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Emma Sue Prince



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Unconditional positive regard, or, loving your trainees


A couple of weeks ago I wrote about using the principles of comedy improvisational theatre to deliver great training.  So…  number 1 is this showing of unconditional positive regard for each and every person who has landed in your training room. I sometimes think of this simply as loving them, – yes, I said LOVING them!

Unconditional positive regard, a term popularly believed to have been coined by the humanist Carl Rogers  is basic acceptance and support of a person regardless of what the person says or does. Rogers believes that unconditional positive regard is essential to healthy development. Although this principle is commonly used in the therapy-client approach, I believe it holds the same value for the relationship between trainer and learner.

It is really hard to release the tremendous creative energy of experiential learning if participants don’t feel like they are in an environment where they will be safe from feeling ridiculous. So as  the trainer, it is up to you to build that atmosphere of mutual affection and trust.This is especially true if we are encouraging learners to experiment, go out of their comfort zone and take risks in order to develop their self-awareness and soft skills.

And if we use this basic premise from the moment we enter the training room, it has an immediate effect on the outcome of that training. It takes tremendous effort and focus to consistently and continually demonstrate this positive regard throughout a training session; you feel completely exhausted afterwards, but it makes you present, aware and sharpens your ability to deliver a great session in bucket-loads.

And it is so simple! If I’ve made that decision to love my participants before I even start the training, I treat them accordingly. I seem to automatically value what they say, each question, each comment and I equally value the person or people in the room who may be resisting the session. I put myself in their shoes, I am more humble, I take care with my instructions. I’m also far more aware of how the session is going and able to adapt faster to changes I may need to make, whether that is adding in a reflection session, expanding on an exercise to take into account points raised by participants, speeding up, slowing down or simply changing what I am doing.

To practice unconditional positive regard, to really love anyone who has chosen to attend one of my training sessions (or has been sent to one!) it is also necessary to put my own ego and my “stuff” completely to one side – in fact I don’t even take them with me – I leave that outside the training room. As long as I have prepared my session to the best of my ability and as long as I make that choice to love, I know I am ready to give my best, to improvise and to deliver.

Here are tips for comedy improvisation facilitators  we can take on board too:

Give clear and simple instructions and make sure they are understood.
Only use rules if they improve focus.
Let players be in charge of their own experience.
Discuss the outcomes with participants rather than lecturing them.
Encourage participants to monitor their inner state.
Avoid all form of direct negative comments. Ask for critics to be respectful and constructive.
Do not force your tastes upon others.
Violent stunts are never improvised.
Recognise failure as a chance to progress, and try again.
Show your respect and appreciation.
Take risks. Try new games and new ways of doing old things. How can you ask people to take risks if you don’t?

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Emma Sue Prince


Read more from Emma Sue Prince

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