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Trainer’s Diary: “Don’t You Trainer Me!”


Byron KaliesByron Kalies finds that separating work from the rest of your life can be a tough call, especially when the profession in question has its own language.

A number of years ago I came home after a particularly good week-long residential management development programme. I was fairly new to training, I had maybe been training for about a year, and the group had really gelled. Myself and my co-trainer (who was also new) worked really hard and I felt incredibly pleased with myself. "Finally got the hang of this" I thought to myself as I drove back. (This feeling didn't last long).

As I arrived home I was met with a non-delighted partner. She had had a tough week with a stressful time at work, an unruly child and an "ignorant git of a man who hadn't bothered to call all week," as I was referred to.

I listened to her and did all the right things. I nodded, ah-hahed in all the proper places, looked interested. The mistake I made was that part of my brain was still thinking about a session I had run that morning on communication skills and paraphrasing. I guess most of you are familiar with paraphrasing - it helps the communication process, it shows you're listening, etc.

"So you're worried about your job and wanted to tell me but I didn't call," I responded as sincerely as I could. Without the swear words she said: "Don't you trainer me." And started on another ten minute tirade.

I learnt a great deal from this. As a trainer, particularly a new trainer you do get immersed in the job. Like all jobs it comes with its own vocabulary, its own set of internal rules, ways of working and in- jokes. It can sometimes be too easy to stay immersed in this training culture and lose a little perspective. This is understandable as we frequently deal with intense situations that can have a considerable affect on others. Without wishing to overplay the importance of this I believe this 'living on the edge' can occasionally disturb our emotional balance from time to time and it can be difficult to step back. As you will know it can often be incredibly difficult to switch off after a difficult day.

For me, this is where I need someone to point this out and bring me back to the real world - 'don't trainer me'. I can get so wrapped up in work that it can be difficult to realise there is 'ordinary life' going on with upset kids, washing machines breaking down and bills to pay. If you have someone like this great - if not I guess it's something to build into the trainer network and any debriefing sessions after events.

The other aspect of this experience was to draw attention to "Trainerese"- that language we can often get into as a trainer. As I say it's no different from other professionals - doctors, IT experts etc. Yet I do realise that not everyone appreciates it.

Over the past decade there seems to have been far more awareness of training by managers. Many will have attended a number of training events and unfortunately a percentage will have a negative opinion. I blame this on a certain breed on slick, superficial, incredibly well-groomed, (usually) consultants that have infiltrated the business in recent years. We seem to be picking up the flak and there's a history behind so many of the 'buzz words' that we can't use without someone raising their eyes and smirking in the classroom.

We need to realise that these overused phrases like "I can see where you're coming from"; "I'll take that on board" and "Where are you right now?" used insincerely really turn our "punters" (another one) off and we need to be incredibly careful with the language. It may seem the most natural thing in the world for us to talk about "learning contracts", "conditions for satisfaction" but we need to realise it's not the language learners always use. We then have the choice - use different words or explain carefully. Either option requires thought.

5 Responses

  1. Trainerspeak
    This should be a ‘must read’ for all trainers!
    I shall refrain from saying “thanks for sharing this with us” and nip off quickly to ring home.

  2. Its a circular dilema
    It’s an interesting paradox. If the training tools we are giving promotes good communication, and one of the tools is to show attention through paraphrasing, why didnt it work with your wife?
    May I suggest it was the modalities you may have selected when delivering the infamous sentence?
    Thanks for the story

    Roger Jones

  3. Also caught out
    I had a similar experience when having a conversation with a partner who was having a tough time at work. Without thinking I asked them how it made them feel and what would they have done differently (Ok I had only just started as a trainer). Unfortunately my partner had been on several training courses that had used the same phrases – he wasn’t as polite and I was told not to use any of the trainer c***p on him!! It did bring me back down to earth and in fact made me think more about re-phrasing it when delivering training too.

  4. Jargon-busting
    A really good story and a lesson to all of us. The key, it seems to me, is to try to avoid jargon of any kind. I’m always urging delegates on my communications skills courses not to use jargon or three-letter acronyms but to communicate in ways that are fresh, articulate, authentic, congruent – but some of those words are becoming jargon too. Aaagh! Trainerese is obviously as catching as corporate-speak.

    Tim Stockil

  5. Training works
    We are all guilty of this as trainers!!!! But we are practising what we preach. It was also interesting to see that the people you were dealing with as a ‘trainer’ recognised it from the courses they had been on. My question is if they recognised it why didn’t they use it themselves?

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