There is no separation between our “emotional” brain and our “thinking” brain. They are inextricably intertwined and impact one another. Emotions constantly affect our thinking, and thinking is required for learning. That leads us to a question: What would it look like to leverage emotions for learning?
Here are eight ways trainers can leverage emotions to make training stick.
Give a big smile, eye contact and warm welcome to each participant as he or she enters the room. Have name tags ready, and speak to the common ground everyone in the room shares.
Trainees have to know you “get them.” Acknowledge that they may be nervous. Show empathy for their challenges and the time it takes to implement what they’re learning. Speak to your own experience of the first time you learned this material.
Share your vision of what you see for them as a result of learning this material. What’s now possible for them? What’s available to them that wasn’t before? How are they empowered to contribute further to their organization? Here, you can also share your belief in them – belief that they’ll choose, as researcher and author Brené Brown says, “courage over comfort” when the content is challenging.
To be fully present, learners must care about what they’re learning – beyond how it might help them get a promotion. First, they need to know you care about this content. Energetically show up to the training prepared and passionate. Plug in to learners’ intrinsic motivation by demonstrating why the content is important. Connect the dots to the big picture of how it feeds into the mission of their work and/or the mission of their organization. Speak to the impact of what would be lost if the work isn’t done well.
Relieve anxiety and insecurity. In an anxious state, fear takes over, defenses go up and very little information can be absorbed. Help learners focus on progress over perfectionism. Let them know mistakes are welcome, because mistakes mean they’re trying, and learning. As author and coach Jen Sincero says, “The only failure is quitting. Everything else is just gathering information.” Also, consider sharing Carol Dweck’s paradigm of the growth mindset versus the fixed mindset, and support your trainees in focusing more on learning than on looking good.
Make success easy. Make sure your training has clear milestones for success along with bite-size steps that the trainees can learn, practice and replicate. Identify common, failure points. Provide a one-page easy reference guide; checklists are always welcome. Create a scoreboard where trainees can visibly track their progress.
We learn when we’re having fun, because we’re paying attention and our whole selves are present. As a trainer, try on some “edutainment” – combine education with entertainment. What stories can you tell? What videos can you share? What games can you play that integrate the content? Maybe a few clean bad jokes or line dancing would be appropriate.
Support curiosity. Ask thought-provoking questions. Create some open loops when you tell your stories, and include a mystery that you resolve later in the training. Share awe-inspiring facts. Pleasantly surprise learners with what they don’t know.
Speak to people’s hearts, and their minds will follow. Here, you will not only create an emotionally safe space for learning but also an emotionally conducive state that’s magnetic for learning.