On February 7, 2023, I was honored to present at the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals (ATAP) 2023 Winter Conference in Lake Buena Vista, FL. This is one of several conferences held worldwide each year. The topic was how vital it is that we, Behavioral Threat Assessment and Management (BTAM) professionals, learn to understand and attempt to honor culture and language, when applicable. By doing so, we create an environment for victims, witnesses, subjects related to incidents involving threats, concerning behavior, and/ or acts of violence to be more comfortable sharing their experience.
Many of us have accepted and embraced referring to someone by their pronouns, not referring to people as "crazy" or "psycho" and attempting to better understand someone's background and history before and while we are speaking with them. Others have not, yet. We all learn and change at our own pace, however, many of us do eventually change..... and may I say, often for the better. This is not always the popular belief in my profession and in the World at large but we'll continue doing our part to share what we can, and positive change will continue to occur.
Just a few examples to consider before speaking to someone as a BTAM professional, supervisor, and/ or human to human are:
Some cultures do not openly discuss problems, mental health challenges, feelings, and so on. Here, we be patient, and allow the individual to determine when they will respond and in the manner they prefer. Consider allowing the individual to write their response if they are having difficulty saying something. Perhaps it might work in reverse as well.
Ensure we are "speaking the same language." In other words, many words in the English language have multiple meanings and mean something else in other languages, potentially resulting in confusion regarding the question and how to respond. Here, we will watch the nonverbal cues of the individual for clues that what we said is not clear to them or may even have offended or hurt them.
Let's be cognizant of our physical distance when interviewing someone. Some cultures are accustomed to and welcome being very close physically, while others embrace more distance between people. For the very large most part, physical contact at work or really other than close relationships is not allowed, however, let's consider if someone appears to be having a physical or mental health challenge where physical contact seems necessary and/
or appropriate. Consider asking the individual if they will like our assistance and if we may put our hand on their shoulder or if they need to put their arm around our neck to help them walk. Asking is honoring.
I hope the few items above are a little helpful, but more importantly provide us the motivation to make time learning about culture and language and accepting and modifying what we are willing to at this juncture in our lives. Our interviews will garner far more detail because those we are speaking with will appreciate our efforts and acknowledgement that we are not all the same.
Thanks for reading and please let me know if you would like to further discuss these important considerations.