“Business Safety 101 with a De-escalation Guru” – 91 Days Success Podcast

About Our Guest

John Riley

Gentle Response


[email protected]



We as an all of us have to understand and appreciate that we have all just gone through a really traumatic time. This covid thing, this lockdown thing, this mass thing. A lot of people have been very upset. A lot of people allow themselves to get overly upset and frustrated over situations that they have no control over which added to their frustration.

Unfortunately here we are two years out and people have are on auto. And they’re still lashing out in frustration, anger, and so on. And we need to understand, especially to try to maintain a safe working environment, we got to understand that this person probably is just needs to vent.

They’re going through a lot. I’m not trying to make an excuse for their behavior. I’m just saying that if we make an effort to try to understand where they’re coming, It will help temper our reaction and response.

Hi, and welcome to the 91 Day Success Podcast, where we interview successful business people, learn about their stories, and ask them some fun questions along the way that hopefully can help all of us learn how to be more successful in our businesses along the way. With that, I’m really thrilled today to have John Riley from general response with.

John and I met just about maybe two months ago for the first time. Yeah. And while we’ve never met in person we had a great conversation and I said, Hey John, I really want to get you on the podcast. You can share some things about your business and what you’ve done with that, John, to get us started to introduce yourself to the rest of us that are here and the rest that are listening, can you give us kind of an elevator pitch of who you are and a little bit about your.

Yeah. Good to see you and thank you for the opportunity to chat. Very basically nutshell, jungle Response is a consulting company specializing in very dynamic, realistic conflict deescalation, train seminars through the use of some very realistic scenarios. I have a team of instructor role players all former first responders or law enforcement with decades of experience and a heart and passion for.

And that’s what we do. We go around the country putting on these seminars for churches and business corporations, state agencies, law enforcement. It’s it’s gotten busy lately. I can only imagine. I can imagine. I know, I was just speaking the other day with actually a associate of mine at lunch and his wife worked as a nurse in the hospital and he was sharing with me that even in hospitals, I don’t know if it’s a post covid thing or what, but literally he said there’s so many just mad people.

He’s, for lack of a better description, they’ve had to train the doctors and nurses and the staff how to deescalate because people are on edge, for lack of a better description. Can you tell us a little bit about one, does that fit in with some of the training you? John and I guess particularly in the church model that get started, cuz I found that interesting, but also on the business.

Talk to us a little bit about why is it important that they learn this deescalation training? We as an all of us have to understand and appreciate that we have all just gone through a really traumatic time. This covid thing, this lockdown thing, this mass thing. A lot of people have been very.

A lot of people allow themselves to get overly upset and frustrated over situations that they have no control over which added to their frustration. Unfortunately here we are two years out and people have are on auto and they’re still lashing out in frustration, anger, and so on. And we need to understand, especially to try to maintain a safe working environment.

We got to underst. That this person probably is just needs to vent. They’re going through a lot. I’m not trying to make an excuse for their behavior. I’m just saying that if we make an effort to try to understand where they’re coming from, it will help temper our reaction or response because our automatic ingrained in our dna, n a reaction response to someone who gets loud, rude, obnoxious with us is to react defensively.

Maybe even raises our voice back at them and all that. But in a situation like. That’s only gonna spiral the situation I control because a lot of these people, the vast majority of them, I would dare say, they just want to be validated, affirmed, treated with dignity and respect. It’s very difficult, if not impossible to treat someone with respect when you’re yelling at them.

So we’ve got to be able to just give them that opportunity to just vent. And here’s the other thing, when they’re at a particular emotional, They’re not listening to you anyway, so you trying to get loud and all that, you’re not going, you’re not gonna get to them. So give them that time, that opportunity to bird off some of that energy before you start trying to engage with them.

Because the moment you feel like you have to make your point, you’re gonna start raising your voice, you’re gonna start talking over them, and that’s just gonna make this situation blow up and go off the rails. Really good advice. , I think something that can benefit everybody across the board, whether they’re in a nonprofit situation or whether they’re in a business, commercial, corporate situation.

