Top defence tip from Dr No

Dr No - looking suitably evil


When you’re attacked – verbally or physically – you want techniques you can use quickly, without fuss.

Luke Archer, founder of Verbal Aikido, is coming back to London on July 14th 2023 to run one of his rare in-person classes.

This is one of the fastest and simplest verbal defences that he teaches. I call it Dr No and it has three steps.

Step One: you centre yourself. Take a breath and ground yourself.

Step Two: you say “No.” Simply. Without being either aggressive or fearful/

Step Three: you pause. Wait. Say nothing for at least seven seconds. If necessary, you can add “Tell me more.”

But don’t be tempted to argue or explain.

As I say, I like to call it the “Dr No” technique. (He calls it the “Centred No”. But maybe he’s not into Bond movies as much as I am).

Playing with No

Here’s an example. Someone says to you, “That’s a ridiculous idea you just suggested.” Or “Are you as stupid as you look?”

You could get fired up and shoot back, “Not as ridiculous as yours,” or “It takes one to know one.” And you’ll feel good for as long as it takes for the argument to escalate out of control.

Or you could take a breath, centre yourself and calmly say, “No.” And wait.

Try it. It’s remarkably powerful. The very calmness of the reply, and the following silence, is designed to destabilise an attack. Leaving the attacker off-balance. Expecting a full-on argument, he has now to rethink.

Dr Yes

Sometimes, it will be more appropriate to deliver a centred “Yes.” It will have just as strong an effect.

Or a centred “Maybe.” Even a centred “I don’t know” can be enormously effective. Few people are confident enough to admit when they don’t have an answer.

A physical No

A centred “No” can also be effective in a physical situation.

I find it best to hold my hands out in front of me. Not aggressively, but establishing a clear boundary. A visual barrier that’s psychologically more difficult to cross.

By staying calm, not arguing, and being ready to listen, you have a good chance of defusing any tension.

What next?

Of course, a verbal or physical attack may not stop there. It will probably be less forceful, but not necessarily entirely finished.

If things continue, I recommend leaving the scene, if that’s possible. If not, then you can repeat your centred “No”. Most attacks fizzle out after three “No”s (or “Yes”s or “Maybe”s)

If not, then you’ll probably need a few more techniques.

Conquer your fear of conflict
Verbal Aikido Evening Workshop – Friday July 14th 2023

Luke Archer founder of Verbal Aikido

The good news is that Luke runs regular online courses in Verbal Aikido, where he will train you in his full range of verbal self-defence. They run in school term times, starting September, January and April.

And if you can’t wait, he’s coming to London for a workshop in person on Friday July 14th. If you live close to London, snap it up. This is a rare visit, and places are very limited.

7.30pm in our Hampstead Dojo, London NW3

Fully booked. Booking now closed