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No. 72 – Teaching Radiation Safety for Understanding – 2

May 16, 2012

When workers first come to you for radiation safety training, what are they thinking or feeling? Do you think they are looking forward to learning about radiation physics? Do they expect your class to be enjoyable or painful? Will it be boring or exciting? Do you do anything special to make your classes fun? Is it OK to have fun while you are learning? How about when you are teaching?

Using Humor to Reduce Resistance

Whenever workers are required to take training, they may often be described as “reluctant” students. Or worse, they may be outright resistant, or even hostile. What can you do to connect with workers who are resistant? One approach, I have found to help reduce worker resistance, is to begin the class by asking a question. The question is, “If you could be anywhere you wanted to be right now, for how many of you would this be it?” At this point, I usually see grins and chuckles from all around the room.

While people are still chuckling, I immediately follow with a story about difficult choices. The story is about a man climbing on a mountain alone and he slipped and fell over a cliff. But, he caught himself on a tree root and he begins to call, “Help, help is anyone up there?” After a while he hears a voice say, “Hello!” He calls back, “Hello, who is it?” The voice said, “This is God!” The man then calls out, “God, can you save me?” God said, “Yes I can, but you will have to let go!” There is a long pause as the man thinks about his choices and then we hear him say, “Hello, is anyone else up there?”

When presented in a friendly tone, this question and story give workers permission to admit that they may not want to be in the class. They also identify with the climber whose dilemma on choices is more difficult than their own. Beginning with this story also sets the tone for the class. Perhaps it won’t be boring and it might even be fun.

Humor is a powerful tool for reducing reluctance and overcoming resistance. Its hard for people to maintain their defiance when they are laughing and having a good time. Its also hard to remain defiant when the instructor is not pushing, demanding, or threatening. Humor can reduce stress, help students to relax, and raise their energy level. When students are enjoying the class, they can learn a lot without realizing it. Learning does not have to be tedious or monotonous.

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