The E.R. nurse held a steely-eyed glare as she pummeled me with her first challenging question. She wanted to see me quiver, quake, and then quit. She wanted to hear me suffer, stutter, and stammer. But I held my ground, looked her right in the eye and said . . . , “Oh, we’re not experts on anxiety. Thanks for your question.” I went back to my flip chart and continued to write out the term. Check and mate, or so I thought.
I announced the definition of the behavior to my group and was immediately pounced upon by my biggest challenger. With a look of superiority on her face, she tried to trump the definition I was now writing out and offered her own saying, “I DON’T AGREE WITH YOUR DEFINITION OF ANXIETY! MY DEFINITION IS (BLAH, BLAH, BLAH . . . ).” Her very clinical definition of the behavior was so in-depth that I cannot recall it to this day. But it was a doozy. The other participants looked on at me with eager anticipation of my forthcoming, complete milquetoast reply, practically chomping at the bit to witness the utter meltdown of the instructor. With a smile on my face and growing confidence in my communication skills I enthusiastically replied, “That sounds like a great definition. Thanks!” I then turned back to my flip chart to finish writing.
While I felt that things were going rather well with managing my own behavior, I wasn’t so sure about the nurse. I could feel her eyes burning holes in the back of my bald skull like laser beams. She was clearly trying to push my buttons. Who could blame her? Indeed, I may well have done the very same thing had I been in her position, having worked in that hospital, having had the experiences she had had. I did not take her behavior personally; at the same time; I knew that the learning process wasn’t going to take place until I took care of business. I made the decision to put this puppy to bed. I turned on my heels, caught the nurse’s eye, and said, “Ma’am, it’s not really important that we agree word-for-word on the definition, what is important is that we recognize anxiety as a behavior we can intervene with early so that we can possibly prevent an escalation in crisis behavior. Would you agree with that? Is that fair?”
There are moments in every trainers’ life when time doesn’t just slow down, it stops. When the very next moment will determine how the rest of your day is going to go. When you would rather just quickly dig a very deep hole and cover yourself until the fallout dissipates. Yes, this was one of those. With all eyes in the room upon my angel of mercy, she slowly nodded her approval and replied, “Yeah . . . that’s fair. I would agree.” And with that, she communicated to the rest that as leader of the group, she has decided that the hazing of the instructor from Wisconsin was officially over.
My first supervisor at CPI once gave me a very good piece of advice. He said that I would know I was being an effective instructor once my biggest challengers turned out to be my biggest supporters in the group. In other words, if you practice what you preach you will succeed. If you’re going to talk the talk, you had better walk the walk. People will hold you accountable and nobody likes a hypocrite.
The rest of that training week flew by. I was able to certify ten new instructors in the Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® training program in an environment where it was sorely needed. And that E.R. nurse and I? The hugs and mutual respect and admiration at the end of that training week tell the whole story.
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