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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Handling difficult trainees : The talkative trainee

This kind of trainee is generally well-meant but tends to seize control from the trainer and start rambling on and on about his/her experiences. Such people are a trainer’s nightmare, because they hijack the class time and can get emotional and argumentative if they are interrupted. If you interrupt them and tell them they need to stop because of time constraints, they are quite capable of coming with something like “WILL YOU LET ME TALK ?” They can seek (and get) support from other trainees, and suddenly, the trainer becomes public enemy #1. Sometimes, they might be silenced temporarily, but can start off again at the earliest possible opportunity. If the trainer repeatedly stops them, he/she (the trainer) runs the risk of seeming rude. If you are a trainer conducting an on-site session for your customers’ staff, the last thing you want to do is to antagonize the trainees. At the same time, you cannot let time slip by, watching helplessly as the rambler imposes him/herself on the whole class.

How do you prevent a verbose trainee from sabotaging the class - intentionally or unintentionally - and yet, avoid looking like a villain ?

First, never get into an argument with the rambler. Remember, he/she is naturally talkative, and if you get into an argument, every word of yours will be countered with ten of his. Don’t let your blood pressure rise, and don’t get emotional – this makes you lose control and sound weak. Rather, gently wrest control again from the trainee. One way to do this is to agree with him very forcefully on something that he/she says – agree so forcefully and emphatically that it takes him by surprise. Thank him for bringing up the topic, talk about it for a few moments and gradually move back to your original line of talk.

A variant of this trick is to agree with him on something, thank him for bringing it up, and then focus attention on other trainees. For example, you might say, “Yes, Mr.Rambler (insert his/her name here), I am glad you brought this up..thanks SO MUCH for your insights..now let’s listen to what others have to say about it…OK, Mr. Someoneelse, what is your opinion ?” Now, if the rambler tries to butt in again, you can tell him “Let’s give Mr.Someoneelse a chance to talk about this”. Now, if the rambler tries to butt it, he runs the risk of sounding like the saboteur, and not you.

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