It is critical for all trainers and especially those training law enforcement professionals to understand the power of words. It is not just semantics. It is often the difference between programming officers for success or for failure. In some cases it can be the difference between life and death.
Imagine yourself in a violent confrontation with a person who is intent on killing you. Do you want to survive, or do you want to win? Every single officer I have asked this question has said that they want to win. Why, because there is a different image that comes to mind when you imagine winning and when you imagine surviving. Surviving for many people is defensive in nature. Winning brings to mind images of being offensive in nature, taking the attack to the subject and prevailing in the confrontation.
Words have power because they create images in our mind. Those images trigger emotions, which in turn effect our physiology. Now ask yourself. Are you training your officers to win, or to survive? Are you talking about winning in training or are you still talking about survival? Are you still teaching officer survival, or are you teaching officer safety with an emphasis on winning?
Some of you right now are reading this and saying to yourself, or out loud ‘Bullshit’. I have been trained to survive and taught officer survival and I won fights I was in. It is just words and they mean the same thing. They may mean the same thing to YOU, but do they mean the same thing to all of the officers you train? When you talk about surviving do ALL of you officer imagine winning? I doubt it. After training law enforcement officers for the past 19 years I can guarantee you that the two words do not mean the same thing. In fact, go back to the start of this blog entry. When I asked you would you rather survive or win did you say “It doesn’t matter. They are the same thing.” or did you answer “I want to win.”
The point to remember is this. When we are at the front of the room teaching, we are there to ensure we do the best job possible for the officers. If one officer out of an entire class believes that survival is defensive in nature and is therefore not programmed to win, it is one too many. If we can make a simple, but powerful change to our language to ensure a greater likelihood that our officer will perform at the highest levels then we have no excuse not to make the change. We owe it to our officers and their families, our peers and their families, our friends, our families and our citizens to do change our language. We owe it to all these people because those are the people our officers are entrusted to protect.
Still not convinced. Answer this question honestly “If the person you love the most in this world is attacked by a violent criminal, and you had a choice in how the event unfolded, would rather they survived or would you rather that the person you love the most in this world won that violent confrontation?”
If you said that you would rather they win, then please change your language in training and talk about winning. If you said it doesn’t matter, then please give serious consideration to why you are involved in training.