People wanna be heard prepost. That’s right. Covid, regardless. But especially now with people being a bit more on edge, I think that’s super, super important. So I know one of the questions that I’m gonna get asked very shortly, if not already, is your background, John. Why did you get into this industry?

And can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you became a business owner in the security industry? I will simply say it’s a God moment, but to flesh it out I got my pilot’s license back in the eighties when I was in high school. All I ever wanted to do was fly life happened joined the Army seven years as an infantry grut, went through Desert Storm for some reason.

Didn’t do anything, aviation. Became a police officer here in Grand Rapids in 1996. Road Patrol the whole time retired in 2015. And again, a career in a, excuse me, a career in law enforcement, nothing aviation related. As my career was winding down, I said to myself, you know what, dog Garnet, all I ever wanted to do was fly.

And so I saw myself going into another career just flying businessmen around and started working towards that goal and. In 2016, about a year after I retired representative from our church security, I attend one of the major churches here in West Michigan made a comment to me, asked me if I would consider doing a deescalation class for our security team.

We have a pretty large security team, and it was while putting together that class. That I absolutely was hit with what I would describe as this road, the Damas experience, because as laser focused as I was with an objective, a mission plan to go onto another career field as a charter pilot, I just knew that I knew, and I felt so led, moved and pulled to drop everything and go in this direction and create a training program.

Beginning with churches because that’s where I’d seen a lot of good people, meaning well end up seeing and doing things. I could escalate situations and so I just stepped out in faith. I have a lot of college, but no college degree. I have no idea anything like that, but I knew that I had to do. And so I put together got some business cards made up.

And here I am eight years later with the team and we travel around the country working with churches and by word of mouth alone and just having a social media presence. People reach out to me from all over. We’ve been to New York, we’ve been to Florida Pennsylvania, Indiana. A lot of inquiries west of the Mississippi River, but do the travel expenses and all that.

No one’s pulled the trigger yet, but I know it’s only a matter of time. And I tried to, I had to come up with a business name and I felt led to go to Proverbs 15, one, and I went there and some of the, for a couple translations that I’ve read, they say a soft tone turns away. And I looked at several translations and I’m like, Lord I’m just not seeing my business name here.

And then when I kept being led there and then I found the message translation of Proverbs 15, one, and it says, A gentle response, defuses, anger. And I knew that was my business name because I have seen that folks, a gentle response diffuses. Does it make it easy? Does it make you de, does it help you deescalate a situation just like that?

No, absolutely not. But more likely than not, you will be effective and successful in deescalating a situation if you have a general response in that moment. And so here we are. what, John, I know you specialize in security training and Matt, but as we talked the other day and as I listened to you again,

One of the things that makes me think about is customer service, even from a corporate perspective it’s gotta be an unpleasant position. We’ve all taken calls from clients that were not happy and it seems to me the same things that you’re teaching from a security really would apply there as well, because these are really communication technique.

That help deescalate a situation and whether that’s a customer who’s mad because his french fries came out cold, or whether that’s, in a situation, a true security situation, deescalation is really what you want to do at that point. Deescalation skills is a life. And I emphasize this because even though I started out with church security and so on, it has absolutely evolved and is absolutely applicable to anyone and anything on this planet.

If you are a human being on this planet, you can benefit from this training because you can apply this not just a church or at work, but. To your coworkers family a potential road rage situation developing on you or around you. These are basic life skills. I was having a conversation with some police officers a number of years ago and we were talking about the caliber of young people coming up and wanting to be police officers, good people, but not knowing what they don’t.

And their life has been, it’s all emojis and emoticons and they haven’t really developed people skills. And all of a sudden you throw ’em in a situation where there’s a very dynamic, loud domestic argument going on. And unfortunately these young officers are the ones saying and doing things, I can escalate it.

But at the same time, I have seen McDonald’s managers and other everywhere. YouTube is full of examples of people of all walks of. Handling a stressful, confrontational situation as best they can, but unfortunately, at a certain point, their own stress level in the moment causes them to become offended or frustrated or impatient.

