by R. Makana Risser Chai
Last week, after my program on preventing harassment, bullying, and disrespect, a manager said, “That was informative and actually it was fun! And we really needed it.” Fun? In a mandatory respectful workspaces class???
One of the themes of my program is to have compassion for ourselves and others. Whether we have experienced harassment or have been harassers—or both—we can have empathy for each other. That doesn’t mean we accept bad behavior, but it does recognize that none of us is perfect. We all make mistakes.
And sometimes those mistakes can be pretty funny. Of course, this issue is important. It’s emotional for many people, and some who have experienced it have been traumatized. We need to respect those who have been injured. At the same time, one thing I’ve realized from the presentations I’ve done is that people don’t learn from an overwhelmingly serious lecture. They need to keep interested and engaged.
One way to do that is to chuckle at some of the dumb mistakes people make, either through real-life stories or through cartoons or videos such as this one on microaggressions.
In an interview with Krista Tippet in July, 2018, the wonderful writer Luis Alberto Urrea said, “Laughter is the virus that infects you with humanity. And if you sit with somebody and laugh — not at them, but laugh with them wholeheartedly… you’re going to cry with them too.”
I invite my participants to laugh, and cry, at the stories I tell and the videos I share. And they do.
Does it work? At the end, 99% of the attendees say they intend to change their behavior. Most say either they will watch what they say, or they will be upstanders if they see disrespect happen. Mission accomplished—even though they had fun.
See more here about respectful workspaces training.