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Diffusing and Dealing with Difficult People

TASA ID: 321

On December 8, 2021, at 3:00 p.m. (ET), The TASA Group, in conjunction with law enforcement and safety expert Timothy Dimoff, presented a one-hour interactive webinar presentation, Diffusing and Dealing with Difficult People, for all legal professionals.

During this presentation, Tim Dimoff discussed:

  • The importance of tactical empathy
  • To identify aggressive vs. assertive behaviors
  • To understand and to detect reactive behaviors and how to de-escalate them
  • The stages of aggression
  • Physical & verbal indicators
  • The difference between responsive and reactive behavior
  • How to set guidelines when working with others
  • How to protect yourself

About the Expert:

Timothy A. Dimoff, founder and president of SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Inc., is considered one of the nation’s leading authorities in high-risk workplace and human resource issues, security, vulnerability assessments and crime. As a consultant to law enforcement and the media, Timothy has been called upon to examine evidence from crime scenes and victim and witness reports to develop an offender profile. He has testified as an expert witness in many trials throughout the years.


Najah: Good afternoon and welcome to today's presentation, Diffusing and Dealing with Difficult People. The information presented by the expert is not to be used as legal advice and does not indicate a working relationship with the expert. All materials obtained from this presentation are merely for educational purposes and should not be used in a court of law, sans the expert consent, i.e., a business relationship where she or he is hired for your particular case. In today's webinar, Tim Dimoff will discuss the importance of tactical empathy, identify aggressive versus assertive behaviors, understand and to detect reactive behaviors and how to de-escalate them, the stages of aggression, physical and verbal indicators, the difference between responsive and reactive behavior, how to get guidelines when working with others, how to protect yourself.

To give you a little background about our presenter. Tim Dimoff is the founder and president of SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Inc., which is considered one of the nation's leading authorities in high-risk workplace and human resource issues, security, vulnerability assessment, and crime. He is known as a speaker, trainer, investigator, and author and has appeared on national radio and television shows and major newspapers. Tim is a nationally recognized expert on violent behavior and criminal investigation and has provided crime commentary and profiling analysis and has appeared on shows such as MSNBC, CNN, and Court TV. His expertise includes high-risk and security issues, human resource issues, corporate investigations, liability issues from hiring to firing, drugs and substance abuse, identity theft, law enforcement procedures, and victim justice. He has testified as an expert witness in many trials throughout his career.

Attendees who require a "passcode," the word for today is DIFFICULT. During the Q&A session, we ask that you enter this passcode into the Q&A widget for CLE reporting purposes. The Q&A is located to the right of your screen. Please remember that if you are applying for credit, you must log onto your computer as yourself and stay for the full 60 minutes. You are also required to complete the survey at the end of the program. Please note that CLE credit cannot be given to those watching together on a single computer. Tomorrow morning, I will send out an email with a link to the archived recording of the webinar. The slides can be downloaded from the resource list at the widget to the right of your screen. Thank you all for attending today. And Tim, the presentation is now turned over to you.

Tim: Thank you, Najah. Welcome, everybody. As she told you, my name's Tim Dimoff, I am speaking to you from Ohio, Eastern Standard Time. And we're going to talk about an interesting topic that has just gained tremendous traction, Defusing and Dealing with Difficult People in the Legal System. Let me set up what the current situation is, just give you a little taste of what's going on out here in the country. I think a lot of you already know in the last two years we've been witnessing and seeing quite a bit of aggression. So number one, across the board, both in personal lives,in professional lives, in society, aggression has just expanded, quadrupled, even higher than that, in a lot of areas. I mean, we're seeing looting and rioting and confrontation and escalation and, you know, road rage and now office rage, airplane rage. I mean, we're just reading and seeing it all the time on the news. And we're also seeing an increase in the legal system. Now, across the board, my company deals with a lot of these things from a training and research. I'll just give you an example. Eight years ago, we got about three to five calls a year from a company that said, "Hey, we're terminating an employee or we already terminated an employee and they're a ticking time bomb, or they threatened upper management, etc." And we call that a terminated employee aggression or a terminated employee threat.

Now, just eight years ago, we got three to five of those a year. Today, our company is responding and getting an average of seven of those types of calls per month. I did say seven per month that we have to respond to. We're also getting a tremendous amount of requests, obviously, active shooter, workplace violence for businesses, but also for nonprofits, churches, schools, and campuses. But ironically, we're getting many requests and calls from law firms. And in the area in the law firms is, they're having more people come to their law firms or offices angry, upset, verbalizing it in an aggressive way, threats, etc. So we're seeing a lot of law firms across the United States requesting physical security analysis. How do you harden your office area, your reception areas, etc., the whole physical security analysis and strengthening? And we're just getting a lot more calls from attorneys who have been threatened in various ways, confronted from clients, past clients.