And if you allow yourself to feel any one of those emotions, you are more likely to not to end up saying you’re doing something that escalates it. And YouTube is full of examples of good people, meaning. But end up doing something like pointing a finger in frustration or whatever, raising their voice or squaring off on someone and it just blows up.

I have a video of situations from fast food. In the oral days, a manager or clerk would simply say, it would take three seconds to do this. You know what, I’m sorry. Here’s an extra order of fries. Even. Here’s your money back. Bam. Situation’s over. But now you see these situations and we just had one here to look.

At a, where the Wendy’s here in, in Wyoming, in September of 2022 where the clerks start mouthing off and go and just going crazy and just escalating the situation until it became physically violent. Totally avoidable. And like I said, so anyway, like I said, the deescalation skills that I teach are life skills that are applicable across the board on this planet

It’s so interesting to see these just human conditions that we can deal with and talk to. Let’s go back to the business for a moment. Talk to me a little bit, you said you got started about eight years ago, and obviously you got started with churches, but now I know you do business literally with companies across various parts of the United States.

How did a lot of our viewers are business owners. Share with them a little bit about how did you expand and how did you start getting those clients that obviously didn’t necessarily know you personally? Word of mouth, because these church volunteers would go back to their businesses and they told two people and they told two people, and then they would check out my webpage and social media presence.

And on my YouTube and on social media, I’ll take these, especially in 2020, I got into the habit of grabbing these situations that I see on in the news. And I’ll talk about how deescalation skills, knowledge and techniques would’ve changed the outcome most likely. And so I’ve started throwing that out there.

And so that’s how it just took off from there. Yeah, it just, word of mouth and thank you Lord. I’ve really not made much effort to market myself other than doing what I can or doing the best I can to do a good thing with at our, at these training seminars. And then just having a social media presence.

So this, just from your perspective, John, do you find most of your. Have a security situation first and then go, oh my goodness, we need to train. Or that they are realizing that the likelihood of one of those is greater than it used to be. And it’s really important that we train our team any idea, which is the majority.

You know what, lately, over the last year, two years, I think it’s equal. They’re realizing, people are realizing it’s not just a security thing or customer service per se. It’s just human interaction. A lot of customers, clients are reaching out to me. Actually lately it’s probably been more customer relations, customer services try and the big thing that my team and I try to do, Try to number two things with, in regards to the scenarios, I wanna validate and affirm what people are already doing, right?

Because trust me, there are people that, that are doing things right. They just don’t know it because no one ever came up to you and said, Jonathan, hey, you know what? The next time you are in this situation do exactly that. It may or may not have worked out right now, but I’m telling you, in the long run you keep doing that’s gonna work.

So we want to validate and affirm people what they’re doing, and then talk about some of the things that they may have done in that scenario under stress that they want to be aware of. For example, rolling your eyes. Be careful. Some people have a tendency to wear their emotions and thoughts on their face and you want to be careful about that because you could set a situation.

That much worse. Again, people wanna be treated with dignity and respect them. Seeing you roll your eyes is not making them feel like they’re being treated with dignity and respect. Little things like that. So it yeah, beginning be beginning with security, but lately I think more people reaching out to me yeah, you’re right.

But cu for customer service issues, customer relations, and to give their people a boost of confide. That they are doing it right. It just doesn’t always work out, and that’s something else I try to emphasize to people. It’s not always gonna work. You are gonna have people who just want to be hardheaded and argumentative and fight and stuff like that.

But I try to encourage them and let people know, Hey if you’re doing something right, lo nine times out of 10, or at least in the long run, you’re more likely to be successful and effective and deescalate in this situation, which you gotta give it time. You can’t get impatient. Oh, great advice.

Talk to us a little bit of John not knowing the security industry and those that I do know are more focused on, whether that be. Security protocols and do we arm or not arm our security personnel? And what type of I don’t wanna say weapon or anybody, I can’t think of another word.

Do we have to mitigate a threat? Yours is much more psychological and communication based. How do you stay ahead of the competition and continuously innovate in the secur, in the security? When I’m assuming a lot of your brethren are more focused on the latest and greatest technology and toys, for lack of a better description, again how do you stay up ahead of them focused on the communication side?

