Challenged On Arrival

By Dan Lonigro | Posted on 12.15.2009 | 0 comments

One of the requirements for participants to be certified to teach the Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® course is to pass a comprehensive, written final exam. One of the last questions on the exam queries the exam taker to describe one method they would use to deal with a challenging question from one of their own participants. This was an area that I struggled with at the beginning of my employ as a Professional Staff Instructor. I can only imagine that our participants may have even more of a challenge as they are instructing people whom they know. There’s an old saying that familiarity breeds contempt and that can often lead to less-than-stellar behavior while facilitating. While usually not a problem for me because I am training people I don’t know, it can be problematic for many Certified Instructors. However, I’ve had my fair share of challenging questions in the past.


While New York City can be one of the most exciting and interesting cities on earth, there are certain sections that I would prefer to avoid altogether. A few years ago I was conducting an in-service training for hospital staff in one of those sections. The area surrounding the hospital was full of buildings that were unoccupied and in a serious state of decay. Whole sections of the neighborhood had been torn down completely. Crime was rampant as was homelessness. This part of the city did not foster feelings of safety and one did not feel very secure when there. I felt bad for the community and sympathized with the staff who was employed at the hospital which just happened to be the only bright spot in this section of the city. Having said that, the hospital was in need of improvement on almost every level.


The day I arrived for the training I was given; a three legged easel that had one leg shorter than the other two, a flipchart “pad” that had about four and a half sheets of which three had already been written on, a yellow highlighter that I was expected to use as a marker and a training room that was about the size of a large walk-in closet. The cockroaches outnumbered my participants and I knew I was in for a long week.


As the participants filed in I heard mumbling and grumbling. One of the loudest was from an emergency room nurse. This was a woman who on any given day would deal with gang-bangers in the emergency room, knifings and stabbings, multiple gunshot wounds, drug-crazed patients and threats from patient family members among other things. I later found out that this woman, before she immigrated to the United States, had been a trauma nurse on the battlefields of the Middle East. Talk about life experience! She was not going to let “suit and tie boy” (me) tell her how to do her job and that was exactly what she was telling me with her attitude. Her nonverbal behavior spoke volumes about what she thought of me and it was clear she wanted to let me know. Her verbal behavior was none too pleasing either. I prepared myself for the challenging questions that I knew were sure to blossom as I dove into the training process.


The introductory remarks and pre-training activities were met with stony silence and less than enthusiastic vibes from my group. The smirks and scornful laughs were not helping any either. I was not feeling the love despite my positive energy. I felt that my attempts to energize and motivate the group were actually backfiring as if they perceived my communication with them was not genuine. I toned it down as I continued with the first lecture. It was not long before I got my first challenging question. I turned to face the area from where I heard the question and locked eyes with none other than the E.R. nurse. With a contemptuous tone she barked her question at me. “WHAT MAKES YOU PEOPLE EXPERTS ON ANXIETY?!!” I immediately identified her verbal behavior as a challenging question and took a deep breath before I replied.


Does our hero fold under the pressure? Will he meet his doom in the training room? Can he be saved by the cockroaches that are rooting for him? Find out with the next exciting edition of “Challenged On Arrival!”

Learn more about behavior management techniques.


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