And we're also getting a lot of calls with court systems, people working in the court systems with, "How can you help us"? And it all starts, obviously, with better security cameras, you know, police officers, security people, training. But it also comes down to training. In specific, how do you diffuse and deal with difficult people? We already had a question come up before we even started here that I'm gonna address. And that question was from George O'Brien. What if the difficult person is a judge?" And we all say, "Yeah, I've had that happen." How many times do you see a judge get angry, really pontificate upon something, and showing a lot of rage? When a judge responds in an emotional way is one thing, but what happens if that judge verbally attacks one of you? You know, it doesn't matter which side you're on, you know, plaintiff or defense. What do you do when a judge attacks you? And I'll answer that by saying the techniques you're going to hear here today works for any circumstance, personal, professional, legal, for a judge, for a spouse, for a client, for an agitated person you run into in a social way. So let's move on and see what we got here.

And I also want to say, if you have a question, please post the question. I like to answer questions as they come up or close to it. We don't have to wait to the end, but we will take additional questions depending, on time at the end. And let me also say that this Diffusing and Dealing with Difficult People is based on a tremendous amount of research and training that I got, starting with police departments. And I actually created a diffusing technique for police officers. And we had a 47 reduction percentage, a 47% reduction in confrontations escalating because of the program that I train the police officers on. And we can use it and adjust it and customize it to all different facets out there, and obviously, of course, to the legal profession. I wrote a book called "Life Rage," and the whole reality of "Life Rage" is tension, violence, bullying, rage. Negative encounters do exist in all aspects of our daily lives more than ever. And it used to be a lot less in the legal system. And we're just seeing a tremendous increase in the legal system and tremendous requests. Do we live in a 24/7 pressure cooker society? Absolutely. And abnormal behavior has now become the norm. And I have to stop there for a minute. We're going to have to make an adjustment. I am not getting the full slides on the screen. So Najah, how do I reduce the screen so we can have the full slides?

Najah: Well, that's just for your view. But you can use a little [inaudible 00:09:55], if you hover on the end, say the right corner of your screen in the middle, and then just pull it out. Are you able to do that, Tim?

Tim: No, I'm not.

Najah: Do you have the white box in the middle with, "The Reality of Life Rage?"

Tim: Yes.

Najah: Okay. So what you want to do is the end of the white space, you just want to pull it over to your right.

Tim: Oh, there we go. So simple.

Najah: There you go.

Tim: Okay. I apologize, everybody. Thank you, Najah. Okay.

Najah: No problem.

Tim: Abnormal behavior has now become the norm, and it's an acceptable reaction. Just years ago, it wasn't acceptable to be abnormal, to be aggressive, to get angry, to lash out. Of course, the internet and the computer age has changed that. People are now encouraged to come and tell it like it is. Don't hold back. So you're seeing that carry over into the legal profession. All right. Is confrontation an inevitable part of your job in the legal system? And the answer is yes, it is. You are going to get confronted. You are going to be confronted. Sometimes, the questioning can get pretty verbal or aggressive. And we get reactions, especially from witnesses, and clients, and others in the courtroom. And that does sometimes include, once in a while, a judge, and we have to be aware of that. We hope that doesn't happen. So you've got to worry and think about reason versus emotion, and I really want to talk about that.

When a person is reasonable, they're less emotional and reactive. And that's where you want to be. You want to get them on the reasonable side. And when they get emotional and reactive, we really need to do something. As this diagram shows, if we let the reactive, emotional side dominate, we're going to have and continue to have problems. We really need to get the reasonable aspects, personalities, responses, in and to be, come forward verbally and physically by the subject that maybe is angry or upset, so we'll talk about that. How do you be a model in the legal system? Well, assertive behavior, obviously, when one individual is able to communicate needs, desires, expectations, while you still respect another individual's legal rights, you're going to have a lot better chance of this not escalating or getting out of hand. You know, remember in your communication, your verbal, the verbal in the legal system, in the courtroom, talking to a client, a witness, one-on-one, your verbal is going to either escalate or de-escalate the behavior of the individual. It's the catalyst, it's the front of the thing going right or wrong. So we're talking about aggressive versus assertive behaviors.

Now, how do aggressive people..? What do they do? Aggressive people will RE-act to the events or to your verbalization of what you're saying. If you're asking them some tough questions, how you're asking those questions, the words you're using, all that becomes very important as we go through these slides. Now, assertive people respond to events. So you really want to position whoever is talking or whoever you're talking to. You want to position your words, your demeanor, your body language in a more assertive, professional, calm, and not in an aggressive type of thing. You go up to a witness and you stick your finger in their face or towards their face, it's a lot different than if you asked the same question and you didn't stick your finger towards their face or point at them. And that's just one small example of what we're talking about. So RE-acting versus responding. So what does all of that mean? Well, when upset, people never say what they mean. So we got to be careful in certain circumstances that we don't get them so upset that they start to say things they don't mean and it gets out of hand.