I gotta be honest with you, I discovered that not too many people continuously emphasized the basics. Everyone’s worried about the latest bells and whistles, and they lose track of the basics. It doesn’t matter how many tools you have on your belt or how many diplomas you have, or how many schools and seminars you sat through, if you don’t know that you have a tendency to roll your eyes or square off on someone, all that.

Is worthless because you are saying, in doing things, I could escalate a situation. So I have found that for me, my training seminars four and a half hours, five hours long is emphasizing the people over and over again. These basics, it, and if you hear something over and over again it starts to sink in.

You and I, we both still remember, have a coconut. Smile we heard some of these jingles so many times have it your way at Burger King. We can, we could probably still recite a whole lot of stuff that we heard back in the eighties and even in the nineties cuz we heard it so many times.

And so I tell people at my training seminars, there’s a real good chance I am gonna teach you or tell you something you I don’t think I’m gonna teach you anything you have not heard before. You’re just going to hear it from. I am gonna present it differently. I’m gonna tell you life stories and life experience.

I highlight certain teaching points and so on. Okay? Because one of the biggest things that everyone learns as they go through conflict deescalation classes and training, and there’s some good people out there. I boiled it down to the basics, to what I call your ACE card, appearance, communication, engage.

Any class you go to, and even when I went through training and became a certified crisis intervention specialist, that weekend long class validated and affirmed everything that I’m already teaching, and I could boil it down to just those three basic concepts. Your appearance. Do you look condescending, dismissive?

Do you look aggressive? Do you look confrontational yourself because you’re getting defensive at someone else’s behavior. Communication, the words you use, your tone of. How many times have we just got a little bit more uptight just because of the tone of voice someone was using with us, even if they were on the phone?

Is it’s tone of voice engagement. Are you making eye contact, active, reflective listening? All these concepts and basic things are taught at conflict deescalation courses around the country. , but no one teaches it the way I do talking about Ace. And so I try to simplify it. And so that’s how I think I am getting as much notice as I am, not only because of the scenarios, but because I’m trying to keep it very basic and to the point.

Because in a moment, in that moment of a stressful, confrontational situation, you are not gonna be going through your head. The last graph and statistics you saw. You wanna know, what can you say right now in the moment to begin the deescalation process? This makes so much sense and I think, I can see why that message is appealing to potential customers.

It reminds me so much of the high school coach or the college coach, or even the pro coach that took over a new team that was struggling and went back to the basics. Let’s not focus on remembering every unique and. Wild and crazy play, but let’s go focus back on blocking and tackling, making sure that we’ve got that down right.

Because if we do those basics right and we do them better than our competition, chances are we’re gonna win in most of those situations that come up. So yeah, it makes incredible sense. Makes incredible sense. I used to be a photographer. Oh I could, I’m still a photographer, but I used to do weddings and things like that, and I would run into some people and they would brag about their 35 megapixel.

and that seemed to be the big marketing thing. And I would tell people, look, take a breath and slow down because you may have a 35 megapixel camera, but if you don’t know how to focus or you don’t know anything about lighting and all that, you just have a 35 megapixel pixel piece of trash. And so get down to basics lighting for, so in, in that regard.

So in the same way with conflict, deescalation and people skills and communi. Just don’t lose sight of those basics. And I think that my team and I really do a phenomenal job of really emphasizing those points and making the class interesting and engaging. Because Lord knows, and I’m sure you’ve been through some, you go through a day long class and you walk out of there thinking, man, we could have covered this before lunch.

Oh, course. Yeah. Or you spend and or you spend two days and you walk out and you’re like, man, we could have covered this on the first. I’ve been there and I don’t want to be that guy. And so we pack a lot into five hours sometimes more depending on what the client needs. And I keep them moving, I keep them engaged.

And again I use a lot of personal experiences and stories and observations to keep it interesting and to highlight this stuff. Because like you and me talking and all that it’s one thing for us to be talking and I’m sitting here spouting about what the latest graph says, or what the latest textbook says.

