Using Tai Chi and Judo to Collect Money in 6 Debtor Situations

On June 10th, 2018, posted in: Blog by

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Too often I hear collectors Kung-Fu fighting with their customers. Each side hitting the other with verbal reasons about paying and not paying. Often it degenerates into nasty arguments and terminated calls. Some collectors will say, “Well, I taught him a lesson.” The problem is that collectors aren’t paid to teach lessons.  They are paid to collect money and help customers out of negative situations.

So, I try to avoid Kung-Fu and instead use Tai Chi and Judo. These techniques are quick and easy and they have helped me collect money. I will share six debtor situations that work well with Tai Chi and Judo.

Let’s start with the Tai Chi Technique

Tai Chi is pushing the problem back to the customer to get their solution. It’s asking for their input since  no one argues with their own ideas. Influencing experts call this ‘consulting’.

Situation 1: Debtor rejects everything you propose:

·       Response: “Mr./Ms. Customer, what do you suggest to bring your account back to current status?” I then shut up and listen.


Situation 2: Debtor gives you an odd, crazy, or convoluted payment excuse and your brain goes absolutely blank. Tai Chi is useful when you don’t know what else to say. It buys you time.

·       Response: “Thanks for sharing that Mr. / Ms. Customer. What do you suggest to bring your account back to current status?”

Situation 3: Debtor explains a complicated dispute and won’t pay until it’s resolved.

·       Response: “Thanks for taking the time to understand this matter. What do you suggest to solve this matter and bring your account back to current status?” Once you get their solution and repayment ideas, you can get back to negotiating.


Judo Technique

I use Judo when I want to use the customer’s own words or facts against him / her. You’re basically setting a logic trap. Psychologists tell us that humans have a need to appear consistent in their beliefs and words (although our actions are often inconsistent). It’s like a computer system. We all have our own internal O/S (operating system) and we want to live our lives according to that O/S. And when we don’t, we have an uncomfortable feeling of inconsistency. We will then try to return to consistency.

It’s like the old sci-fi movies where the good guys try to out-smart an evil robot with its illogical logic until finally the robot shouts, “It does not compute!” and self-destructs. The good guys win.

Judo is a great psychological tool you can use in your collection tool box. It works especially well on ‘major life change’ payment excuses like:

·       Car accident

·       Hospitalized

·       Jobless

Note: In situations 4 and 5, I will start with Judo and end with Tai Chi.

Situation 4: Debtor is (4) months overdue. S/he says, “I can’t pay. I just had a car accident / became hospitalized / lost my job.”

Put on your JUDO suit and follow these steps:

Step 1: Show empathy. The word I usually use is ‘sorry’. Maybe even ask if they are OK?

Step 2: Ask ‘when?’ “When was the car accident / hospitalized / lost your job?”

Step 3: PRAY that the debtor says it was recent. E.g. customer says, “Last week.”

Step 4: Act confused and Judo the excuse. “Mr. / Ms. Debtor, you said your car accident / hospitalization / lost job was last week, but this account hasn’t had a payment for (4) months. What’s happening?” (Debtor will start feeling uncomfortable due to his/her inconsistency with the earlier excuse).

·       Warning: DO NOT JUMP ON THE DEBTOR! This is Judo, not Big Time Wrestling. I’ve heard gangster collectors respond with, “Last week???!! But there hasn’t been a payment for 4 months!” Then a Kung-Fu fight breaks out and no payment is received. Instead, act confused.

Step 5: Welcome the reason for default (RFD). Say something like, “Thank you / I appreciate you sharing that with me.” You may also have to say ‘sorry’ if there is a sad story involved.

·       Warning: Whatever you do, don’t judge, teach, or laugh at the reason. Your debtor is finally sharing the true RFD. You should welcome the truth no matter how unpleasant it might be to you.

Step 5: End with Tai Chi: “So, Mr. / Ms. Debtor, what do you propose to bring your account back to current status.” Now, shut up and listen as the debtor tries to return to consistency.


Situation 5: Debtor is (4) months overdue and continually pays only one installment at the end-of-the-month. You call and s/he says, “Stupid collector. Bodoh! Why do you keep calling me? You’re harassing me. Can’t you check your damn system before calling? I ALWAYS pay at the end of the month. Alamak!”

Step 1: Show empathy and agree. “I’m sorry Mr./Ms. Debtor if I upset you. And yes, I do see that you make a payment at the end of the month. And thank you for that.”

Step 2: Act confused and Judo the excuse. “But wait, I’m looking here and I see that there wasn’t a payment at the end of the month for November, and another in June, and also in January. Why was that?” (Debtor will start feeling uncomfortable due to his/her inconsistency with the earlier excuse).

Step 3: Welcome the reason for default (RFD). Give empathy if required. “I’m sorry about that and thank you for sharing that with me.”

Step 4: End with Tai Chi: “So Mr. / Ms. Debtor, what do you suggest to pick up those missing payments to get your account back to current status and stop these collection calls?” Now, shut up and listen as the debtor tries to return to consistency.

Situation 6: Debtor is tough. (6+) months overdue. You’ve tried to help him / her. Failed. You used Tai Chi to ask what the debtor wants and s/he either goes blank or gives you an unfair offer. Again, failed.

Step 1: Now, ask this question. “Mr. / Ms. Customer, you do want to resolve this, right?”

·       Whatever the response, you win. If s/he says, “NO.” Then you don’t have to waste your time on the account. Do not pass ‘Go’. Send it straight to collection agencies or legal. But, usually the response is, “Yes.”

Step 2: Resume looking for payment solutions and when s/he rejects your proposals, Judo the earlier statement. “Mr. / Ms. Customer, you told me you want to resolve this, but now you are throwing up obstacles every time I’m trying to resolve it. What’s going on?” (Debtor will start feeling uncomfortable due to his/her inconsistency with the earlier statement).

Step 3: Welcome their response, but now you must decide if the debtor really wants to settle this or not. If not, at least you tried. We don’t win them all. But if they start to make OK counter-proposals you can continue to Judo the earlier statement until you get to a win-win arrangement.


Tai Chi and Judo have helped me collect a lot of money. Please share your collection tweaks, tips, and techniques that help you. Together we conquer.

Collecting Creatively,

Steve Coyle

Author of Debt Collections: Stir-Fried or Deep-Fried? An American based in Malaysia since 1995. President of the training company ServiceWinners International Sdn. Bhd.



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