I’m not going to take this personally or anything, but should I be concerned about the fact that every delegate on the course I delivered today, seemed disappointed when they found out I was the trainer.
That’s a big word for a trainer to deal with – we thrive on great connections, rapport, masterminding stimulating and challenging learning experiences, being simultaneously adored by client and delegates alike…..
Or perhaps it wasn’t disappointment. And if it was something else, what impact does the assumption about ‘disappointment’ have on the rest of the day’s work? How does this potentially misplaced assumption set the tone and shape the relationship between trainer and delegate?
Let me explain…. I stepped in to deliver a day’s training on management skills as a favour for a colleague… Why do we need to know this you may be wondering? Well, it seems that when we agreed to swap the days, the client may not have been informed. So what? Does it matter that the trainer is different to the one expected? Certainly not from our perspectives…we are both experienced in the subject and were happy with the new arrangement. Does the client care? Probably not as long as the course is delivered to the same level of quality and with the same content and outcomes.
And the delegates? Well they were told that ‘Trainer X’ was going to be delivering, and so what if ‘Trainer Y’ turned up?
So, back to the impact of assuming ‘disappointment’. It may not have been disappointment in their voice that was being sensed, but rather surprise and a sort of readjustment as they reprogrammed their expectations for the day.
But look at how easy it is to interpret a slight change in tone, a slight quizzical expression and to categorise it as ‘disappointment’ or anything else for that matter. Not knowing the truth and making an inaccurate assumption puts you immediately on the back foot and in the position of potentially having to work a lot harder to gain trust and acceptance, which are highly necessary for any training day to run smoothly to the benefit of everyone. And if you are on the back foot, what does that mean for the quality of training that will be delivered.
Impact of Non-Verbal Communication
It just goes to show the impact of non-verbal communication on developing meaning in an interaction. Mehrabian’s teachings have been quoted and misquoted in the training world for a very long time…. Largely to highlight the impact of ‘body language’ or non-verbal cues on a communication situation. In the example I have described above, the words spoken by delegates ‘ oh I thought it was Trainer X delivering the course today’ accompanied by a slight raising of the eyebrows and a slightly ‘worried’ mouth shape (think ‘o’)…have led to the potentially inaccurate interpretation of ‘disappointment’ and the subsequent back foot starting point and potential over-compensating…blah blah.
Let’s rewind and start that training session again. How could it be different?
Delegate: ‘Oh I was expecting Trainer X’ (looking surprised and a little worried)
Me: (thinking oh no they must be disappointed..better check out what they are really trying to say here) ‘How do you feel about it being someone different?’
Delegate: ‘Absolutely fine of course! Pleased to meet you’
Me: (thinking great! They are fine about me being here) ‘Pleased to meet you too. Shall we start’
Now I am in a much stronger position to crack on.