Transit workers aren’t just dealing with difficult customers, they’re dealing with traumatized customers. And customers are not the only group potentially carrying the symptoms of trauma. Transit workers who’ve been assaulted in the past are likely to continue to be effected. Human beings carry their personal and family history with them and express that history through behavior. One's wounds and fears inform one's beliefs, the ability to trust others, the power to rebound and the skills to survive. Experiencing multiple traumas and chronic trauma make all of these things more challenging.
At the international level where war and violent conflict has occurred, third-party interveners, who provide training and support for these shattered communities, understand that specific and careful intervention is necessary. Post-war reconstruction approaches to healing communities include:
- Education regarding the physiological effects of trauma on the brain
- Examination of one's own cultural identity through reflective practices
- Skill building for basic counseling tools
- Circle processes rather than top-down education
- Sociodrama and small group discussions which allow participants to re-humanize themselves and the customer
As some neighborhoods in American cities mirror areas across the world gripped by war and extreme violence, it makes sense to train frontline transit workers in post-war reconstruction approaches to dealing with a traumatized customer population. Dealing with potentially violent passengers requires participants to gain knowledge of the causes of violence from the psycho/social perspective and address their own biases, triggers and conflict patterns, which often contribute to negative passenger interactions. Trainings designed to invite each participant to understand himself and reawaken his compassion for customers living in the margins will shift participants’ behaviors in ways that traditional workforce development cannot.
Charlotte DiBartolomeo, M.A.C.T., is C.E.O of Red Kite Project and earned her master’s in conflict transformation with a specialty in intercultural service, leadership & management from The School for International Training.