Imagine for a second that you walk into a meeting or classroom and as you enter the room you are asked to choose between two large nametags that you will have to wear for the rest of the day. One of the nametags says “Stupid” and the other says “Behavior Problem”. Which would you choose?

When I ask this question in my workshops, it is rare that anyone chooses stupid. Most of us would rather be seen as behavior problems as opposed to being viewed as dumb. This is no different for the people that we serve.

I recently read this joke on Facebook, “My teacher pointed at me with his ruler and said: At the end of this ruler there’s and idiot! I got detention after asking which end.”

While this joke makes me chuckle a bit, it also reminds me of a dynamic in our service settings between staff and people served where staff interact with their clients in a way that makes them feel dumb. While this is not something that most staff intend to do, in my experience it happens quite often. One of the most common situations where I have seen this occur is when a client provides the wrong answer when asked a question. Are we conscious of how we respond in these situations so we maintain a persons dignity and treat them respectfully?

The University of Michigan’s Center for Research on Learning and Teaching has a page about handling wrong answers. If you’re interested, you can check it out at this link.

Let’s all keep working on ways to help the people that we serve feel safe and respected in our service settings.

Doug ZehrVogt, Mandt Faculty