By Dr. Suzette Haden Elgin


Peacetalk 101 is my attempt to present the most basic information about
verbal self-defense in a narrative (rather than a self-help) format; the
book is a Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense novel. (A very short novel in
these days of 800-page blockbusters -- just under 100 pages long.)

Some of my GAVSD trainers have had very good results using the book with
groups, usually by having people take turns reading sections aloud for
discussion; I'm very pleased to have it used that way. It's also possible
to use it as the basis for a workshop or seminar; my suggestion for a
handout (to be re-formatted in any way you like) follows below, together
with some rough notes to help with the presentation.

For more information about the book, and a free mini-workbook, please see
the Peacetalk 101 homepage at


a seminar by Suzette Haden Elgin




1. Rule One -- Pay attention.

2. Rule Two -- Reject preconceptions.
A. Listening
B. Using Miller's Law

3. Rule Three -- Stay in tune.
A. Using the Sensory Modes
B. Body language matching

4. Rule Four -- Take no bait.
A. Hostility loops
B. Verbal Attack Patterns (VAPs)

5. Rule Five -- Preserve face.
A. Boring Baroque Response
B. As you know...

6. Rule Six -- Choose your metaphors.

7. Rule Seven -- Trust your inner grammar.
A. Identifying metaphors
B. Using metaphors

8. Rule Eight -- Choose your communication goals.
A. Identifying your communication goals
B. Using three-part messages

9. Rule Nine -- Avoid lies.
A. Truth in body language
B. Saying something true

10. Rule Ten -- Anything you feed will grow.
A. Using the Satir Modes, continued
B. Verbal Attack Patterns, continued

11. Rule Eleven -- Real love is always unconditional.
A. Compassion
B. Detachment

12. Rule Twelve -- Joy is the skill of skills.
A. Putting it all together
B. Conclusion

About this seminar.......

Much of literature revolves around Great Tragedies, and the media tend to
focus on them too. Famine and pestilence and war; drownings and
decapitations and hangings; blizzards and earthquakes and tornados;
unspeakable skeletons tumbling out of the closets and wrecking families.
Disasters, and catastrophes. The impression we get is that these are the
things that drive people over the edge. But evidence in the real world
doesn't bear that out. The evidence is very clear: What really gets to
people isn't Great Tragedies but the spirit-hammering that goes with living
an ordinary life. It's not the tragedies that destroy people, most of the
time, it's the hassles. That's the bad news, since many of us escape
disasters and catastrophes, but none of us can escape hassles. The good
news is that a very high percentage of those hassles have their source in
language and are fixable. Peacetalk 101, and the Peacetalk 101 Seminar,
explain how this is done.

Copyright © Suzette Haden Elgin 2003
Duplication and distribution permitted provided credit is given

[end of seminar handout]


Rule 1 -- Pay attention. (LISTENING; MILLER'S LAW)
(story -- the blind bear) -- pp. 6-7

NOTE FOR SEMINAR: This goes with listening, and with Miller's Law; be sure
it's clear that unless you pay attention to people who are trying to
communicate with you nothing else you do is going to work. Paying attention
is the first and most crucial rule -- you can't manage without it.

Rule 2 -- Reject preconceptions. (LISTENING; MILLER'S LAW)
(story -- the little girl who plants things and -- told that they won't
grow -- doesn't water them, and they don't grow) -- pp. 14-15

NOTE FOR SEMINAR: Talk about leaping to conclusions -- tie to Miller's Law;
talk about self-fulfilling prophecies and being careful not to teach them
to other people.

Rule 3 -- Stay in tune. (USING THE SENSORY MODES)
(story -- the rooster that concludes that the other animals can't talk) --
pp. 20-21

NOTE FOR SEMINAR: Teach the technique of using the Sensory Modes; also talk
about matching in body language: being careful not to stand too close/too
far from people; being careful not to talk too loudly or too softly; being
careful not to talk too quickly or too slowly; and so on.

