I was reading an article on success the other day. Toward the end of a paragraph discussing pitfalls, it read, “… sometimes we need to get out of our own way.” It occurred to me that this idea is true for many things in our lives, including in our role as a trainer.
It is definitely important to understand the learning styles and personality traits of our learners, but we must understand those same things in ourselves. Our own learning styles and preferences can get in the way of our mission as a trainer and hinder the learning environment and process. Let me share just one example.
On the scale of introversion and extraversion, I weigh a little more heavily on the extraverted side. Right away, most people think “Yes, that’s what we want in a trainer!” Yes, we want those extraverted characteristics and when extraverted behaviors are not managed, they can be damaging to the learning environment for the introverted learners in your classroom.
Remember, to get the best from your introverts they must be allowed to disengage from you and those around them to think, process, and problem-solve – they are reflective learners. Extraverts are natural engagers and have a difficult time not engaging (e.g., talking to themselves or others) – they are engaged learners.
Something I am constantly managing is my own desire to engage during quiet times in a training session. Quite time in a classroom might show up during individual activities, like pre and post-tests, individual worksheet activities, reading quietly, etc.
In one of the trainings I provide, I ask people to read the results of their personality assessment quietly. There is always at least one extraverted person that will articulate their surprise at the insight of the information. I hear a participant say (to no one in particular), “Oh my God. This is so true!” They lift their head to see whom they might engage and most of the time they look at me. My immediate desire is to engage them and begin an enthusiastic dialogue about their results. If I do that during this time of desired quiet, I produce an environment that creates a struggle for my introverts to stay disengaged and reflective.
To re-enforce the desire for quiet time and to express my empathy of their experience without damaging the learning environment for the introverts, I acknowledge them (I look them in the eye), smile, and take my attention away from them (look or move away). This non-verbal approach of classroom management helps the extravert manage their own desire for engagement and he or she will return to reading quietly, most of the time.
The bottom line: Just because I have extraverted tendencies, does not mean I have to express them without managing them. I must remain mindful to stay out of my own way and provide an environment where learners of different styles can be successful.