In any session you are likely to encounter people who for one reason or another do not want to be there or who feel they must compete for attention. Either type can create a challenge by interfering with planned activities, annoying people, and disrupting the learning process. Here are some things you can do that I find help reduce the amount of disruption encountered in training programs.
You have already read about the power of smiles. Use them freely.
• Use solid "people" skills.
Continually strive to improve your interpersonal communication skills such as the ones you read about earlier in this chapter.
• Encourage questions and honest challenges.
People learn by questioning and processing ideas. Provide as many opportunities as possible in your session for doing this.
• Set an environment of trust.
Take positive actions to ensure that participants feel safe and psychologically comfortable in your sessions.
• Stress a safe environment.
Eliminate threats, intimidation, and put downs, and ensure that learners feel protected from unwarranted judgmental criticisms when voicing ideas, questions, or thoughts.
• Facilitate, rather than direct learning.
Apply techniques such as the ones found in this book and others to engage and stimulate learners through active involvement.
Being ready for any situation helps ensure that instructions and activities will flow well and that your material delivery will appear seamless to learners.
• Seize opportunities to recognize.
Develop a reward system and look for opportunities to compliment and honor achievement. Outline the system to learners at the beginning of the session and use it during the session.
• Use attentive silence.
You do not have to talk all the time. Pause regularly to allow thinking and questioning. As participants talk, listen actively and react appropriately to their comments.
• Provide appropriate feedback.
As Ken Blanchard, author of The One Minute Manager series, says in his book, "Feedback is the breakfast of champions." Take the time to recognize positive behavior (e.g., correct responses, contributions, or volunteerism) and give feedback. This encourages all participants to duplicate the action or behavior so as to receive their own positive stroking.
• Accept, rather than deflect input.
When learners provide comments, ideas, responses, suggestions, or other input, even when you know it is incorrect, accept it. Thank the person for offering the information and either respond to it or open the floor to others with, "What do the rest of you think about what_just said?" This acknowledges the input as important and encourages future participation. Eliciting comments from others takes you out of the position of being the expert or disciplinarian, or possibly having to dispute a point. It also prevents the learner who offered the comment from looking "dumb" in front of peers, which might cause him or her to withdraw and shut down.
• Offer credible evidence.
When you state facts or make references to material, provide professional citations or source information to add credibility. This can reduce opportunities for someone to challenge or dispute your information.
• Mediate effectively.
When the inevitable disagreement occurs between individuals or groups, professionally and calmly intervene to redirect comments or head off inappropriate criticism or feedback.
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