Now, when a person reacts to the words, he or she is incapable of responding to the underlining meanings. The other problem with this in the legal profession is if you get them to that point, yeah, maybe you're accomplishing, you know, showing that they're not in control and maybe that's what you want. But in many cases, you don't want that, and you're not giving them the ability to give you the answer, the true answer, the correct, the objective answer that you really need or want. So in many cases, you have to be very careful here because we don't want them reacting. And also, when you start to upset them, this is where it starts to get out of hand. This is where they physically can then escalate. If you're talking to a witness, a client, whatever, in your office, the last thing you want to do is upset them and get them to start to go beyond their capabilities.

And all of a sudden, you start to embarrass them or they start to interpret it wrong. They're going to go from verbal to physical. And if they go to physical, you're now putting yourself in danger. And if they leave and they're angry and upset with you, now, they're going to go home and think about it. And what happens if they mix a little alcohol or drugs with their thinking? Does that mean they're going to come right back or another day with a gun? You know, did you demean them in a way that upset them? So these are things we have to think about.

Now, when we React, the "act" controls us or the individual. When you respond, we're going to re-answer and that helps suggest control and assertiveness. Once again, I can't stress enough that it comes down to when you're talking to people, especially one-on-one in your office, whatever, in different settings, you know, are you trying to get them to react or are you trying to get them to respond? Keep that in mind along with the techniques that we'll talk about.

So respect is huge. In a lot of interviews that we've conducted that other professional agencies have conducted, surveys that have went out, people, they got angry or people were asked, "When did you get aggressive? When did you react? When did you lose control? What would have prevented it?" And the word respect came up numerous times, you know. If you treat people well when they don't handle themselves well, they remember being treated with respect. If people anticipate or interpret that you're talking to them and you respect them, even though you might disagree, they are not going to lose it. As soon as they feel that they've lost your respect, understand, that is what we call a trigger. A trigger causes someone to escalate to a higher level of verbal or to cross over into the physical. So remember, if you want to control or diffuse or bring someone back or prevent, think of respect. What can you say, do, and accomplish? How do you get them to feel respected?

I have a rule that I tell everybody that really works, even when we're having meetings where I'm talking to someone and I start to see they're getting angry. And it's a rule that you can tell a person when you're interviewing them saying, "We're going to disagree, but let me just tell you how I handle interviews and conversations with people like yourself. Let's agree it's okay to disagree." Now, when you tell someone, "Let's agree it's okay to disagree," it is a powerful psychological, cognitive trigger to diffuse or prevent aggression or reactions or out of control. So I really want to stress that. You'd be really,,, Mark it down. Let's agree it's okay to disagree. That tells them from the beginning, "Well, this person's going to accuse me, say something that's not going to make me happy but we're agreeing that we can disagree." They also feel they can calmly tell you, "Hey, I don't buy into what you're saying. That ain't the way it happened, etc." So make sure you remember that, and that's a good psychological diffusing technique. It's a good technique to use before you get into it.

So what are you as an attorney expected to exemplify, you know? And, of course, quite a bit. First, you're the one that's supposed to have good communication skills. You're the one that is supposed to have good listening skills because the first thing that happens that I see interviewing witnesses, courts, people that come to attorneys' offices in court, out of court, on the phone, is the person you're talking to, they expect you to have good communication and listening skills and they judge you, you know. He talked to me in a sane way. He talked to me with respect. He allowed me to express myself. You know, when I talked he listened. He didn't cut me off. And I'm not down on any profession, including attorneys. But a lot of people will say, you know, "Through our interviews, you know, I didn't get to talk much. He or she cut me off. I really wanted to tell this attorney some additional stuff." And, of course, you all as attorneys know that clients, witnesses, and everybody really do want to ramble on a lot of times. But that's called venting and I'll get into that.

Venting is an important thing but just remember, communication and listening are hugely important in your profession. Do you gotta have good interpersonal skills and compassion? Yes, you do. If they don't perceive that you care about what happened to them, that you understand, that you feel sorry, that you want to, help them, they're not... Once again, that's gonna escalate them much faster. What is your professionalism level, and, of course, your community awareness? You're under a microscope as an attorney. You're under a microscope by juries and judges as you normally expect. But you're also under a microscope with clients, witnesses, customers, people you work with, the whole profession. So be aware of that fact, that, yes, they're watching you in much detail, they're listening to you in much detail, and that's what causes the escalation. I will be honest with you and tell you the escalation today can take place much quicker than it used to be. People today feel they have the right to express themselves, even if it's in a negative, verbal, and an attacking way. And then right next door to that is, I'm going to cross the line. I'm going to physically attack or I'm going to come back later. So how we communicate, as I said, is the key.