But if I tell you what I experienced, what I observed, that makes this podcast interesting. Absolutely. 110%. So no, totally agree. One of the questions I love to ask John, and it’s with the name of our podcast, the 91 Day Podcast. , and this is one that I don’t know that I prepped you for. So if you’re not sure you need him to think, that’s fine, but if, because we’re headed into what most people would agree to some recessionary times, I think there’s gonna be a lot more people looking to start a site hustle, maybe pursue that entrepreneurial bent that they’ve had, like you and I have both done and started a business.

And that if you had to start over, you had no. And somebody gave you a thousand dollars and a laptop and a phone, you didn’t have to worry about food and shelter. You didn’t have to worry about a vehicle, but you had a thousand dollars a phone, and a laptop. What would you do to build a business in the first 91 days?

That’s three months. In the first three months, what would you do to build a business in those first 90?

I, you did comment that, that you would be asking that question and I’ve contemplated that, but, I always came back to this. For me personally, I stepped out in faith because I don’t know what I don’t know. And if you gave me a laptop and a pen and a thousand dollars, I would probably just stare at it because I don’t know, business bag you know what I’m saying?

I just knew that I had to do, and so really in those 91 days I probably would not do anything much different than what I did do was just start making a phone call and saying, Hey, my name’s John. This is what I do. Just slowly. I think if anything, I would encourage people out there, look, if you have a heart and a, a dream and a desire to do something, the big one right there, and I think we’ve all heard this before but it’s different when you’re actually hearing it.

Ignore the haters. Ignore the doubters. Ignore the haters even when they’re in your own family. Cuz like I said, I . Me starting this business was so outta character for the people who knew me and grew up around me. They were supportive, but I knew there was some concern because John doesn’t know business.

Yes. . But when I, but in, in those early days when I heard there were doubters and naysayers and stuff like that from people I used to work with or this negative comments on social media you’ve gotta look past that. You’ve gotta let it. And just continue to hang onto that dream. So really if you gave me all those things, a thousand dollars and a phone and a, a laptop I don’t know that I would do anything different, Jonathan.

It’s cuz I don’t know what I don’t know other than to do what I did before and just step out in faith, and really the word of encouragement I would tell people is just stay focus. Ignore the haters. Trust me, you will develop your tribe your supporters and all that will fall in place.

And give yourself positive affirmations and just let yourself know that you can do it, you’re qualified and so on. So that, that, that’s really, I think the only, that’s the best way I can answer that question then. I think it’s a great one, and I think it really fits in with what you’re doing for your business, John.

Your business is focused on the fundamentals of deescalation. Not on, on doing all the neat, fancy stuff. And what you’re talking about here is really the same thing. And it’s, I think it’s so tru, if you’re going to be starting a business, focus on the basics. Don’t. , don’t worry about, you and I are both avid.

I’ll speak for myself an avid amateur photo. You’ve done more program than I have, I’ve realized that this particular device allows me to take photos and video. Is it as nice as my 35 millimeter mirrorless camera that I love to use? No, it’s not. But at the end of the day, when it comes to my business and creating a video of answering a question for one of my customers, I can do it in 30 seconds on this.

and it will be 95% of everything. It would be if I took the three hours to set up and do it on my DSLR and edit it and everything else. And sticking to the basics in that case is one of many examples allows me to be successful. And I love what you said. It’s the same way I built our company. We picked up the, we identified an audience and we picked up the phone and we called them and introduced our.

and basically said, Hey, this is what we do and how we can make your life better. Do you have any need to make your life better in this way? And they either say, yes, I do, or a lot of them say, no, I don’t. Yep. But you don’t. You need a lot of them to say yes if you’re building a good business, because a few key people that then as you do then that you can leverage for word of mouth and referral.

Can allow you to build as you’ve done an amazingly successful business that serves far more people than what you originally thought you would. I think the other thing I would add that you didn’t add, but I would like to say about you from what I’ve learned about you, you also have the heart of a servant.

You’re trying to serve the people that you work with, and I think that’s a key part of being successful in business, is being focused on the value that you’re bringing to your customer. Not just the money that your customer’s gonna be giving to you, because when you focus on that value, you’re going to be successful.

