A Surprising Trick to Answering Challenging Questions

September 2, 2010
Hands clasped together

I bet you wish you had a nickel for every time you got a "What if?" question from a participant.

Fair enough. People want answers.

But if handled clumsily by the Certified Instructor, this question can lead to a series of never-ending questions, credibility problems, and the inevitable power struggle.

"Excuse me, Instructor. What if . . . someone refuses to put out the cigarette? Set limits, you say? Yeah, but what if that person still won't put it out? Enforce the consequence? What consequence should I enforce? Yeah but, what if . . ."

You get the idea.

There are two great tools from the Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® training program that let participants answer their OWN questions.

One is the Crisis Development ModelSM.
This is an assessment tool, among other things, that allows staff to quickly and easily evaluate what level of crisis behavior an individual is experiencing or engaged in. It then just as quickly provides staff with a plan of what to do. All that is required is to identify the behavior, categorize it, and then choose the correlating response.

Example: Someone is fidgeting and looks worried. She is at the Anxiety level. I will use a Supportive approach that involves empathy and a nonjudgmental attitude.

What could be easier? I'm not suggesting that crisis intervention is easy or stress-free. However, using the model shouldn't pose too many problems.

The second tool is the Verbal Escalation ContinuumSM.
Someone is yelling and using foul language. He is at the Release level. I will allow for the release and remove the audience.

The constants that accompany all approaches are that I will try and use a team approach (most helpful with audience removal), exercise Rational Detachment, and provide for the best possible Care, Welfare, Safety, and SecuritySM while intervening.

Again, we're not talking about learning Latin. These are tools and principles that anyone should be able to use after an initial training.

I'm also not suggesting that you shouldn't answer questions. However, the best person to answer the question is the person who asked it.

I do this simply by referring the person and the group to the models.

This has several benefits:

  1. It empowers the individual who asked.
  2. It gets everyone in the habit of using the tools and models that are presented in the course.
  3. It shows that you are an advocate of the program.

The residual benefit is that it showcases you as a role model. Stopping the question cycle, maintaining credibility, and avoiding classroom power struggles are additional benefits.

So, don't let those inevitable "What if . . ." questions intimidate you, Certified Instructors! Throw them right back and have the inquisitor answer his own question. And don't you dare ask me "what if . . ." as part of your blog comments. :)

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