Now, I talked to you about verbal, and under verbal, there's things such as trigger words and non-trigger words, but don't forget about nonverbal. Nonverbal is huge. You're talking to someone. Let's just say you have your arms crossed in front of you. That's a definitive signal that you really don't care about them, you're not listening and you think that they don't know what they're talking about and you don't believe in their credibility. You point a finger at their face. That's an attack. People look at that as an attack. What's the tone? What's the body language? It's a significant impact on the message you're sending once again on, are you diffusing or are you escalating? Simple body language, talking to someone that's upset. Even if they're sitting in a witness stand or they're sitting in a room with you, if you physically back up away from them, that is a diffusing technique. On the contrary, you go closer to them, you approach them, that's an aggressive action that that is something that escalates them being upset. Pointing the finger at them as an example, folding your arms.

So what are those things that you can do if you understand nonverbal, both negative and positive, you can use that to your advantage? You have someone on a witness stand just losing it. Stop, take a pause, let there be three to five seconds of silence, almost like a nonverbal cue, "Okay, let's all take a breath," and then back up a couple of steps. Now, they don't view you as attacking them. They view you as giving them space. And it's amazing how much this works. We've done this training with police, as I told you. And if I could just get the police officer when this stuff escalates to take three steps back, it diffuses. What do most police officers do? In most cases, they don't take steps back. They actually go forward and get in their face or get close to them. And then all the other things, point their finger, make verbal, "You better do this or this."

So we know these nonverbals are powerful. You can use these when talking to clients, interviewing witnesses, talking in court. You can say the right thing. But if you come off meek or hostile, your words may not achieve the desired outcome. Don't forget, if you've got any questions, feel free to put them into the chat area. And I do not see any questions yet, so I'll keep going. Once again, I'm really spending a lot of time on this basic verbal and nonverbal, which you can't believe in the training we do how much of a difference we can make, or just in the courtroom, just interviewing a witness or your client by just some basic nonverbal cues. It works, it's very powerful.

So what do we really need to understand? Well, here's one thing. Many people believe they can talk themselves out of any situation. They believe they can testify themselves out of any situation, and by testifying, they can decrease the significance of their part in the situation or their guilt or their alleged not doing things totally correct. You cannot believe, and I think you all know it, a lot of people will believe and will try to talk themselves out of a situation, and, obviously, they find out many times that's not true. Yeah. Now, when we talk about your profession, to be honest with you, this topic came up three, four, or five years ago. Most attorneys were not believing that they needed to understand how to diffuse, you know, people in different situations that we're talking about. Now, the opposite has happened where we have seen a tremendous uptick in legal professionals, attorneys, and all legal professionals are now asking for training and specifics on how I can de-escalate and diffuse. So once again, society has changed and this is really needed.

So let's talk about the stages of aggression. And in the stages of aggression, this is where we learn the techniques that are badly needed to diffuse. Now, the first mistake we all make, and that includes me and everybody listening out here, is in most cases, we cause tension and frustration because we don't allow the person to vent. Now, when I say allow the person to vent, here is the definition. You need to let them totally vent. That means, yes, you got to sit there, stand there, and listen to them, rant, rave and totally dump on you everything that's on their mind with the descriptive words and phrases that they want to use. Too many times, we cut people off. Understand from a cognitive brain makeup, if I'm talking to you, I'm pretty fired up and I got things I want to tell you, and I feel strong about it. And I start to vent and you cut me off, a couple of things, When you cut me off, you just lost and did not prove you respected me. Two, it angers me. Three, from a cognitive brain, if I don't get the opportunity to totally vent my thoughts, and I know it's an aggressive kind of verbal way, but if you don't allow that person to totally vent, their brain still has half, a third, or whatever amount that they wanted to say is still in the forefront of their brain.

What does that do? It prevents them from being able to listen to you. And then you cut them off, they just feel, "I'm not done yet. I haven't finished, You don't respect me. You're treating me like a rag, etc., etc." So cognitively, and actually I want to say mentally, physically, you've got to let them empty, empty the entire venting, and many times that's very hard to do. But once they vent, that gives you the tools to understand where they're coming from and it gives you actual ability and things to talk to them about. So, if there's one thing you want to take away from this entire talk, it is when you get into these situations, you need to let the person totally vent. Then you can... By them venting, they can reflect on the situation, they can explain it, they can de-escalate, and many times they might give you clues to the total solution, of course, in their mind, and you can work backwards from that.

