Double-edged sword

The ways we use our language can be a double-edged sword. By language, I mean all aspects of our spoken/written words, tones, facial expressions, and actions that accompany them.

Every once in a while I have to work with new consultants who are really struggling technically. That, coupled with low motivation, is a killer to growth. That, plus a language barrier, can be quite irritating. While explaining patiently to these students, I thought, "Is there any chance he/she will understand? Is there any chance he/she can do this role in due time?" These thoughts are no good thoughts. They can be the poison to be an effective teacher/trainer/coach. Once I have these thoughts, I may convey them unintentionally through my facial expressions, voice tones, and all that.

My personal technique in dealing with this problem is: by going away from focusing on my feelings to focusing on the student.
Is he/she confused? What makes him/her confused? Do I need to rephrase my questions? Should I use analogies?
Is he/she merely nervous, thus unable to answer? What makes him/her nervous? Does my facial expression intimidate him/her?
Do I wait for enough time to give him/her a time to think?
Have I tried a different approach?

I have almost always seen positive outcomes from this. Even if the student does not turn out to understand everything right away, he/she realizes my patience and appreciates the fact that I want to help him/her out. This is not something I guess, but one I hear directly from the students, right after I work with them. That brings me unparalleled satisfaction and encourages me to continue building them up.

Our language can be sharp and painful to others, potentially causing them to be discouraged and withdraw from the challenge. Our language can also be sharp yet constructive, enabling others to grow and have more confidence.
The next time you are in a difficult situation, ask before you act: "What does he/she think? Have I tried a different approach?"


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