(story -- the turtle with a bad attitude that can't resist taking the bait
even when it knows the result will be a disaster) -- pp. 28-29

NOTE FOR SEMINAR: For the VAPs, teach the "If you REALLY (X), you
wouldn't/would (Y)..." and "WHY don't you ever/WHYdo you
always..."patterns, and how to respond to them. For the Satir Modes, teach
the Blaming and Placating loops, and how to avoid them.

Rule 5 - Preserve face. (BORING BAROQUE RESPONSE; AS YOU KNOW....)
(story -- the little boy who draws a picture for his father) -- pp. 33-34

NOTE FOR SEMINAR: Talk about the fact that negative content in a message
doesn't have to have a negative shape; there's almost always a way to say
something that's positive but still truthful. Teach the Boring Baroque
Response; explain that it preserves face when you begin with "As you

Rule 6 - Choose your metaphors. (METAPHORS)
(story -- the woman in a blizzard who perceives it as a disaster but then
goes on camping trip and perceives it as fun) -- p. 40

NOTE FOR SEMINAR: What causes dangerous stress isn't the stimulus, it's
your perception of the simulus -- as in the story. Talk about how metaphors
drive what we do, as preparation for Rule 7.

Rule 7 -- Trust your inner grammar. (METAPHORS, CONTINUED)
(story --the donkey that tries to make friends with a pig) -- pp. 45-46

NOTE FOR SEMINAR: Talk about metaphor clash -- Life is Football versus Life
is a Schoolroom. Talk about stepping into someone's metaphor, choosing a
role, then following the script. Talk about avoiding destructive metaphors
like "my job is a killer" and "my spouse is a big baby."

Rule 8 -- Choose your communication goals. (THREE-PART MESSAGE)
(story -- the teenager who won't make her bed) -- pp. 54-55

NOTE FOR SEMINAR: Explain that if all you want to do is get your feelings
off your chest, it doesn't matter much what you say as long as it achieves
that goal. But if your goal is to change behavior, you need a three-part

Rule 9 -- Avoid lies. (LYING; BODY LANGUAGE)
(story -- the bumblebee that spends the whole day lying about its feelings)
-- pp. 61-62

NOTE FOR SEMINAR: Explain how body language will betray you if you lie, and
that there's almost always something true that you can say instead, so that
the mismatch won't happen; explain why you might want to say "You can't
tell which way the train went by looking at the tracks." Explain how people
often end up in dreadful (and painful) messes because they've lied and they
don't know how to take the lie(s) back.

Rule 10 -- Anything you feed will grow. (SATIR MODES; VERBAL ATTACK
(story -- the two women who have a lunch date) -- pp. 68-69

NOTE FOR SEMINAR: Go back to the Satir Modes and hostility loops; talk
about Leveling loops and Computing loops. Talk about the scripts that go
with the VAPs, and how the attacker has to be fed the necessary lines if
the fight is to grow.

Rule 11 -- Real love is always unconditional. (COMPASSION; DETACHMENT)
(story -- the widow with the prodigal daughter) -- pp. 75-76

NOTE FOR SEMINAR: Explain that most of the time, when you truly understand
why someone you love does the things he/she does, you can achieve
compassion and detachment and go right on loving them. Most love-killing
disagreements result from communication breakdown. The only way you can
understand others is to be sure that there's wholesome communication
between you.

Rule 12 -- Joy is the skill of skills. (SUMMING UP)
(story -- Henry's story) -- pp. 97-98

NOTE FOR SEMINAR: Explain that although you can't voluntarily be joyful,
you can voluntarily rejoice. Part of that is establishing and maintaining a
wholesome language environment, free of hostility loops and downers; part
of it is maintaining successful communication with those around you; part
of it is understanding what's going on; part of it is paying attention;
part of it is finding positive metaphors to replace negative ones; part of
it is just knowing your own language competence. And it's important --
because emotions, whether positive or negative, are contagious.

Copyright © Suzette Haden Elgin 2003

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