Don't make me wrong

My wife has the words: 'Don't make me wrong' pinned on to a cupboard in the kitchen.
Good advice for a spouse or a parent: essential for a trainer.

My father had the habit of not just winning an argument,
but in the process crushing the opponent as well.
The result for the victim was not only the loss of the argument,
but often a loss of face and the resulting wounded ego.

If the trainer is hoping to create a safe supportive learning environment, having a hurt, resentful participant is not going to contribute to a successful outcome.

There is no point in winning an argument, if you lose the person.
In the training room our first priority is to train students, not win personal battles.

This of course is an attitude of mind and there always will be exceptions.
If a student is challenging your authority or your right to train, you may have to win a personal battle in order to get them to listen at all; but that does not take away from the basic principle that:
a, their learning is always more important than your 'winning' and
b, their ability to learn will rarely be enhanced if they feel their ego is on the line.

Therefore it is worth taking care to avoid an interchange that leaves the student feeling 'wronged' or 'stupid'.
The most negative response I give to a student who says something totally off the mark is:
'That's interesting!'
Partly to avoid the more confrontational: 'No!' or 'You are wrong!'
and partly because as a trainer I believe it is important to think the best of people.
If somebody does say something that may seem completely ridiculous,
they probably have a very good reason for saying it.
They may be seeing things from a different perspective, - maybe even one that you had not even considered!

In some situations, depending on how the relationship is working, you may be able to simply state: 'That's wrong' without causing any discomfort.
However if you feel an outright negative may hamper their full, continuing contribution to the training,
a more gentle way to suggest they are wrong is to preface the response with something like:
'That is interesting .  Why do you say that?'
or if the answer is simply incorrect, you can allow them to save face with:
'Many people think that'
That way even if they are wrong, they know they are not the only 'idiot' out there.

There are many different approaches, and many ways of phrasing it, but for the trainer the fundamental principle holds:
Making the student wrong, is seldom right.
 

This article was written by Michael Ronayne, director at the College of Public Speaking and four-time UK National Public Speaking Champion.

To discover more of Michael's top training techniques, check out his professionally accredited Train the Trainer course here