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What a Horrible Way to Go!
By Joe Bouchard
Published: 05/30/2016

Cemetery 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.

Many of us in corrections develop a gallows sense of humor. Perhaps we do this in order to cope with the seriousness of the job. This can be deemed as a general stress reliever.

Is there way to proactively harness this and place it into an icebreaker? I believe so. This can be done with simple introductions. As you start a module, you may write on the board or display on the computer screen these words:

Current position
Time in corrections
The most horrible way to die is…

It is best to stack the words in four different lines for clarity. The facilitator simply states that everyone will give a very brief introduction of themselves. This will be done by stating your name and current position and the time that you have worked in corrections. The part that (ironically) enlivens participants is their opinion of the most horrible way to die.

In the spirit of teamwork and interest of instruction, the facilitator should go first. Mine would be like this:

Hi, my name is Joe.
I'm a corrections librarian.
I have been in corrections for 18 years.
I believe the most horrible way to die is being eaten by rats. Naturally the facilitator will set the tone.

My thought is that creativity can flow if there are few constraints. I believe that the shock value at the start of the session may spark more active participation later. Then let the group go one by one. Here are a few notes.

Remember that there's a fine line between bizarre, yet effective instruction and creepy answers.

There will be repeated answers. And this should be permitted. After all, if you think that drowning is a horrible fate, you should be able to agree with someone who answered that previously.

Be compassionate as needed. Someone may render a heart-wrenching true story of how a loved one recently passed a terrible manner. The mood of the room can shift in a millisecond.

Reel in the class and if things get too jovial. Remember the unique pull of gallows humor.

There may be a string of answers designed to disgust others. Be prepared for a gross out/shock contest.

Keep a sense of humor. Perhaps someone will list the most horrible way to die is “to be bored to death by this training”.

Keep a lid on things. There may be some rough verbal camaraderie. Prepare for wild answers as the audience becomes more comfortable.

This is a true icebreaker. And nothing breaks the ice quite as easily sharing the universal fear of mortality. This can go well with an introduction to communications module. I also see this as a way to enliven (again ironically) and unarmed self-defense class. Perhaps one can use as a prelude to a retirement seminar.

Why not give this icebreaker try? After all, we only live once.

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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