Imagine, at the end of a day of training, knowing you were impactful, the attendees had new actions to take, and they left with the confidence they could take those actions. That is the definition of a satisfied trainer.

However, as trainers, when we are teaching, coaching or leading any sort of seminar, we often find that people check out, resist what we are saying or pretend to go along with it but leave with no discernable impact on their behavior. As a result, companies often invest in training that does not accomplish what they want, and trainers work hard and leave dissatisfied.

How do you tip the scales in your favor? The answer lies in Conversational Intelligence™, the neuroscience of conversations™. Conversational intelligence, known as C-IQ, is a concept formulated by the late Judith Glaser, an American author, academic, business executive and organizational anthropologist.

In her book “Conversational Intelligence: How Great Leaders Build Trust and Get Extraordinary Results,” Glaser wrote:

To put Conversational Intelligence to work, stop thinking of your job as managing resistance and instead accept resistance as a natural part of change. People need to challenge new ideas before they can accept them. For full ownership and accountability to take place, people need to be in the conversation about how to change rather than being asked to merely comply. When leaders reframe in this way, they see that conversations release new energy for change — which will propel their efforts forward faster.

The challenge for trainers is to not struggle against the participants’ natural resistance to new information or requests for change. When a trainer or coach uses the C-IQ, the chances of impacting each participant elevate.

Below are the essentials of C-IQ and tips for applying them while coaching or preparing, designing or delivering training:

“Prime for Trust”

With trust, our brains secrete neurochemicals that help us bond with each other and feel good. When distrust is present, our brains secrete the neurochemicals responsible for the “fight, flight, freeze or appease” response. We are either stimulating our primitive brain — the amygdala — or opening up our prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for empathy, creativity and executive functioning.

When you prime for trust, you create a conversational environment that supports openness, bravery and learning. To prime for trust, you must realize that people are naturally skeptical, so your actions matter. Be transparent and understanding, tell the truth (including saying “I don’t know” when you don’t), and don’t resist their skepticism. Stay open and curious.

“Ask Questions for Which You Have no Answers”

In other words, be curious and open to contribution. Learners often view trainers and coaches as the authority instead of having authority and, therefore, expect them to know everything. When you ask questions for which you have no answers, you are not guiding people where you want them to go but demonstrating a mindset of discovery — which leads to elevated trust (and good neurochemicals!) as well as expanded learning for all.

“Listening to Connect, not Judge or Reject”

Most of the time, we listen to understand — to compare what the other person is saying to what we already know. “Listening to connect” is the antidote to one of the most common conversational blind spots: “Everyone thinks like me.” When you are open, listening to the other person to understand their worldview, experiences opinions and needs, you elevate their trust in you as well as their brain’s openness to learning.

“Sustaining Conversational Agility”

Don’t get stuck! When someone digs their heels in and you react, you are resisting resistance. Nothing moves; people don’t learn, and often, other people take sides. This situation lowers your impact. If you apply the other conversational essentials and interrupt the resistance by reframing, refocusing and redirecting, you will open up the conversational space and move right thought it.


Open up to what the other person has to contribute. Simple questions like, “What does that mean to you?” or ,“What actions do you see to take?” are like double-clicking to open a file on your computer. It deepens the participants’ experience, allowing for maximum impact.

When designing or preparing to deliver a training session, think through these essentials. According to a Stanford study Judith Glaser quotes in her book, nine out of 10 conversations miss the mark. She believes that conversational intelligence is the missing ingredient.

With C-IQ, you can leverage the neurochemical responses of the brain to impact each person. It’s simple, elegant and effective.