Course Catalog

Online trainings from Ryan Dowd

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Core Training

3.5 hour Foundation Course

In this training you will learn how to effectively—and compassionately—work with individuals experiencing homelessness.  Specifically, you will learn how to use empathy, instead of punishment, to get people to follow your rules.

The training has four parts:

1 - HOMELESSNESS

Did you know that homelessness changes a person’s perception of time?  You should.  It changes how they respond to your rules.  You will learn this and more.

2 - PUNISHMENT

Did you know that a subsegment of the homeless population is immune to punishment?   It simply doesn’t work.

3 - PSYCHOLOGY

Did you know there is psychological research on how to get people to voluntarily follow your rules?  For example, you can get a person’s brain to release neurochemicals that will naturally lower their aggression.

4 - TOOLS

Do you know how to stand to lower conflict?  Do you know how to use “pennies” to prevent problems?  Do you know the correct way to ask someone their name?

This training will teach you the exact skills to use with each of the five stages of conflict.

Crisis Situations

1 HOUR

FIGHTS

How to prevent and stop fights (safely!)

Did you know that fights have four stages?  Do you know what to do during each stage?  After this training, you will know more about fights (and how to safely stop them) than 99.9% of people.  This training is not academic, though.  By repeatedly analyzing a video of a real fight, this training will teach you how to safely stop fights at your workplace.  We did a pre and post-test of people taking this training.  Before taking this training, 37% of people felt that a difficult fight was “manageable.”  After this training, it increased to 87%.

1 HOUR

BACKUP

How to backup a coworker during a crisis

Have you ever been in a dangerous situation with a customer at work?  Did your co-worker provide backup to you in the tough situation?  Did they know how to do it the right way?  Probably not.  Most people provide backup the wrong way.  In this training, you will learn why the normal way people provide backup is wrong.  You—and your coworkers—will also learn exactly how to provide backup so that everyone is safe.  As a bonus, you will learn how to use backup to train your newer staff.

1 HOUR

KICKED OUT

How to safely ask someone to leave (without calling the police)

Asking someone to leave is likely the most dangerous thing you will have to do at work.  It is uncomfortable for you and humiliating for the person you asked to leave.  Research shows that “less humiliation for the other person = less violence against you.”  Asking someone to leave without humiliating them is hard to do, though.  We know that not every staff member is at the same level.  First, you will learn “beginner tactics.”  If you are ready, you can continue to the “intermediate” strategies.  Finally, when you are ready for mastery, move on to the “advanced” tools.

1 HOUR

POLICE

How to reduce police calls and keep everyone safe in your organization

Your organization probably calls the police more often than it needs to.  In this training, you will learn the two times you should call the police.  There are only two!  You will also learn practical tips for how to call 911 and what to do when officers arrive.  This training also includes a three-step strategy for how to handle an officer who acts inappropriately.  It concludes with eight tips that will be helpful for you if you are a manager of a public organization.

1 HOUR

GETTING HIT ON BY CUSTOMERS

Women (and men) share their tools for stopping unwanted attention

Sexual harassment is different than other customer problems at work.  It requires different strategies.  In this training you will learn the four dimensions and three types of sexual harassment.  More importantly, though, you will learn the three basic strategies for stopping it.  Hint: Research shows that Strategy #1 isn’t effective, and Strategy #3 increases violence.  You will learn exactly how to use the most effective strategy.   Note:  This training focuses on tactics for frontline employees, not policies for organizations.

1.5 HOURS

PREJUDICE

How to respond to prejudicial comments from customers

In this training, you will develop a personal plan for addressing prejudicial comments.  First, you will learn the science behind prejudice.  For example, research has shown that the most popular response doesn’t work.  It increases prejudice.  You will choose practical phrases and tools from four categories.  There is a special focus on how to 1) Reduce a person’s bias and 2) Show support to marginalized groups.  Note:  This training focuses on frontline interaction with customers.  Organizational policies are beyond the scope of this training.

Specific Situations & Populations

90 MINUTES

MENTAL ILLNESS - PART 1

How to handle problematic behavior

Have a customer who experiences delusions or hallucinations? Want to know how to respond?

In this training you’ll learn how to assess the situation as:

  1. Discomforting
  2. Disruptive
  3. Dangerous


We also cover how to handle each one.  For hallucinations and delusions, you’ll learn which ones are dangerous (and you should call the police immediately), which ones are concerning (and you should monitor for certain signs), and which are not harmful (which are most of them!).

