The Techniques of Training
Training is primarily a relationship in which one person, the trainer, seeks to train another human being on how to have a better “Quality of Life“. The trainer’s needs are mostly met elsewhere and he or she does not depend on the trainee for love, affirmation, or help. The trainer attempts to step out of his or her own conflicts to become aware of the trainee’s needs, and to communicate both understanding and a willingness to help and care. The giving of help and caring can be a complicated process, impossible to describe adequately in a few paragraphs. We can, however, summarize some of the more basic techniques that are used in any helping situation.
1. Attending. The trainer must try to give undivided attention to the trainee. This is done through (a) eye contact – looking without staring as a way to convey concern and understanding; (b) posture, which should be relaxed rather than tense, and generally involves leaning toward the trainee and; (c) gestures that are natural but not excessive or distracting. The trainer should be courteous, kind, strongly motivated to understand. He or she should be alert to some of the inner distractions which prevent us from attending carefully: fatigue, impatience, preoccupation with other matters, daydreaming and restlessness. Lifestyle-training clearly is difficult and demanding work which involves sensitivity, genuine expressions of care, and alertness in attending to another both lifestyle and spiritually.
2. Listening. This involves more than a passive reception of messages. Effective listening involves:
having sufficient awareness and resolution of one’s own conflicts to avoid reacting in a way that interferes with the trainee’s free expression of thoughts and feelings;
avoiding subtle verbal or nonverbal expressions of disdain or judgment toward the content of the trainee’s story, even when that content offends the trainer’s sensibilities;
waiting patiently through periods of silence or tears as the trainee summons up courage to delve into painful material or pauses to collect his or her thoughts or to regain composure;
hearing not only what the trainee says but what he or she is trying to say and what is left unsaid:
using both ears and eyes to detect messages which come from tone of voice, posture, and other nonverbal clues;
scanning one’s own reactions to the trainee;
avoiding looking away from the trainee as he or she speaks;
limiting the number of mental excursions into one’s own life experiences;
controlling those feelings toward the trainee that interfere with an accepting, sympathetic, nonjudgmental attitude;
realizing that full acceptance of the trainee is possible without condoning or sanctioning attitudes and behavior destructive of the trainee or of others.
It is easy to ignore all of this, and to slip quickly into advice-giving and excessive talking. This prevents the trainee from really expressing hurts, clarifying a problem through talking, sharing all of the details of an issue or experiencing the relief that comes with catharsis. Trainers who talk a lot may give good advice but it is seldom heard and even less likely to be followed. In such situations trainees feel that they have not been understood. In contrast, listening is a way of telling a trainee, “I care.”
3. Responding. It should not be assumed, however, that the trainer does nothing but listen. Jesus was a good listener (consider his time with the perplexed pair on the road to Emmaus, for example) but his training also was characterized by action and specific verbal responses.
Leading is a skill by which the trainer slightly anticipates the trainee’s direction of thought and responds in a way that redirects the conversation. “Can you elaborate on …?” “What happened then?” “What did you mean by …? – all are brief questions which hopefully direct the discussion into maximally productive directions.
Reflecting is a way of letting trainees know that we are “with them” and can understand their feelings or thinking. “You must feel …,” “I bet that was frustrating,” “That must have been fun” – all of these reflect what is going on in training. Be careful not to reflect after every statement (do it periodically) and try to avoid stereotype responses (e.g., frequently repeating sentences beginning with phrases such as “You must think …” or “I hear you saying that …”). A brief summary of what has been going on can also be a way of reflecting and stimulating more trainee exploration. The trainer may summarize feelings (“that must have hurt”) and/or general themes of content (“‘from all of this it sounds like you have had a whole string of failures”), but always give the trainee time and opportunity to respond to such reflecting – summarizing.
Questioning, if done skillfully, can bring forth a great deal of useful information. The best questions are those which require at least a sentence or two from the trainee (e.g., “Tell me about your marriage”) rather than those which can bee answered in one word (“Are you married?” “What is your age?”). Beginning trainers ask more questions than experienced trainers, and since extensive questioning can stifle communication, students are often instructed to ask few questions. Also questions beginning with “Why” are usually avoided since these tend either to sound judgmental, or to stimulate long intellectual discussions which avoid coming to grips with the real feelings or hurts that the trainee may have.
Confronting means presenting some idea to the trainee that he or she might not see otherwise. Trainees can be confronted with sin in their lives, failures, inconsistencies, or self-defeating behavior and they should be encouraged to change their behavior or attitudes. Confrontation is best done in a loving, gentle, nonjudgmental manner. Nevertheless it often brings resistance, guilt, and sometimes anger from the trainee. It becomes important, therefore, that the trainer allow time for the trainee to respond verbally to the confrontation and to discuss alternative ways of behaving. At times such a confrontation leads to confession and a significant experience of forgiveness. Confrontation is an important and sometimes difficult part of training, but it is not the only skill involved in training people.
Informing involves giving facts to people in need of information. This is different from a trainer sharing opinions or giving advice. Information is commonplace and an accepted part of training; advice-giving is much more controversial. Advice-givers often lack enough knowledge of a situation to give competent advice, their advice-giving encourages the counselee to be dependent, and if the advice proves invalid it is the trainer who later is made to feel responsibility for giving bad direction. Whenever you are asked for advice or inclined to give advice, be sure that you are well-informed about the situation. Do you have enough information and expertise to validly advise another? Then ask yourself what might be the end results of this advice-giving. Is it likely to make the trainee more dependent? Can you handle the feelings that might come if your advice is rejected or proven wrong? If you then do give advice, offer it in the form of a tentative suggestion, give the trainee time to react and talk through your advice, and follow up later to see the extent to which the advice was helpful.
Interpretation involves explaining to the trainee what his or her behavior or other events mean. This is a highly technical skill with great potential for enabling trainees to see themselves and their situations more clearly. But interpretations can also be harmful, especially if they are introduced before the trainee can handle the material emotionally, or if the interpretations are wrong. If, as a trainer, you begin to see some possible explanations for another person’s challenges, ask yourself if the trainee is intellectually and emotionally ready to handle such an insight, keep the terms simple as you interpret, present your interpretation in a tentative way (e.g., “Could it be that … ?”) and allow time for the trainee to respond. As you discuss the interpretation the trainee often develops even greater insights and is able to explore future courses of action with the trainer.
Supporting and encouraging are important parts of any training situation, especially at the beginning. When people are burdened by needs and conflicts they can benefit from the stability and care of an empathic person who shows acceptance and can give reassurance. his is more than holding up the downtrodden, however. Support includes guiding the trainee to take stock of his or her own spiritual and psychological resources, encouraging action, and helping with any problems or failures that may come as a result of this action.
4. Teaching. The trainer is an educator, teaching by instruction, by example, and by leading the trainee as he or she learns to cope with the challenges of life, into a better “Quality of Life.” As with other less personal forms of education, training is most effective when the discussions (“How can I control my temper when I am criticized by my wife?”) rather than on nebulous goals (I want to be happier”).
- For the Leader (georgehach.wordpress.com)
- The Goals of Training (georgehach.wordpress.com)
- Guidelines for Effective Training (georgehach.wordpress.com)