When participants come to a training event for their first time, they often approach the class with a certain amount of apprehension. When they learn the event is interactive both physically and non-physically, the discomfort may increase. Often humor is used to deal with this feeling of discomfort. Unfortunately the humor, intended to be playful, can sometimes become problematic.

Instructors need to be mindful of the use of humor. The training event needs to be feel relaxed in order for people to feel safe and engage. People who feel safe and secure are more likely to achieve. When people come to the event, especially with their peers, joking and horse play often occurs in an attempt to relax. Unfortunately the statements are sometimes sarcastic and stories are shared that are meant to be humorous but in fact may be derogatory. Examples of issues that come up in class include:

• Derogatory comments describing situations experienced with individuals receiving services or peers
• Name calling or teasing of peers
• Statements that imply use of coercion or physical force (in the absence of an emergency)
• Describing physical techniques as shoving or pushing

While the individuals involved in the discussion may understand and be comfortable with the joking, remember others have their RADAR on and may over hear the discussion. They may misunderstand and wonder, “If that’s how you treat that person, how might you treat others?”

While the behavior or statement may be understood and even humorous in the context of the event, how would the statement come across in a different setting? Imagine being questioned by a third party, perhaps in a disciplinary action or court of law, and those statements are repeated. If you were asked, how would you justify certification of the individual who made those statements?

This became clear when I was honored to have someone from a state’s district attorney’s office, attend my event. He learned about The Mandt System during an investigation he was involved in. He attended the event to learn what was being taught. He became certified to train other employees in the investigation office. During the classes, as comments were made or certain words were used, he would occasionally (with empathy and humor) provide reality orientation, questioning, how would those statements come across in the context of an investigation?

Your students may be able to pass both the written and physical tests, but during the class they must also demonstrate consistent application of the concepts, particularly the foundational principle of treating everyone with respect and dignity. You should consistently apply that standard in the determination of whether or not to certify each individual. You must be in a position to defend the decision if questioned.

If you would not feel comfortable defending a behavior or statement if questioned, you should intervene when it occurs and explain why. If you give your students the reason behind the request, instead of being perceived as stuffy or controlling, in my experience you will be perceived as caring and trying to keep people safe. The concepts of ‘Dignity and Respect’ as taught in the Mandt System program are intended to cover our words and actions.

Aaryce Hayes – SVP Operations