In a correctional institution, defiance to the new guy is the norm. This was especially true for me because when I began my career in corrections, I was barely 20 years old and many of the inmates under my charge were older than I was. I remember one of the inmates saying to me, “I don’t have to listen to you, you’re just a kid”.

I don’t quite remember how I dealt with this at the time but it probably was not handled well because it wasn’t too long A number of years later I learned that it was a deflector or word block, a tool to redirect insults or things that push our buttons and make us react in an ineffective or unprofessional manner.before other inmates were being just as defiant and “The Kid” was becoming my unofficial moniker. Needless to say I wasn’t happy about being labeled as such especially when other staff began to joke about it as well. I remember thinking, “They don’t think they have to listen, I’ll just have to show them”. As you can probably guess that didn’t work out too well either. I think the more I tried to show them the more resistive they became.

One of the times when one of them said to me, “You’re just a kid” (They usually pronounced it “keed” which made it even more irritating), instead of reacting how I usually would, I responded, “You’re going to wish you were this young one day”. He immediately snapped back, “You’re not so #!%@ young”. I laughed to myself and thought, how much did I age in the last two seconds? I used that same comment a few more times and lo and behold the harassment eventually stopped and the defiance became less frequent.

A number of years later I learned that Dr. George Thompson identified this as a deflector or word block, a tool to redirect insults or things that push our buttons and make us react in an ineffective or unprofessional manner. Now I use this as a tactic to show others how to deal with difficult people in confrontational situations.

Mike Delvaux
Verbal Defense & Influence Consultant