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For Kris’ Sake
By Joe Bouchard
Published: 12/18/2017

Running with clock

The following is an installment in "Icebreakers 101: Hello, My Name is Problem", a series featuring "Ice Breaker's" designed to promote training awareness and capabilities in the corrections industry.

This icebreaker works as a nice companion to modules on manipulation by offenders.

Kris is a serious student who completes her work in a timely manner. Her dedication and integrity cannot be questioned. Still, being human, Kris on occasion steps out of the serious mode and becomes a bit playful.

Even so, usually when she asks a question, she keeps a straight face that can bring a seasoned poker player to tears of frustration.

I walked into the class recently while a classmate was conversing with Kris. He admitted how tired he was due to long hours at work. I tried to remain unobtrusive and prepared for the lecture. Kris set sights on me with an inscrutable expression of no expression. She said to me that we should have a very short class tonight.

We verbally sparred a little, in a joking manner, naturally. I recognized that though she looked serious, she was not completely so. One could not tell by her face, as it was impervious to interpretation. But her pattern had been the straight-faced joke.

She persisted coolly that class should run shorter than usual. So, I said, “How would you persuade me if you were manipulative?”

Right out of the gate, students offered suggestions to me. They seemed driven by the incentive of leaving a bit early:
  1. It is payday. You should go buy something nice.
  2. The instructor failed to provide a guest speaker and should let students go early as a concession.
  3. I need to go home to wait for the repair person for my dryer.
  4. I miss my family.
  5. There are good shows on tonight.
I wrote these on the board and many others that they offered. Then I asked what tactics these could be. For example, “I miss my family” was described as trying to find common ground on a topic with great emotional ties – the family. Then we discussed why a prisoner would manipulate staff. Some answers they had were:
  • For power
  • For comfort
  • To embarrass staff
  • For psychological satisfaction
  • To gain something other prisoners did not have
Class actually ran longer than usual that night. It was not ‘revenge’ at all. We just had a lot to cover.

Still, it is important for students of corrections to be exposed to manipulation tactics to react in a professional manner.

So, with a stony stare and a calm voice asserting that the class should end earlier, Kris provided inspiration for this on-the-fly icebreaker. And not just for Kris’ sake, but for everyone, these lessons keep up professional and effective.

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” and "Operation Icebreakers: Shooting for Excellence" among others. 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:


  1. hamiltonlindley on 04/14/2020:

    How have your spirits been while under quarantine for COVID-19? We are hopefully halfway through this pandemic’s impact on our economy. It has been a difficult road for us all. It has taught us about our better-and worse-natures. Hamilton Lindley explains how it has impacted his family and work life balance in this latest blog article about how to invest time that we’ve been given to make ourselves better than when we began.

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