Webinar presenter Jennifer Toussaint answered a number of your questions after her presentation, Active Listening and Basic De-escalation for the Animal Welfare and Control Professional. Here are just a few of her responses.
Audience Question: As a woman, how do you deal with men who think they know the law, and can tell you how and what you’re going to do?
Jennifer Toussaint: Such a great question. Thank you. So again, that’s the moment where you have to remember not to be argumentative or to get into a back-and-forth debate with an individual. I like to focus the question back on what I need from the individual in that circumstance. So, say you’re out on a, we call them a welfare call, a minimum requirements call. You’re confirming housing and food, shelter. And the individual’s like, “Well, you don’t understand, this is how my pet lives.” You can respond with “Sir, I’m just here to make sure that we’re under mutual understanding. I’m here to help, we have access to resources to get you into compliance. I am going to give you a paper today that’s going to talk about what I need to occur in order for you to be in minimum requirements.” And I’m going to go through the exact specifics of what I need. Providing a code section so they can read it over at their convenience is helpful. But making sure that you don’t get combative. If you build rapport with that individual, they’re going to be more open-minded to the idea of changing something in relation to how they care for their pet. Then if you just try to take the law and throw it in their face.
Audience Question: Do you have any suggestions or recommendations regarding interacting with people via e-mail where you can’t accentuate the how you’d look partial?
Jennifer Toussaint: Yeah, so that’s a great example. I didn’t talk about e-mail too much. So, in e-mail, I like to start in very friendly ways. An example is “Thank you so much for bringing this to my attention.” It doesn’t mean you have to be like, I know it was waiting for this e-mail. But “Thank you so much for bringing this to my attention. My department is currently working on this matter. We’re aware of this situation. And we appreciate any extra input you would like to provide.” Those kinds of jovial nice interactions are going to increase the ability to interact with that person in an appropriate manner, but also in a kind manner. If it goes down the direction of an individual having a complaint about an officer or a complaint specifically about my department, I like to highlight the values of our department, and how we serve, and why we do things. The work we do is so important. You know, we’re going to be resource first in how we interact with individuals because we value the dignity of the individuals that we interact with, and we’re here to resolve community conflicts humanely with an open mind and an open heart. Providing those kinds of responses are very difficult for people to be argumentative back with.
Audience Question: If law enforcement is not available to help out or is a few minutes away, and the interaction with the person is getting worse and they act out. How do we best protect ourselves?
Jennifer Toussaint: So active listening and basic de-escalation is an important tool but please also understanding that space is an important thing to keep yourself safe. So, if you have given physical space between you and the individual, it’s reactionary space. Its helpful if you do any kind of de-escalation techniques, to do hands-on in your training. I have gone out to scenes where I know an individual is not maybe a fan of me, and I would say, “I understand, we didn’t have such a great interaction with last time. I promise the police department is coming. I’m going to step back here to my truck and wait for them to arrive. I’m here to listen if you’d like to talk now. Or if you would prefer, we wait for them to get here, I’m absolutely open to that as well.” Making sure that you give yourself the out. Sometimes in that interaction, if it’s getting very heated, I will even say, “I’m so sorry, I forgot something in my truck. Please forgive me. I’m just going to step away for a second. I’ll be right back.” When you go back to your truck and you route around for something, giving yourself a minute or two till your backup arrives to walk up together.
Audience Question: How do you respond to someone who does not want to give their name? Someone who quotes the law and how they don’t have to give you any information?
Jennifer Toussaint: We feel very strongly about not charging for failure to identify, if that is a decision or an interaction that someone has decided to make, “Hi sir, my name is Jen. How can I help you today? Would you mind telling me your name?” Absolutely not. You know, That’s the response. “Okay, well, I’m here. I’m here to help, I came out here because of…” state the reason that you’re responding, “…we got calls that, you may have struck your pet today on the sidewalk. An individual calls, then stating that they saw you physically strike your pet. Did you do that? Did you hit your pet today?” You’re going to be upfront and you’re going to be honest. Don’t lie about why you’re there. And if they are trying to hold onto that law, “I’m not going to give you my name.” Just kind of keep walking up that de-escalation staircase walk right past that, “Okay, sir,” or, “Alright.” And you don’t even need to you, sir/ma’am, especially if you’re not in the South. I grew up in New York, using ma’am, might come across actually in a negative way. Some people do not want you to use ma’am or miss in interactions with them, same with sir. So, “Oh, okay, Well, I’m here today because…” I kind of just keep walking, and then, later on, you can circle back and maybe ask again, and you can kind of loop it into the conversation in a way that they can just kind of naturally give you their name.
Click Here to Watch a Recording of Active Listening and Basic De-escalation for the Animal Welfare and Control Professional.