The Power of Words

Don’t tell me that Antoinette Tuff was “unarmed” when she methodically talked gunman Michael Brandon Hill into surrendering without injury or further incident. She was armed alright – with words.

Listen to her on the 911 call. She’s calm and talking constantly on behalf of this troubled young man. This is a long call … over 20 minutes, but that’s the point. The most important this that she does is the very thing that saved everyone from getting hurt. She slows down a process that feels very out of control. She is advocating for the gunman — to get him out of this situation without getting hurt.

Mr. Hill, who is obviously a person in great distress, can hear this stranger arguing for his value as a human being. She is speaking at times forcefully, but also CLEARLY that these things must happen to help him calm down. No helicopters. Tell the officers to back off.

Then she points out to this young man that he has not hurt her, as though she is reminding him that he’s already made a good and humane decision to not shoot her and that he can make more good decisions … and that she will help him do it.

She says “we” a lot … We’re going to get you out of here safe. We’re going to get you through this, and most movingly … “We all go through something in life.”

Toward the end of the call when it’s almost time for the police to come in, she makes a point of telling him she loves him — this stranger who might have killed her — and that she’s PROUD of him for making these good and right decisions.

Who doesn’t need encouragement like this?  Simply using the power of speech to a person in trouble — whether an agitated customer or employee or a family member — and offering the reminder and reassurance that everyone has troubles, we’re all human beings and we all need to be heard and valued.

I don’t just want to applaud Ms. Tuff, I want work for her.


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