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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Handling difficult trainees: The shy trainee

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In one of my earlier posts, I had written about handling nervous trainees. You might wonder what the difference is between a shy trainee and nervous trainee. A shy trainee and a nervous trainee are both difficult for an instructor – but for different reasons.

A shy trainee refuses to open up to conversation and discussion. He/She simply clams up and the instructor has no way of knowing what’s on the trainee’s mind, whether the content has sunk in, whether the trainee is comfortable or not, etc etc. Most of the time, a shy trainee is hesitant about expressing him/herself because of a fear of making a fool of him/herself in public. Shy persons are usually very concerned about what other people might think of them.

On the other hand, a nervous trainee is worried about learning it right. The instructor can usually find out if a trainee is nervous or not – body language and speech give it away. A nervous trainee is generally worried about whether they can learn and apply the skills correctly, and fear what might happen otherwise.

Shyness and nervousness in trainees are individually troublesome for instructors. A combination of shyness and nervousness is a perfect nightmare! It means a lot of work and patience is required from the instructor.

My thoughts on handling shy trainees:

• Identify the reason for their shyness. Is their shyness due to cultural barriers/language barriers/lack of confidence/learning anxiety ?

• Talk to them in private. Strike up a conversation and gently probe into what’s making them clam up.

• Compliment them on their work – without sounding patronizing.

• Never ever make them the target of your humour – even if you don’t mean to hurt them.

• Explain to them that overcoming shyness can actually increase the effectiveness of their training and enable them to perform better on their job. This is a very sensible reason for not being shy.

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