We discuss two things you should NOT do when someone shares a delusion or hallucination with you and give you two tools to use instead.

Finally, you’ll learn about “staff splitting” which is common with certain personality disorders.  

1.5 HOURS (UPDATED November 2021)

BODY ODOR

The most dreaded conversation of all

Talking to someone about their body odor may be the most uncomfortable conversation.  Did you know that there are two different types of conversations about body odor?  This training will teach you the two types as well as provide you a four-part strategy for each.  Specifically, you will learn how to start the conversation and how to handle objections.  This training concludes with a special section about legal issues for libraries.

1 HOUR

COVID-19

How to deal with problem behaviors related to COVID-19

In this training you will learn how to get people to wear their masks and social distance.  It begins with five strategies your organization can use today to prevent conflicts over your policies.  Next, you will learn a three-step approach for handling conflict over your COVID rules.  (It is based on the three types of people who don’t follow the rules.) Finally, this training addresses masks and the Americans with Disabilities Act.  The entire training is based on social science research around COVID-19 and other public health threats (Ebola, H1N1, the Spanish Flu, Monkeypox, etc.).

1 HOUR

ORNERY TEENS

How to compassionately and effectively manage their problem behaviors

If you work with teenagers, you need to understand how their brains are different from adults’ (or childrens’).  For example, the “nucleus accumbens” and “frontal cortex” explain a lot of the goofy things that teens do.  Their “bidirectional” view of respect explains much of the rest.  This training teaches you how to adapt your style for teenagers.  It focuses on practical skills for: 1) Pre-conflict, 2) During conflict and 3) Post-conflict.  For example, research has shown that high expectations are effective when combined with one other thing.

1 HOUR

DEMENTIA & ALZHEIMER’S

Compassionately & effectively working with people with dementia

The first half of this training provides a practical overview of Alzheimer’s.  For example, dementia affects specific parts of the brain in different ways.  Someone who may not understand your words can still read your body language and tone of voice.  In the second half of this training, we cover “do’s” and “don’ts” for you.  You will learn how to use nonverbal cues, closed-ended questions and a “redirecting” technique.

1 HOUR

UNATTENDED CHILDREN

How to talk to parents about their children’s behavior

This training begins with an explanation of how poverty effects parenting.  You will learn the “family stress model,” a theory used successfully around the world.  You will also learn how poverty changes the neurochemistry of new parents.  In the second half of this training, you will learn the two key strategies for engagement.  For example, “attending skills” are effective, as are two specific types of questions.

1 HOUR

JERKS WITH HOMES

How to deal with members of the public who are being jerks about homeless folks

Have you ever wondered why some people get so angry at homeless folks?  The research suggests it is 1) A lack of empathy, and 2) Dehumanization.  This first half of this training explores the research behind both processes.  (There is a fascinating study of soccer fans that explores when people will help others.)  The second half tackles specific strategies for increasing empathy and decreasing dehumanization.  It will teach you a 2-part response for when someone complains about a person who isn’t doing anything wrong.

1 HOUR

SERVICE ANIMALS

Your obligations under the ADA

This training provides a simple explanation of your obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Fair Housing Act (FHA).  You will learn exactly what you can and cannot do legally.  Do you have to allow a miniature horse?  Yes.  Do you have to allow an emotional support dog?  Probably not.  Additionally, you will learn the two questions you can legally ask.  There are only two!  This training includes a workbook that answers all the key questions.  It also includes a simple one-page strategy for legal compliance.  You and your staff don’t have to worry about whether you are breaking the law.

1 HOUR

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE/SEXUAL ASSAULT

In libraries

In this training you will hear from Miranda Dube.  Miranda is a librarian who specializes in domestic violence and sexual assault.  You will learn 1) The signs of abuse, 2) What to do when someone tells you they are being abused, 3) What to do if you suspect abuse, 4) How to support patrons who have been abused, and 5) How to make referrals for services.  Additionally, Miranda shares a survey of abuse survivors’ experiences at the library.  Hint:  Survivors want things that you can provide VERY easily.

1 HOUR

ADVANCED BODY LANGUAGE

The most important skills

If you have taken our core training, then you know “It almost doesn’t matter what you say.  It is all about how you say it.”  In this training, we will explore why nonverbal skills are so important for preventing conflict.  You will learn the nonverbal cues that indicate someone may be violent (hint:  it is not their volume!).  You will also learn advanced body language techniques you can use today.  For example, you will learn how to physically approach someone and the effectiveness of “mirroring.”

