Hartford: Biscuits and Gravy

Made it to Hartford, Connecticut and completed a Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® training with a lucky group of 13. The participants were from various human service backgrounds ranging from health care and education to residential and substance abuse centers. The hotel was mostly empty however, revealing the sad state of the economy. Yet, the hotel staff here was some of the best I’ve come across. Kudos to all people in customer service who forge ahead despite the uncertainties of the business environment!


The first day of the program was not unusual except for a discussion that has never come up before during my trainings. We had just finished Unit 3 talking about how important it is to monitor your paraverbal communication. How tone, volume and cadence can influence peoples’ behavior. One of the participants asked for CPI’s take on using familiarities with those that are served by human service providers. Familiarities like (baby, hon, sweetheart, dear,) as in, “Did the doctor see you yet, hon?” I replied that CPI did not have any formal lecture pieces regarding that issue.


No sooner had I finished that comment than a participant in the program stated that it was crossing a boundary to use those types of terms of endearment. I agreed with him that that could possibly be the case depending on the circumstances present. We actually had a very robust discussion about the pros and cons of using terms like those in the workplace. I then added that it might be considered an invasion of personal space (Unit 2 Proxemics) depending on the person who was being addressed.


There were basically two different viewpoints in the group. One perspective was that it was OK to use terms like those depending on the environment, activity, user of the term, receiver of the term, etc. The other was that it was never OK to use phrases like that under any circumstances. I mentioned that culture was a strong factor. After all, many people in the South of the United States are raised with those terms as part of their upbringing. Personally, I get a kick out of being in places like Tennessee, Alabama or Georgia and having the waitress call me “precious”, as in, “You want some more gravy for your biscuits, precious?” I don’t think I could ever get tired of that. It’s certainly better than, “You want some more gravy for your biscuits, stinky?”


I once worked at a company that was considering making a policy banning any physical gestures (waving, thumbs up, OK sign) because of possible misinterpretation. That’s like making a policy banning laughter because people might think you’re crazy. I would not want to work for a company that was SO politically correct that you could not sneeze without someone getting offended by it. Let’s not get ridiculous with our desires for respectful and courteous workplaces. Politically correct practices are fine as long as they don’t scrub the human condition out of our workplaces.


The bottom line: Be respectful and use your best judgment when addressing others.


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