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Dealing with Negativity in the Environment
By Carl ToersBijns, former deputy warden, ASPC Eyman, Florence AZ
Published: 02/29/2016

Stress a There seems to be so much negativity around society these days, and that seemed to have spilled over into overcrowded prisons and jails. Negativity can really dampen your day or spirits and every time you hear a critical or adversarial voice, you cringe and tempted to respond with your own taste of sarcasm or criticism. Using ‘back to basics’ techniques, you can avoid a conflict.

Longing for more supportive tones from the environment, you look for ways to deal with it in a positive manner. Dealing with such difficult and dispirited tones is enough to change your attitude and join the chorus to blend into the already harsh environment. It is time for you to take charge of your own actions and deal with the negativity in a more optimistic method.

As a correctional or detention officer you set the tone, and boundaries with your audience or population. Making the appropriate boundaries clear to all who speak to you or communicate their issues with you need to know that if their attitude and negativity is inappropriate, your ability to help or accommodate their needs are jeopardized or limited due to the poor communications involved.

You need to simply point out the comment is unwelcomed and unacceptable. As an officer, you should expect a basic level of civility, and politeness while you can still disagree but mutual respect is a must and profanity or abusive words or tones are not acceptable.

Setting boundaries is one of the most effective means to re-direct the conversation. In reality, prison is a harsh and toxic place to work and hostile comments are common; however, if their responses are not legitimate concerns or issues, you have the right to terminate the conversation and move on to continue your job assigned.

In your capacity, it is hard to ignore toxicity or hostilities and ignoring is the best choice to maintain your composure and self-control but you will be challenged on your abilities to remain calm and focus on legitimate concerns only. It is always a good idea to re-iterate that if they have nothing constructive to say, the conversation is over while encouraging a positive engagement.

The last ‘back to basics’ advice is to respond to questions by prisoners as privately as possible. Eliminating an audience reduces ego triggered responses and allows for more civil and clearer [honest] conversations. Understanding that privacy is not always a condition of these type of conversation, a prisoner may choose to have another person present when talking to you but that is totally acceptable. In fact, it helps your cause to retain control of the conversation and focus on the matter at hand, not personalities or other distractions.

Opening up your statement with a civil and polite line such as “I really respect your opinion, could you just tell me what it is that you want to about it?'” this controls not only the conversation but the attitude as you remain positive and encourage positive feedback.

This entire encounter is focused on finding a means to communicate clearly and concisely without unhappy, malicious or toxic injections of words or tones that are detrimental to finding solutions to the problems addressed when you are making your rounds.

The best way to offset negative comments is to respond with an open respectful forum that puts the prisoner on notice, you will not engage in any negativity or disrespectful dialogues.

Corrections.com author, Carl ToersBijns, (retired), has worked in corrections for over 25 yrs He held positions of a Correctional Officer I, II, III [Captain] Chief of Security Mental Health Treatment Center – Program Director – Associate Warden - Deputy Warden of Administration & Operations. Carl’s prison philosophy is all about the safety of the public, staff and inmates, "I believe my strongest quality is that I create strategies that are practical, functional and cost effective."

Other articles by ToersBijns:


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