When I was invited to teach in Nigeria I was quite scared as I had been told that I would probably be kidnapped on arrival at the Airport and if I wore trousers I would be arrested! These stories were to say the least quite daunting. Never mind I thought; it will be an experience and what is the worst that can happen? It can only get better and I may add that none of the above was true.
I arrived at about 10 pm and three people turned out to meet me at the airport. I was taken to my hotel where the staff were attentive and friendly.
On the Monday I was picked up again and taken to the training venue. On the first Monday morning of each month the day starts with a prayer meeting. I was invited to join a very robust and uplifting prayer meeting that morning with an extremely charismatic preacher. What a great way to start the month. That was my first taste of the depth of the Christian religious beliefs that are held among many Nigerians in Lagos.
This set the scene for the two-day training course I was running with 17 executives from the organisation that had invited me. I was delighted. I was able to bring into the training my love of great spiritual gurus such as Jesus, Nelson Mandela, Ghandi and Buddha. I used the etiquette training as a ministry for teaching about the importance of love, gentleness, kindness, courage and honest straight forward communication. We roared with laughter as men seven feet tall joined in the section on how to walk in high heels section of the poise and posture module.
I am well known as a therapist for telling stories. Well I kept asking if they would like a story and every time it was a resounding, “Yes we love your stories.” I was in my element. Here was a captive audience for my thousands of stories which I draw from my life’s experiences and the lives of the people I have met.
It was also challenging as I had to set the ground rules and make it clear that if the modules were not attended I would take that particular module from the certificates. I was also very firm about mobile devices and make sure they were not present during any of my classes, explaining that I felt it was totally inappropriate for someone to be sending messages while I was teaching. I also said that I would prefer not to have to mention this again, I may add that everyone respected my request.
It was challenging as people talked about bullying behaviour in the workplace and went on to show this behaviour between one another during the training. Fortunately with my expertise as a psychotherapist I was well able to address this and bring the inappropriate behaviour both to their attention and to an end.
The participants said they were impressed and had not seen anyone manage the group dynamics so skilfully. They said, it was the first time they had been exposed to this level of training and honest communication. One person wrote “You engaged every one of us and your ability to correct thoroughly and politely was exemplary. You gave your heart and soul into the training. This training is indeed a transforming experience for me. I’ll remember it always.”
I was given many opportunities to demonstrate what I was teaching as we covered difficult situations regarding conflict in the workplace
On the Wednesday and Thursday I was with a new group of trainees. I was interested to feel a certain amount of apprehension in the room. One man said “I am here to learn and you are here to teach me”. I replied “Do not think I am here to fill you up like a container. We are going to be together for two days and we are going to enjoy this training.” By the end of the two days this same man said “You are a remarkable woman I really did not want this training to end.” We had the most brilliant time. One person said that he did not realise he knew so little about business etiquette until doing the course.
Keji, who hosted my visit to Lagos, teaches etiquette in some of the schools, invited me to meet some of the children in four different schools. Every child in each school came out to greet me. They sang for me and I think I shook about six hundred hands at least on that day. The first was a primary school and the children sang me the etiquette song which Keji had taught them. They had made up the song as a group. Take a look at this video of the children.
In the second school I was asked to give a ten minute talk about the importance of etiquette. After this I was invited to answer questions from the teachers and children. A young boy asked me my opinion of caning. I said I thought it was abusive. I was every child’s hero while they cheered. However, that went down like a lead balloon with the teaching staff, who quietly explained that caning was normal in Nigeria. Realising I had blundered I tried to recoup the situation.
I did not want to compromise my integrity so I explained that every society in the world had a system of punishment which differed depending on the culture.
This is a great video of the older children singing their etiquette song and their anger management song.
Ellen is the CEO of the English School Of Business and Social Etiquette. Visit her at http://www.etiquetteandmanners.co.uk/.
This article was originally featured in We Are The City. Published with permission from the Author.