The second stage is you're going to get a verbal attack. So they're venting, you've prevented that, you're going to get a verbal attack. The individual loses control over their anger. And, once again, it can lead to acting out through violent behaviors or, in many cases, a higher level of verbal attack. Then they're going to escalate to "You're not listening. You're not allowing me. You're not respecting me. This is B.S., etc., etc." So the verbal only becomes higher, more and more aggressive, more repetition. And once again, they're not in no way, shape, or form prepared to listen or willing to listen to you because the verbal got worse and you're not allowing them to vent. It's so important.

Stage two, again, three tactics for countering verbal attacks. Once again, physically, you can back up, you can unfold your arms, you can pull away, you can pause, let a few seconds go to let the steam out. So the other thing, disengage from the topic at hand. Switch the topic. "Thank you very much. Let's take a second here and let's go on to another topic." You all know how to verbalize and how to handle and kind of bridge those topic changes. So, also, acknowledging feelings. "I see that you feel strongly about this." You're giving them credit. "I see this means a lot to you, you feel strongly. But yelling and swearing is not acceptable in a courtroom. It's not acceptable at my office. It's not acceptable over the phone, but I sense you feel strongly. I understand why you feel strongly."

Next, don't match the escalation. If they increase their volume and you increase your volume, it's just going to go back and forth and go nowhere. Once again, I'll emphasize the use of a pause, just a few seconds, and say, excuse me, "I totally understand what you're saying. Can we talk about this? Can we take three seconds here, catch our breath? And I want to explore what you just talked about." You're saying something that says, "I'm interested in you, in what you have to say." Okay? Once they hear that, once again, that goes back to respect. It goes back to your listening because, in many cases, people don't believe attorneys are listening. They only believe attorneys are interested in talking, directing, and controlling.

So do yourself a favor and really work on overly listening, but making sure they see... When I say see, they hear and understand that you're listening. Listening by itself is powerful, but going out of your way to show you're listening strongly is huge in de-escalation because it just once again shows respect. It shows that you're listening, you care, blah, blah, blah. And I'm not saying you have to be convinced. I'm saying you have to show them you're at least willing to listen. And I keep harping about communication, nonverbal, and listening, but they're powerful tools if you want to become good at diffusing and de-escalation. Catch on to those tools and realize we all need to use them better.

Next, stage three. Hear them out. We talked about venting and letting them go, and obviously, you can only let them go so long. If they got too loud, you can say, "Hey, just a second. I'm interested in listening to you, but not at the level of you screaming at me." So you still and then hopefully they go, "Okay. All right. Well, let me tell you what I think." As long as you're willing to listen, you can get that volume down. People who are upset want to be heard. Let them say their peace. If you don't, they'll increase the level of the verbal, they will increase everything that they can until they are listened to. So once again, let them vent, scream, rant. When finished, once again, you're more likely to engage in a reasonable conversation. As you can see, off to the left, "Anger's only one letter short of danger."

All right, once again, stage three. Let them say their peace, let them scream, rant, and rave, you know, and likely, you'll get them to engage in reasonable conversation. Now, however, if the person has a violent history, and if you feel the situation is escalating you may need to take a different approach. If you're at your office and they're getting very angry and aggressive and start to stand up at your conference table, you probably need to take a break. You need to open the door. You need to tell them, "You want to go get a drink of water?" Can you get them something to drink? Anything to kind of break that momentum is important.

Verbal indicators. If you see changes in vocal pitch, repetition, strange speech, you know, an increase in pitch when speaking, these are obvious indicators of situations where you need to be aware of it. And you need to start thinking about de-escalation, taking a break. If they start repeating words, parroting, or echoing you or themselves again and again, once again, forced or strange speech, do not allow it to keep escalating. So de-escalation of aggression. Now, many times someone's upset, they may not know you. You may be another person in the room or whatever. Offer you your first name. Always give your first name. You give it first, that demonstrates confidence. And start a casual rapport. You know, you're just an individual, not an organized figurehead.

Now, ask them for their first name. If you get it, use it. "Hey, my name is Tim. I just was listening. You know, I'd like to hear some more. I can give you some input. What's your first name? Oh, Mike. Okay, Mike. Thank you," you know. And this can happen a lot of times when an attorney is talking to someone in their office and another person hears the aggression and comes into the meeting room to kind of help de-escalate. An additional person coming into the room or being in a room helps keep things under control. And, once again, especially if you don't know them, you know, always use giving your name and getting their name. These are just good little techniques at different times. So once again, hear them out. People are upset, they want to be heard. Let them say their peace, and let them scream, rant and rave. So keep that reasonable conversation going on and go from there.

