Complete Guide To Dealing WIth Difficult, Angry, Aggressive And  Abusive Customers

Learn what to say, when to say it and stay stress free, safe, and professional under pressure

What Is Verbal Self-Defense?

Verbal Self-Defense is a term coined by psycholinguist and author Suzette Haden-Elgin in a series of books. Drawing from traditional psychology and linguistics, and from the works of George Miller and Virginia Satir, the idea is simple: Use what the verbally abusive or manipulative person is doing to minimize becoming a viction of verbal-abuse.

Applying Verbal Self-Defense To Customers

While George Thompson's work (Verbal Judo) applies directly to interacting with "customers", Verbal Self-Defense techniques, as described by Haden-Elgin need to be "translated" since they don't specifically address customer situations.

Robert Bacal has adapted the many techniques defined by Haden-Elgin, and applied them to customer situations, and has been teaching people, through his books, and seminars, to use them effectively.


Haden-Elgin published a number of books on the topic (see below). While there is a lot of overlap among the books, they are highly recommended, although one has to pay attention since the writing style is a bit of a challenge.

Verbal Self Defense Books By Suzette-Haden Elgin are available here for purchase via amazon.

Books by Robert Bacal Applying Verbal Self Defense Techniques To Customers are also available on amazon

 List of Verbal Self Defense Books

  • The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense (1980),
  • More on the Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense (1983), 
  • The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense Workbook (1987)
  • The Last Word on the Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense (1987),
  • Language in Emergency Medicine (1987), 
  • The Gentle Art of Verbal Self Defense (Paperback; 1988; Barnes & Noble), 
  • Growing Civilized Kids in a Savage World (1989)
  • The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense for Business Success (1989),
  • Success with the Art of Verbal Self-Defense (1989), 
  • Staying Well with the Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense (1990),
  • GenderSpeak (1993), 
  • The Gentle Art of Written Self-Defense (1993),
  • The Gentle Art of Written Self-Defense Letter Book (1993),
  • Language in Law Enforcement (1993),
  • Linguistics & Science Fiction Sampler (1994)
  • Mastering the Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense (1995-05; Unabridged; audio-cassette);
  • BusinessSpeak (1995), 
  • "You Can't Say That To Me!" (1995),
  • The Gentle Art of Communicating with Kids (1996),
  • How to Disagree Without Being Disagreeable (1997-03; Wiley), 
  • How to Turn the Other Cheek and Still Survive in Today's World (1997), 
  • The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense at Work (2000-01-19; Second Edition; Prentice Hall), 0
  • The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense: Revised and Updated (2009),

Search Our Site:

Help Us By Sharing

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Digg it! Send FAQ to a friend PDF version Print this record

Records in this category

Sticky FAQs