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Catch more flies with honey than vinegar
By Joe Bouchard
Published: 12/08/2014

Honey The following is an installment in "The Bouchard 101", a series featuring "Ice Breaker's" designed to promote training awareness and capabilities in the corrections industry.

Everyone does it. We just might not know it as it happens. All of us engage in the art of persuasion. It is human nature to want to get one’s way. So, persuasion is a very natural thing to do.

Think of the many ways that we try to influence others. We beg, compliment, bully, and spin yarns to make others believe in our cause of the moment. If this does not sound bad enough, we see this every day in the corrections setting.

This exercise is designed for pre-professionals and veterans in corrections alike. The former group deserves an introduction to manipulation and the latter benefits from a refresher.

This icebreaker is very simple and requires few tools. All one needs is a board and markers. The facilitator begins with a blank grid of 3 columns and six lines.
  1. Leave the top line empty for now.
  2. Start with a word or two about manipulation: “in order to get what we want, we might not be so honest. Prisoners have many ways to persuade or dissuade staff. How do they do this? What are some of the ways that offenders have tried to work staff? In other words, what tricks have been attempted on you?”
  3. Fill in a few examples on the grid. You may give a short story with each idea. “Once, a prisoner asked me if I lost weight and said that I looked fit. Almost after his words evaporated in the air, he asked me for a free photocopy of his legal document. It was not the most persuasive or smooth style. But, that is an example of how a prisoner may divert your attention before asking for something that he does not have coming.”
  4. Still leaving the top line open, place all positive ways of persuasion in the left column. This is the Honey to catch flies. Place all negative ways of persuasion (Dissuasion?) in the middle column. This is the Vinegar column. The right column will be “Other”. These might not be such an easy column to fill, but it should exist in case of a difficult to place manner of manipulation.
  5. Ask the class to fill out the list of manipulation tactics. Again, positive or honey in the right column, Negative or vinegar in the middle column and neutral, hard to place concepts in the middle column. Do not alert class of this, just let them offer ideas.
  6. After all of the spaces are filled in, ask the class what each column has in common.
  7. Open up the floor on which is more effective in catching flies or staff – honey, vinegar, or other. Play the devil’s advocate if the class does not come up with the answer as conditional. Honey works better on some while vinegar works better on others.
Not all prisoners will manipulate staff. However, there are some real masters of the con in the ranks of the incarcerated. When fully executed, a subtle manipulation scheme can flower into a situation where staff become compromised. This can lead to inappropriate relationships and introduction of contraband. Vast breaches in security can start with a little honey or vinegar. It behooves staff to know the many ways of persuasion.

Joe Bouchard is a Librarian employed with the Michigan Department of Corrections and a collaborator with The International Association of Correctional Training Personnel (IACTP). He is also the author of “IACTP’s Corrections Icebreakers: The Bouchard 101, 2014”. The installments in this series include his opinions. The agency for which he works is not in any way responsible for the content or accuracy of this material, and the views are those of the contributor and not necessarily those of the agency. While some material is influenced by other works, all of the icebreakers have been developed by Joe Bouchard.

Visit the Joe Bouchard page

Other articles by Bouchard:


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