Mission: To significantly improve the safety and well being of the people we advise and train

T: 01543 268 694

1st April 2014 Be Careful What You Want…

Author Paul Brennan – Stand2 Co-Director

“We don’t want to teach physical skills!”… I am becoming so used to hearing this when discussing conflict management training with potential clients that I have now come to expect it. However, there is an old adage “be careful of what you want…”
I can fully understand a client’s reticence about engaging in physical skills training because I and many of our clients have witnessed or experienced too much unrealistic and inappropriate training first hand. However, I have also had the benefit of experiencing credible, high quality training and reaping the rewards when that preparation inevitably met reality.
The way I generally change the client’s perception is to initially reinforce it. I will show them a video of ‘conventional’ physical skills training and then provide a point by point analysis of why the technique being shown will not work in a real life situation and why as a result the staff are being set up to fail. Having confirmed the clients expectations I then show them what we mean by physical skills training and the science underpinning our approach. This generally has the desired effect.
So why is it so important to teach physical skills? Because knowledge is quite literally the lowest form of learning and will only take you so far. It is soon forgotten and of little use unless that knowledge can be translated into action, which when repeated turns into habit. Teaching staff to deal with potentially aggressive and violent people without teaching the associated physical skills is like trying to teach them to play football…without a ball!
The aversion to physical skills may be because management want their staff to simply rely on keeping their distance and using good communication skills to deal with conflict. Whilst this is a good starting point, as a strategy it has its limits. How for example do you treat a confused patient who may lash out without getting close to them? What should you do if an aggressor physically moves closer to you and you cannot escape? How do you physically and mentally prepare yourself to survive a spontaneous attack? One answer could be to close your eyes, cross your fingers and hope for the best. Any other solution would require the application of physical skills in some shape or form.
Another cause of friction may be your legal or HR department who are concerned about the risk of injury when teaching physical skills or the perceived risk of litigation if their staff apply physical skills in the workplace. This is simply another case of closing your eyes, crossing your fingers and hoping for the best. Unfortunately life is not that simple. To paraphrase JFK, “Whilst there is a risk involved in any action there is a greater risk involved in comfortable inaction”.  I am aware of several incidents where ‘comfortable inaction’ has directly resulted in unnecessary death, serious injury and significant corporate liability due to the implementation of risk averse policies, procedures and training programmes.
If as a manager you still feel that physical skills should not be taught then you may wish to consider that with this subject no training may actually be better than poor training. It also costs less and not just financially. There is no doubt that ignorance gets people hurt… but so too does complacency, false hope and unrealistic expectation