Paraphrasing is really good. When you paraphrase someone, they understand that you're trying to understand them or you do understand. So something like, "All right," and if you know their name, "Tim, let me be sure I understand what you said." And then you kind of paraphrase it. That's a tremendous de-escalator because, you know, you're going to get, "Yeah, that's exactly how I felt, or, "No, you don't understand. It was this, this, and this." So it really helps clarify some of maybe the confusion and it helps de-escalate. Avoid aggressive words. Two words that we found that are non-trigger and one is a trigger, you're talking to someone and you go, "You know, you're very angry right now." And then their response is, "Yeah, you're damn right I'm angry."

But we have found if we changed a word from anger to frustrated, "You know, Tim, you sound a little frustrated. How about blah, blah, blah?" And they'll say, "Yeah, I am. I'm very frustrated." But if you use the word angry, they take that as a personal attack, so once again, trigger words can be keys. You know, explain your position. You ask them to do what you want. You try to ask them questions that have a simple "Yes " said. "So you were there on the 12th of December?" "Yes, I was." "And you saw that blue car approaching?" "Yeah, I did." So you get some simple yeses. That gets them in a conversation mode that really can help you get to the answers. So two or three of these set the tone. You can use this when you're interviewing people for depositions and court cases. It actually works very well to get a couple of simple yeses because now you get them on your side. They feel more comfortable with you, and now you can ask the tougher questions. So once again, it's a technique.

Explain positive options. By nature, people are definitely self-centered. Why not take advantage of it? You might describe two or three positive reasons why the person should cooperate if you're interviewing a tough witness or whatever, and repeat the request. And almost you're recruiting them to be positive. So when you explain the negative options, this step highlights what a person stands to lose by not cooperating. A lot of times that can be very motivating. And psychologically, without a doubt people, are more often motivated to avoid a loss than to gain the rewards, so we see that quite often. And you might identify two or three negatives. This way you turn the tables. "You tell me, what do you think will happen if we can't resolve the situation? What do you think would happen if such and such would have done this?"

All of these are good and it helps you get to the answers that you want. Obviously, you're really getting some intense type of verbal or whatever, give the person one final opportunity to cooperate. "You know, you're a witness. You seem to not want to cooperate or have much to say. Is there anything I can say or do that will get you to cooperate?" You'd be surprised this question, what it brings around. You know, a lot of times they'll give you a "Well, if you would do this or that or blah, blah, blah, I might be more apt to cooperate." It is amazing the answers you get from these simple types of open-ended questions.

So if it's time, the talk is over. You've asked for cooperation in many different ways. The person is escalating, and you're at your office. You may need to call management or security. First off, just say, "Hey, I need to take a break and get a glass of water. I'll be right back. Is there anything I can get you?" De-escalate by physically leaving, getting distant, getting out the door. Leave the door open, you know. So you don't want to impose your will to change their mind. But you do want to create an atmosphere where they potentially could change their mind. And, you know, a lot of times this isn't the easiest thing. A little do's and don'ts but work on being respectful. And you know what? They are going to attack you. They are going to give you funny facial looks. They're going to roll their eyes. They might raise their voice. They might point their finger. Once again, they need to vent, and you need to stay respectful but you need to stay cool, calm, and collected, you know. And if you do get yelled at, just keep your poise, self-control. Keep your voice low and calm. No need for you to put gasoline on the fire. And try to use short and simple statements. Don't get complicated, multiple sentences, run-ons, you know.

And when we talked about, physical, ironically, where are your hands? Your hands become a crucial indicator. In this picture, she has her hands at side. She could have them in front of her gesturing, but if she folded her arms, that would send a different... If she was pointing her finger that would be different. If she held up both hands in front of her face, it would be different. Just think, your hands are a major indicator of escalating or de-escalating more than we ever dreamed of.

If you're interviewing someone, you can set guidelines, "Hey, we're going to interview," and remember the quote, "Let's agree it's okay to disagree." I can't express to you how much that quote really helps. Set some guidelines. Let them know you're not going to agree on everything, and it's okay. If they start to yell and vent, let them you know, but also remind them, "Hey, you don't have to go to the level of raising your voice that loud, of threatening. That's not allowed, and if it continues, we'll just end it." And tell them you understand why they're angry. And once again, maybe we should say, tell them you understand, why they are frustrated because once again, that word anger is a trigger word. Then give them ample time to vent, to talk, to relax, you know.

And if you start to notice their words get louder or more aggressive in yelling, and their voice is screeching, etc., as soon as you start to see that, do things that can calm them down that we talked about. Don't add gasoline to the fire. Trust your instincts. You're alone in an office or whatever. You know, it starts to get a little bit creepy or threatening. Be prepared to escape. You may have to think about before you meet anybody, what happens if it doesn't go well? Where is my out? Do I have someone else around the office that knows that I'm in here one-on-one, etc.? So think about those kinda things because they're important for your safety.

