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Transforming Mr. Negativity


 In my most recent class, there was a participant that would fit the mold of Mr. Negativity. He was a prisoner in the class, was not interested in learning and did not want to be there. It is likely that he was forced to show up for the class. All trainers can relate to the difficult participant. If you are a trainer and have not had one yet just be patient and you will get your chance to deal with that participant. In my last post I mentioned the older gentleman that did not want to get wet. The difficult learner is that older gentleman. The story below is a technique that I have used many times that has been very successful at getting that person from unwilling to willing learner.

As I was getting started in the class I was going to have to draw all people in to the learning environment so that he would not be a drag for all the others. Needing to get him involved I started into an easy group exercise. This exercise takes place before any content has been delivered. I took out a role of toilet paper, I keep it in my every class training box for just this occasion. I then told each person to take as much as they need. I will always get some strange looks and questions. Regardless of the question I restate my original directions, take as much as you need. In this class like many others I had some people take 3 squares, others take a great deal more than that. Everybody always takes some and the amount taken provides some nice laughs. Laughing is a wonderful thing to start a class out with. After each participant has take the amount they need, including the problem child, I tell them that for each square they need to share one thing about themselves, or why they are here, what they hope to gain from the class. I then ensure that the unwilling person is either towards the end or the middle. This gets that person to open up and get to know their other co-learners.

After completing this brief exercise each participant had shared some laughs and connected with each other. As a wrap up I share something about myself and the goals that I have for the class. This is a great way to laugh, break the ice, and immediately involve each person. This idea is a variation on one that I read in a training book. Unfortunately, I do not remember the book or the author to give proper credit for this exercise. It is one that is effective and fun to do. Difficult learners require different and unexpected approaches to get them involved. By starting out with involvement they quickly are brought over to the side of a willing learner.

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