1 HOUR

SUPERVISOR TRAINING

Tips for managers

Do you manage frontline staff?  
In this training you will learn:

  • How to coach your staff to deescalate conflict compassionately
  • The difference between “red” and “blue” rules
  • The type of staff member you should never hire
  • What to do after a major incident
  • The two people you should know

1 HOUR

HOMELESSNESS 201

Advanced understanding of homelessness

This training will take you beyond the “basics” of homelessness.  Specifically, you will learn about:

  • The different types of poverty (and which one homelessness is)
  • How poverty changes the brain
  • The link between homelessness and autism

Like our other trainings, this one includes practical strategies for engaging people experiencing homelessness.

1 HOUR

BURNOUT & STRESS

Just in case 2021 is as bad as 2020

Burnout is not just “emotional.”  It actually changes the brain in ways that are similar to PTSD.  This training explains the neuro-science behind burnout and why the “usual advice” doesn’t work.  According to the research, there are six areas that impact burnout.  You will learn practical tips and skills you can use from the three most important areas. You will learn how to activate your parasympathetic nervous system to reduce stress. There is section on strategies for managers and a section for non-managers. 

1 HOUR

HOARDING DISORDER

How to help someone not get evicted

Hoarding Disorder is a coping mechanism for trauma which is REALLY HARD to deal with. In this training, you’ll learn about Hoarding Disorder and why nothing about Hoarding Disorder is intuitive (which is why we often handle it wrong!). Then you’ll learn how to organize and carry out a “clean up day” to prevent eviction. This training includes handy checklists for your cleanup team to use. These checklists will help you:

  1. Communicate clearly with the resident
  2. Gather all the supplies you need, and
  3. Prepare for challenges

1 HOUR

too many bags

How to address someone bringing in too much stuff

Individuals experiencing homelessness are forced to keep important possessions with them. If your organization has a bag policy, you’ve got to decide whether to accommodate an additional bag and how to enforce the policy when someone has too much stuff. This is further complicated when the customer is suffering from Hoarding Disorder. In this training, you’ll learn how to decide between “trash” and “treasure.” Then you’ll learn how to enforce your bag policy even when you’re dealing with someone with Hoarding Disorder. At the end, we look actual bag policies from different libraries and discuss pros/cons of each.

1 HOUR

DEAR LIBRARIAN

Special Presentation with Lydia Sigwarth, author of the new book Dear Librarian

This training is a little different.  We partnered with an author of a new children’s book about homelessness.  Lydia Sigwarth, who was herself homeless as a child, first reads her book.  Warning:  many viewers were moved to tears.  Next, Ryan interviews Lydia about her experiences as a child as well as how she became a published author.  Finally, Lydia and Ryan each provide practical strategies, tools and tips for working with children experiencing homelessness.  This training is a good mixture of feel-good inspiration and practical advice.

1 HOUR

HOMELESSNESS Q&A - PART 1

With Ryan

In this training, Ryan answers peoples’ most pressing questions.  Questions included the following (and more):

  • How should I handle someone picking their nose?
  • How should I handle someone who poops in our trashcan?
  • What is the solution to ending homelessness?

As a bonus, Ryan discusses things that make you feel safer, but don’t actually increase your safety.  Hint:  They increase your danger!

1 HOUR

HOMELESSNESS Q&A - PART 2

With Ryan

In this training, Ryan answers peoples’ most pressing questions.  Questions included the following (and more):

  • How can I tell if someone is homeless?
  • What should I do about people drinking alcohol in our bathroom?
  • Do all homeless people have weapons?


As a bonus, Ryan explains the two pieces of technology he uses to create these trainings.

1 HOUR

HOMELESSNESS Q&A - PART 3

With Ryan

In this training, Ryan answers peoples’ most pressing questions.  Questions included the following (and more):

  • Should I give money to panhandlers?
  • How can I keep the peace between vaccinated and unvaccinated staff?
  • What If a homeless Individual gives one of my staff a gift?

1 HOUR

RESOLVING LIBERAL VS. CONSERVATIVE CONFLICT IN THE WORKPLACE

With Carl Wilkens

This special training is a collaboration with Carl Wilkens.  Carl was the only American to stay in Kigali, Rwanda during the 1994 genocide.  This training draws from the Rwandan experience after the genocide ended.  You will learn a three-step process for reducing political conflict.  You should know, though, that the strategies in this training are simple but not easy.  This training will challenge you to reevaluate how you view—and engage—“the other side.”  Disclaimer:  Carl makes reference to his faith a few times, though it is not a central theme of the training.