Tips for Professional Conduct for Guardians
Some strategies to maximize impact and effectiveness of guardian efforts:
- Look professional. Wear uniforms and make sure that vehicles or boats that you travel in are marked and identifiable with decals or flags.
- Proactively engage with the public. Support your guardians in developing the skills needed to talk with visitors and resource users. Develop a one-minute ‘elevator speech’ about your program and encourage staff to practice it. Be clear about the messages that you want your guardians to communicate. Use every interaction as an opportunity to educate people about your Nation or community, your lands and waters, and the issues that you are most concerned about.
- Share and leave behind important information. It’s useful to have a brochure that you can hand to people that provides information about your guardian program. This simple gesture is a good icebreaker and an easy way for guardians to introduce themselves. It’s also useful to have more detailed information about the important issues you are working on. This could be maps on fishing closures, hunting regulations you are seeking compliance with, or protocols on how you would like people to conduct themselves in certain areas.
- Be friendly, approachable and curious. When you work as a guardian, you will likely meet a lot of people. As an ambassador, your job is to be respectful and approachable, and to share relevant information with the people you meet. Share information about who you are and what your role is, ask and answer questions, and collect information from visitors if this is part of your data collection or monitoring work.
- Stay calm in the face of conflict. Although many, if not most, visitors and resource users in your territory will be interested in talking to you and learning more about your program and your community, there may be some exceptions. You will need to be prepared and confident about how to respond to people who aren’t interested in what you’re doing. They might be rude, disrespectful or confrontational. The safety and well-being of guardians working in the field is always a priority. It is extremely important that you stay calm and do your best to de-escalate the conflict. This means speaking clearly and calmly and not being rude back or resorting to violence. If it is not possible to de-escalate the tension, it is best to leave the conversation to avoid conflict and walk away from the situation. Some Indigenous Guardian programs have found it helpful to do training in conflict resolution in the field, ‘such as verbal-judo’ training. Other Indigenous Guardian programs have clear policies about how to address conflict in the field. See the 'Interacting with the General Public - Guardian Protocol' developed by the Taku River Tlingit First Nation.