And if you got a difficult witness, be willing to vary your plan. It's all about credibility. If the witness wants to evade or argue, remember that the behavior they have will also be judged in a negative way. So, you know, once again, they're hurting themselves, their credibility, their story, their testimony. And don't get totally caught up in your outline. Sometimes we need to deviate. Bring out the absurd. If someone spends 10 minutes questioning the definition of concern, let them, you know, and then point out, "You know, you spent 10 minutes here questioning or trying to define concern. I hope we've got this clarified."

Point out if a witness is intentionally being slow or performing non-verbal actions such as eye-rolling. "Mr. Dimoff, why are you being slow? Why did you roll your eyes? What were you thinking? Please share your thoughts." You know, once again, think globally. You want to point out inconsistencies with other witness observations, which you all know about. You want to find that common ground. And it really is good to get them out of combat mode. And hey, approach the opposing counsel and agree on this witness is being obstinate, you know, and go from there. Maybe they need to take a break with them and talk to them in the halls. We say, "Chill them out." And you gotta be careful about wasting your time. In the deposition, once you've gotten what you needed, note on the record for the deposition that you're ending early because a witness would not cooperate. Just put it on the record and leave it at that. You know, you can save time remaining in the case you need to depose the witness again. It shows legally that you noted the reasons for your actions at the deposition.

All this, we talk about "Peace Language." I don't want to spend a lot of time on it. But peace language is professional because it enhances opportunities for achieving voluntary compliance. If you can get them to de-escalate, you can get a lot more compliance. And there's some inner feelings that might be naturally negative. Language that stimulates conflict is unprofessional in your industry and really doesn't have any positive outcome except some real negative experiences. So you want to become an expert at finding ways to help others save personal face You can help people save personal face by ways you talk to them, words you use, your body language, and still get the answers that you want. Now, how you deal with confrontation will be easier if you learn how to handle it in an assertive manner instead of in a negative attacking manner.

Now, what's the end result? The professional and proactive individuals such as yourselves, you've got to anticipate trouble. And you've got to move to prevent it or de-escalate it, rather than expecting it and saying, "The heck with it," and just provoking it, stirring the fire, and pouring gasoline on it. So just remember, there is a lot to the verbal, the non-verbal, the gestures, and the little nuances that we talked about, taking a break, paraphrasing, letting them vent, etc. That will get you results both in your personal and professional lives. So I'm going to stop there, and if there are any questions, we'll take them now and go from there.

Najah: Thanks, Tim. There are a bunch of questions that I did throw into the chat. So if you could scroll up to find the question about the judge. And then, you know, you'll see all the questions underneath there. It starts with how do you communicate. Okay. If everyone could type in the passcode in the Q&A, that would be great. Thank you.

Tim: Okay. We have some minutes here. Just now it came on my screen. I don't know where it was before, but here we go. How do you communicate bad news to a client over the phone or in person? Great question. The way to communicate bad news to anybody, whether you're in person or over the phone, is we do some preemptive stuff. "Hey, Tim, I know you were hoping for this, this, and this." You want to make sure they understand first that you understand what specifically they were asking. So you want to clarify first that you clearly understood what they were looking for. And then you say, "I'm sorry to tell you, the news is not good." So the second thing is sort of a preliminary get ready, here it comes. And then the third thing is, "Here's the results of the case. Here's a result of what this other witness said," and then you tell them.

So it's a three-step process, and that's the best you can do, instead of just saying, "Hey, Tim, I got some bad news for you," bang and you hit him in the back of the head with it. So it does work if you preempt it and use the three-step simple. Basically, what I'm saying here is give them the bad news in what we call a ramp method instead of the cliff method, which is just throwing them over the cliff and live with it. Ramp is slowly ease into it. So, assuming the circumstances permit or can be created, do the principles from Dale Carnegies' "How to Win Friends and Influence People," have any utility in the scenarios we're covering?

You know, Dale Carnegie obviously was a pro at communication, how to win friends and influence, and a lot of Dale Carnegie's was based on, you know, talking about the positive. But if you look at Dale Carnegie's underlining theme, it was to let the person you're talking to, engaging, whether it's one-on-one, one-on-two, or an audience, you know, that you're interested in them, that you respect them, that you have some admiration for them. And that was the whole key that we talked about here. You know, let the people know you're willing to listen to them. Let them vent totally. You know, respect them. So, yeah, it has some real strong implications and I think you could use those types of guidelines in the Dale Carnegie absolutely for diffusing and dealing with difficult.

Couldn't, "I see this means a lot to you," irritate the other person, like if they think we're speaking down to them? If you think that statement is talking down to them and, I mean, if you feel that way, then I would suggest come up with something a little bit different. I don't think so. I've used it numerous times where I said, you know, "This is really important, and I know it's important to you. I know it means a lot to you and your family, and I want to do the best job I can. And we need to explore all the different angles of that." I think if you put it into something of that sort, I don't think structured that way that they'll interpret it as speaking down.

