You’re a high school freshman who had just finished basketball practice.
You go into the locker room to change and suddenly, you find yourself face-to-face with the biggest kid on the team.
As you stand there frozen in fear, the words, “I’m gonna beat you up!”, ring from the kid’s mouth across the room.
There are no witnesses nearby, you cannot escape or fight back, what do you do?
Like most kids my age, I thought that these scenarios only happened in the 90s or movies. It just seemed too unrealistic and coincidental to actually occur.
However, that belief changed a few weeks ago when I had the opportunity to catch up with an old friend.
His name was Elijah.
Elijah told me that he grew up being an underdog his whole life. He had been bullied in some fashion throughout all his teenage years and got to experience scenarios where he was seconds away from getting beaten up.
When I asked him how he dealt with such situations, he said, “I defused it with my words.”
Right away something came across my mind:
Hey, this sounds kind of familiar… it’s almost like what FBI Crisis Negotiators do…
Eventually, my curiosity peaked, and I asked him to show me how he defused a situation like that. I roleplayed as the bully, and he was the victim.
“I’m gonna beat you up!”, I yelled.
He replied with, “It seems like something’s upsetting you…”, which is the FBI’s labeling technique.
This sparked some more curiosity because I didn’t remember teaching him that, but I progressed. “Nothing’s upsetting me! I just want to beat you up!”
But Elijah wouldn’t budge.
Instead he asked, “How is that going to help you?” – an FBI style open-ended question delivered with the voice that negotiators use to talk to terrorists
“I’m going to feel better about myself!”, I screamed back.
As seconds that felt like minutes passed, he gave me a compassionate glance and let out the words, “Minson, you are the best player on our team. Many people, including me, look up to you. I care for you and can sense that something is wrong, so I want to help you.” – Bam! The FBI’s Naming and “I” Message technique.
Then it hit me.
A kid who had never trained in negotiation for a minute in his life was showcasing high-level Crisis Negotiation skills that he learned through the experiences of trying not to get beat up.
This was insane.
I had never met someone my age and outside of my team who was so emotionally intelligent. Elijah could identify and regulate his own and other’s emotions with an incredibly high success rate.
Last week, I got the opportunity to interview him for a podcast episode. If you check it out, you will see that he tells a real-life story about a bullying situation that happened in 7th grade and how he diffused it. We also did a roleplay similar to the one you just read about.
The link is here.
Otherwise, so far, Elijah is the youngest “Crisis Negotiator” I have ever met. He was an expert at getting out of situations where he was seconds from being sent to the hospital.
If you want are interested, then feel free to take a look at our Counseling Packages, where either you OR your kids can learn what to do when another human approaches with their fists up ready to fight.