One of the verbal intervention techniques we talk about in CCG training is the concept of “If this, then that.” (try our cpi certificate or our crisis intervention training) It simply means that should I find myself in a situation where I’m telling somebody, “If you don’t stop this, then that is going to happen,” I need to shut my mouth right then and there. More often than not, when you propose a direction, or an order in that phrasing, it sounds like nothing more than a threat. “If you don’t stop jumping on the couch, I’m going to drop your level.” “If you don’t get up, and come to group, you’re going to lose points.” Time after time, you hear staff talking like that to people with whom they’re working. They’ll say things like, “Sir, if you don’t calm down, you’re going to go to jail. Do you understand? I’m not going to tell you again!”

Well, you might get somebody who responds to that level of authority, and they may back down, but nine times out of ten, it sounds like a threat to the other person. Their usual response? “I don’t care, take my points . . . whatever. I’m not coming to group” or “You’d better call another officer, then, if you’re going to take me to jail, we’re going to make this fun first.” The odds are, the ‘if this, then that’ approach is the wrong one to take in most crisis situaitonssituations.

I encourage you to look at it another way. How many of you reading this speed when you drive? Okay. I’ll admit it, we cops are probably the worst. We speed all the time. So, that being the case, if you answer, “Yeah, I speed,” I would next ask you, “What are the short-term consequences of speeding?” Short-term consequences, think for a second.

Two likely short- term consequences come immediately to mind. 1. Receiving a speeding ticket. 2. Getting in an accident. These are both the short-term consequences. What are the long-term consequences of speeding? Let’s see. If you get a ticket you’ll be charged a fine. You can fight it by going to court, but then have to take a day off work. You could always just pay the fine. In that case you’re going to be out some money. You’ll probably get points on your license, which affects your insurance rates. Too many points on your license, and the DMV gets involved. They eventually catch up and suspend your license. Now you can’t legally drive. All because you were in a big hurry and couldn’t go the speed limit. Those would some of the long-term consequences of speeding.

If you’re dealing with someone who is being difficult, instead of telling them to do something they don’t want to do, stay away from the “if this, then that” type statements. Instead, try to get the other person to think long-term. For example, “Little Johnny, look, I know you want to jump on the couch, but here’s the thing. We have gym later this afternoon, right? You know you have to build up your points to get on the level where you can go to the gym . Come on, man, let’s do this the right way.”

Little Johnny finds that a lot easier to take in. He thinks about it and stops jumping on the couch. He wouldn’t have likely done so if you’d said, “If you don’t get off the couch, than I’m going to drop your level,” or “If you don’t get off the couch, than I’m going to put you in time out.” In both cases, the end result is no gym. However, instead of concentrating on the “right now,” little Johnny is looking forward to the future. He’s looking to the time when he will be able to participate and go to the gym. Choose words and phrases that help alleviate that feeling that the statement is a threat.

Think back to speeding. Most of us don’t want to get a ticket, and we don’t want that short-term consequence. What actually helps slow us down is thinking of the long-term consequences as well, if not more so. Insurance rates, court fines, DMV suspension of license, those are the things we think could be the long-term consequences and keep us from driving down the road at 100 miles an hour. At least that is for me. I do enjoy driving 100 though, and if the only consequence was a little ticket, and nothing long-term, hello NASCAR.