About 18 years ago, the employee assistance program that contracted with me to deliver workshops for them asked if I would lead a session on sexual harassment prevention.
My response was an immediate, “Thanks, but no thank you.”
“Why not?” my contact asked.
I told her that nobody wants to attend sexual harassment training. As a trainer about the last place I want to be is in front of an audience that doesn’t want to be there.
Plus, I explained, sexual harassment training is sure to generate lots of legal questions. Not being a lawyer, I didn’t feel qualified to take on those kinds of questions.
She was persistent. Like a mother who cajoles her child to just take a taste of some new potentially disgusting food, she suggested I do it once to see what I thought.
Who can say no to the “You can’t really know until you try it” argument? Plus it would buy groceries for the week, so I agreed to do it.
As I delivered the workshop, I noticed the audience seemed engaged. Even more surprising, I noticed that I was having fun. Who would have guessed that would happen?
Since then, I’ve probably delivered sexual harassment prevention sessions more than 500 times. It became one of my favorite workshops to do.
When I think about why these sessions worked for both me and the audience, I come up with the following explanations:
- The audience has such low expectations that exceeding them just wasn’t that hard. Under promise and over deliver in action.
- I didn’t hammer the audience with scary stories about what they can’t do. Instead, I made the workshop about building an atmosphere of mutual respect.
- I asked people to participate throughout the session, and they did. Who likes to be talked at for an hour?
- I used a playful tone, so people could feel comfortable asking their questions.
Now whenever I’m faced with a choice about doing something I don’t think I’ll like, I ask myself two questions:
- How do I know I won’t like it until I’ve tried it? I guess I no longer need my Mom posing the question for me.
- What can I do that others haven’t done to make it better than people (and I) expect?
By the way, if it’s time for your organization to do sexual harassment prevention training, I know just the guy for the job. And if people hated it in the past, that’s all the better.