart by drawing us to intimations of prestige or exclusivity.


The Authority of the Many

Plays on our sense that others know better than we do. Popular consensus does not prove something is true.


The Authority of Tradition

Uses time-honored customs as a way to avoid relevant issues.


The Authority of Precedent

Appeals to instances similar to the one being defended, often through testimonials.


The Fallacy of Special Pleading

Applies leniency for ourselves (because we are special) and a stricter standard for everyone else.


Argumentum ad Ignorantiam

(Appeal to Ignorance) An argument based on an opponent's inability to prove the opposite. Many conspiracy theories are based on this fallacy.


Part 6: Personal Attack






Argumentum ad Hominem

(Argument Against the Man) Relies upon a malicious appeal to personal circumstances, thereby diverting attention from the real issues.


Esprit Gaulois

(A Spirit of Mocking Criticism) When dealing with your parents, a boss, or your ex-, don't explain, don't ask questions (because they are provoking), and stay away from interpretations. Just have a good life.


The Genetic Fallacy

This is an indirect attack based on the perceived origin, background or experience of another person. Genealogy, in itself, proves nothing.


Abusive ad Hominem

Ridicules, demeans, or insults you, your work, or your point of view, with just a thin glaze of middle-class sobriety.


Circumstantial ad Hominem

(Guilt by Association) Circumstantial reasons for an opponent's actions and arguments, suggesting they have vested interests.


The Trojan Horse Fallacy

(Blurting, Spouting Off Rhetoric) Quoting someone, or supplying an imaginary voice for a child or a pet, is no excuse for ad Hominem attacks.


Tu Quoque

(You do it, Too!) Implies someone's argument is worthless because they don't follow their own advice.


Poisoning the Well

By disparaging your motivations, or by implying you are weird or stupid, an attacker can compromise the very act of replying.


Abandon Discussion

This is an attempt to cut short an argument when the attacker feels threatened or senses they are momentarily winning.


Argumentum Baculinum

(By Authority of the Scepter) An Appeal to Fear uses veiled threats, rather than reason, for persuasion. Death goes around in a coach picking up dead bodies.


Challenging Authority

Direct threat differs from "Appeal to the Big Stick" because it is not an argument.


Part 7: False Logic






The Fallacy of Accent

When words are spoken ironically, wrongly stressed or taken out of context, their meaning becomes ambiguous.


The Fallacy of Amphibology

(On Both Sides) Tight space can lead to ambiguous sentence structure, especially in newspaper headlines.


Hypostatization and Snobbery

To hypostatize is to ascribe material existence to abstract entities, such as science and nature, making them seem more profound.


The Fallacy of Hasty Generalization

Makes a faulty prediction based upon examination of individuals who are in some ways the same.


The Fallacy of Composition

Tries to apply something true of individuals within the group to the whole group.


The Fallacy of Division

Tries to apply what is true of the whole group to parts of the group.


The Fallacy of Equivocation

Changes the meaning of a key word during the course of the argument.


The Time-Line Fallacy

Any attempts to force natural or intellectual pursuits is essentially nonproductive.


The Fallacy of Concomitant Variation

(False Accusation, Misdiagnosis) Just because two events show a high incidence of correlation does not necessarily imply they are causally connected.


Post Hoc, ergo Propter Hoc

(After This, Therefore on Account of This) The fact that two events happen one after the other does not mean the first caused the second.


Denying the Antecedent, Affirming the Consequent

Playing fast and loose with formal logic (simply reversing sides) is not a game for children. Essentially, a sufficient condition is not necessarily a necessary condition.


Part 8: Trickery






The Fallacy of Overlooking the Facts

(Invincible Ignorance, Bragging) Specific or exceptional facts of a case may invalidate the general rule.


The Fallacy of Accident

(The Fallacy of Sweeping Generalization) What is accidentally true in a small sample of cases is not necessarily true in all cases, because special circumstances can make the general principal inapplicable.


The Fallacy of Bifurcation

Presumes a distinction or classification is exclusive and exhaustive, when other alternatives exist. Plays on our desire for a simple solution to a complex problem.


Unrepresentative Sample

A cursory examination of impertinent data can blind a person to the real state of affairs or to the real issues.


Petitio Principii

(Begging of the Principle) To "beg the question" is to "argue in a circle" by merely restating the main point in another way, or by presenting the conclusion as proof of the premise.


Question-Begging Epithets

Emotionally loaded words, controversial phrases, name calling, dyslogistic (conveying censure) or eulogistic (complimentary) language invites someone to prejudge the issues simply by our choice of words.


a Fortiori Argument

(With Stronger Force) Claims if something is true about a relatively rare case, it must be even truer in the mainstream case.


The Fallacy of Complex Question

A trick question contains an implied answer to a prior question which has not been resolved.


The Fallacy of Misleading Analogy

A person can seize on an unimportant detail and magnify it out of due proportion.


Ignoratio Elenchi

(Ignoring the Point in Question) Red herrings are powerful, because they often do prove a case — though not the one at issue.


Call for Perfection

Shifts attention from the point at issue to an exaggeration of your claims, making your arguments appear ridiculous, and thereby easily overthrown.

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