Now, let's say they react in a way that tells you they're interpreting it as speaking down. Address it and say, "Hey, what I said, by no means did I mean it in a negative way or that you didn't understand. To the contrary, I totally respect what you're feeling." And once again, "I totally respect what you're feeling," is a trigger word, a positive trigger word. If you turned around and said, "Yeah, I could see you were angry," that would not be good. But no, if you turned it around and said, "I can see this is totally frustrating, and rightfully so," once again, using the right words right really helps.

This person said, "I agree, verbal judo is a good de-escalation technique. What is the next step when it fails?" You know, that's the tough question of the day, when the verbal judo. It depends on your situation. Many times, verbal judo fails because we're actually physically too close to the individual. Our hands are folded in front of us. We're pointing a finger, even though we're saying some verbal, positive judo but we don't realize physically what we're doing.

What would be the next step? I think the next step would be something physical, such as backing away or what I call engaging them to be a hero. And by that, I mean, "I see, Tim, that maybe we don't agree or you don't agree with what I just said. Why don't you explain to me what you meant and what part that you disagree with? I'd be very interested in what you have to say." Now, that would probably take care of, if the verbal judo didn't work, going to something like that in combination, maybe with something physical, one or the other or both. So a good question.

Next question. How to deal with a hostile person listening to belligerent rap on their headset? Well, remember in the talk I said you gotta set the rules. When they come in and they sit down and you start to talk to them, or before you start to talk to them, set the rules. "I'm sorry, but if you want to have a good conversation where I can understand what you're talking about and I can address your issues..." Once again, I'm showing I care about them. "I will need you to turn your headset off and put it down on the table just when we're talking because I want to make sure I don't misunderstand anything that you're saying." Once again, a trigger word that's positive. "I don't want to misunderstand anything that you are talking about." So, you know, set the guidelines, and I never let anybody have distractions. I'm in a room, the TV's on. I've gone to people's houses to interview. them. "Ma'am, would you mind turning the TV off while we have a conversation?" You know, it's just setting the rules.

How do you deal with clients who accuse you of not standing up for them or having their best interests? I'm actually dealing right now with an attorney, and it just happened yesterday, who got accused by the client that they weren't standing up for them or having their best interests. And we were involved in the investigation. That is a tough situation, but how do you deal with it? You go back through the scenario of when you met them. And you have to clarify, "When we first met, you said you wanted A, B, and C, and here's what I did." You need to clarify to them everything you did. You need to clarify the results of everything you did.

And then you need to say, "Because of these results, because of these statements, because of this extra witness, because this came up, which neither you nor I knew existed, here was the result of that. And the reason I didn't stand up for you or..." Don't really say didn't stand up for you, "But the reason there was difficulty for us to clarify your side was because of these two things. This one witness really, really damaged your credibility or something." So a simple answer, start from the beginning, review the whole thing, go over and show them what you did do, what happened, what were the points that really hurt them, and tell them, "I always wanted to stand up for you the best that I could." And, you know, once again, it's probably the best you can do, but it's better than saying, "Well, you know, you have the right to whatever."

One last question, how do you handle obvious liars or clearly mentally ill witnesses? Well, liars, what you do is you try to ask questions of what we call detail. You get them to talk about right from the beginning through the middle to the end of the whole incident, their involvement, other people. And you try to get as many statements of fact, or of observation, that you can and you look for conflict. "Well, you said you saw the red car over here, but then later on you said the red car was down the street. Which is it? Why would you say you saw the car in both places?" So once again, details from beginning to end and try to see where you can cross them up. Mentally ill witnesses, I think what we do with mentally ill witnesses is we ask questions that show conflict or not agreeing facts or confusion.

And then what I suggest to law attorneys is, do enough questions, show enough of the confusion or conflict and then out loud say, "I had other questions, but I'm going to stop here because I feel that this witness is totally incapable of understanding and answering the questions related to this case," and then you walk away and you let the witness go. But just clarify that they don't have that ability that you had hoped. It's a soft way to say they're mentally ill. Now, when you say something like that in a court, I think the jury and judge look, and go, "I thought the same thing. This person just doesn't have the ability. How sad, how bad, how whatever, and I think you make your point." So, I'll stop there, Najah, and turn it back over to you.

Najah: Awesome. Thank you so much, Tim, for answering those questions. We actually do have a bunch more questions that if it's okay, I'll send them to you offline. I do apologize that I took it over, but I thought that the questions were questions that needed to be answered at this time. So thank you all for attending, most especially Mr. Dimoff for this presentation and answering the questions. I will be sending the PowerPoint presentation as well as the archived recording tomorrow morning. If you have any questions about anything, feel free to email me. I will be available. And again, this concludes our program for today. Thank you all so much for attending.

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