“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.” Peter Drucker
Laura Arellano gave a wonderful workshop at the Training 2019 Conference in Orlando, titled Techniques for Handling Resistant Learners.
Ms. Arellano spoke about the learning brain, which she says is composed of the conscious mind and the subconscious mind (otherwise known as the reptilian brain located in the amygdala). According to her, the job of the subconscious mind is to do what the conscious mind tells it to.
She believes that there are four major roots of resistance: (1) priorities (other things to do); (2) relevance (how does this relate to my job?); (3) boring (lecture-based); and (4) fear (of change, of job loss, of embarrassment). The first two relate to the conscious mind. The last two relate to the subconscious mind.
If we want to handle a resistant learner, we should first do our best to understand where the resistor is coming from. We need to be careful to remember that it’s not personal- it’s not about us.
Then, second, we should reframe their negative comments or thoughts into more positive statements. Here are some examples:
“I have more important things to do than to be here.” Reframed: I want my time spent on my priorities.
“I don’t need this class; I am doing just fine in my job already.” Reframed: I want to feel capable and be acknowledged for it.
“It is hard for me to sit here all day.” Reframed: Be more engaging.
“I don’t see how this will help me be more effective.” Reframed: It doesn’t relate to my job.
In the third step, we should:
(a) talk to the subconscious by acknowledging the root of resistance. For example:
“I already know this; I don’t need it and it’s a waste of my time.”Possible acknowledgements:
I know you want to spend your time wisely. We all agree that improving knowledge and skills increases productivity.
(b) identify a positive attribute or emotion, which she suggests might be:
relieved, happy, surprised, pleased, excited, amazed, interested, delighted, reassured, comforted, or glad.
The fourth and last step is to put everything together by creating a statement that reframes and acknowledges the root of resistance and assigns the desired attribute for the resistor.
For example: Your time is valuable(reframe) and you want to be confident that you’re spending it wisely(acknowledge root of resistance), so you’ll be excited to hear(positive attribute) that what we cover today can be applied immediately to increase your effectiveness(what the conscious mind wants).
Another example: I know that you want to gain new relevant skills(reframe) to ensure that you will be as effective as possible on the job(acknowledge root of resistance), so you will be relieved to hear(positive attribute) that is our exact focus(what the conscious mind wants).
Can you see yourself using this four-step reframing process? I think it’s good- and it takes some time and practice to do it well. You might just want to tattoo one of the responses above on your arm so you have one ready when you need it!
May your learning be sweet.