It reminds me you’re probably not old enough, John, but when I got started in sales, I listened to Zig Ziegler a lot and one of his, yeah. Common things was if you help enough other people get what they want, you can have anything you want. And it’s so true, I think, in business today, and something I would recommend for anybody considering starting up, help people get what they.

And in that process, assuming that’s going to, they’re willing to trade some money for getting them there, you’re going to become successful and probably more successful than any other way that you could have done it. So I, it reminds me there is a biblical verse and of course I didn’t go to preacher school and I can’t remember which verse it is, but it does say something along the lines of put others ahead of yourself.

Don’t do things with vacant. Thinking of yourself. , but put others above your put others above you, and Exactly having that servant servant leadership attitude and that, that heart of a servant I think is very important. I’ve had people make comments to me about how much money I could potentially make and stuff like that.

And I gotta be honest with you, and I’m not just saying this I, that is really not my goal. , I really. They, they’ll ask me to do a po, they’ll ask me to do a webinar or something like that, and it’s I don’t, I can’t because it’s not the same, the quality of the training and stuff like that, even though informational is not the same as what I can do when we do things in person, I’m more interested in being able to make sure that you and your customers, your clients, your personnel, your staff, your volunteers are gonna go home safe.

If you and your people can go home safe, that’s a. There’s a lot of, there’s a huge misconception these days on what deescalation even is or what it looks like. There’s no such thing as a single word or phrase that you can say, or a single thing that you can do that with just deescalated situation. It takes time for that person to come down from whatever emotional spike that they’re at.

You gotta give it time and Even if they walk out the door mad, kick the trash can over, you went home safe, that’s a win. Hopefully they go away, they calm down, come back, apologize. And a lot of times they’ll come back and apologize for their behavior. Hey, you know what? I’m really sorry. I was really upset.

Kids did something in school and I was just taking that on you. I’m sorry. Again, recognize that the people that you deal with, they’re probably dealing with something. And this is something I emphasize in all my classes especially with my church clients. But there is not a single thing any of these people who are upset, loud, rude, obnoxious.

There’s not a single thing they’re going through that you haven’t in some way you may have a better support system. You may have better stress management, you may have a better relationship with God, but the point is you’ve been where they’re at. You’ve had issues with bills and family and coworkers and covid and masks, blah, blah, blah.

You’ve been. So give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they are being loud, rude, and obnoxious, but dogone it. You can’t tell me, Jonathan, that you have not in your lifetime, been talking to someone and just wanted to smack the lips off their face. We’ve all been there with Bar, absolutely been there, right?

And so give this person the benefit of the doubt. They’re just going through something and they just need someone to listen to. And if you have ever said to yourself, Lord, here I am. Send me bam. There you are. Just listen to this individual for a little bit. That’s all you need to do, and chances are good, it will work out and you’ll be very successful and effective in deescalating that situation.

Well, John, I wanna thank you for your time today and what you shared. I think it’s a very valuable message for everyone, business leader or not. That’s listening. Obviously we’re gonna display your website information and your contact information so anyone’s interested can reach out to you. But just as we wrap up here, what would you recommend?

If somebody says, wow, you know what? This general response stuff, this really resonates with me and I think it would benefit my church, my business, whatever. What should they do to learn more about how you can help them? I point people to my YouTube page because there they will see a whole number of little videos I’ve made from different training seminars and all that.

They will give them a real good idea of what a training seminar looks like and sounds like. They’ll get a feel for how I present. They’ll get a feel for what their personnel and their staff will go through and get out. But then again, I have a social media presence. So whatever your favorite platform is, you can find me.

I’m throwing little blurbs here and there there’s gonna be something for everyone. And then again, you can always call or email me directly, John at gentle hype and response.com. And I’m more than happy to, to go over things with you and so on. Awesome.

I so appreciate your time. It’s been an absolute pleasure and thank you. I look forward to one of these days since we actually both live in the same town. Yeah. And a chance to catch up over lunch of coffee, so Absolutely. Absolutely. All right. Make it a great day, John. Thank you. You too. Be blessed.

Thank you.