If you’re going on a course, try not to do any of these! and – enjoy!
- When the first thing someone asks you is “When do we finish?”. They may have a good reason but it gives the impression that they are already wishing it was over, that they want to get the day over with using the minimum effort. If you had an audience with The Dalai Llama or Einstein or Martin Luther King or John Lennon, would you start by asking “When can we finish?” or “Can we finish a bit early, because I’m a bit worried about the traffic south of Birmingham?”
- Sometimes I get someone coming up before the start looking really sheepish – I already know what they are going to say – and they say “I’m really sorry, I’ve got to go early, is that OK?” Again, they probably have a good reason, picking up children from school for example, but I still find this annoying because it puts that little bit of pressure on me to do everything important before they have to go, in fact it implies that some of my course isn’t as important, and also makes me think about pulling it out of shape just for them – ideally you’d have something great at the finish, but now they are making me think I should more that part forward. And there’s this other implication that I will be upset that they aren’t going to learn quite as much as they would have. Perhaps I should be? But really, it makes no difference to me if they choose to miss part of my course – I’m doing it, the best way I can, for everyone that will listen. Why apologise to me? If you really DO think it’s bad to miss some then make more of an effort to stay till the end! If and it it’s really only a mock apology, given out of politeness rather than really feeling bad, then don’t bother to lie to me.
- But much more of a pet hate than the first two is the person who just doesn’t want to be on the course. Sent by their boss, they sit there with their arms folded, looking sideways or out of the window, putting a downer on the whole proceedings for everyone. I always hope I can win them over, and occasionally I do, but mostly they sit through the day with their mind closed, and afterwards I regret not just chucking them out at the start.
- Introverted groups are another pet hate – you might think it’s unlikely that you’ll get 12 people who are ALL introverts, but it’s more common than you’d expect, for two reasons. One is that it’s a company culture thing – often a whole company will be introverts, for example Engineers are often that way. And the second is that you only need two or three extroverts to make a day lively and fun, the quiet people are then padding who have no effect, and on many courses this is what you get. So all you need is those two or three people to not happen to be on that particular course and you have the morgue from hell. If I was not interactive, if I just read out stuff from powerpoint, then the audience wouldn’t make any difference, but I like to chat with the audience, have a debate, have a laugh, and if you’re doing a training day every day, with travel in between each one, you need a bit of help from the audience. So the introverted groups are much harder work. And it’s rude of them not to respond – they sit there with their arms folded thinking “someone else can answer that one, I can’t be bothered”. Of course they might just be shy, but to an extrovert like me this is hard to understand, so I interpret it as laziness and rudeness. Which I do think in some situations it is. Although I am often pleasantly surprised by the feedback from introvert groups, who write that they learned loads and enjoyed the day – so maybe the fact that it was REALLY hard work for me wasn’t entirely wasted.
- The opposite of the last one is the super-keen Chipper-in Agreer. This is the person who says “Oh yes, I get that situation a lot, what I always do is…..” and “Oh yes, we have that in our department and I always do what you are saying”. If they amplify every point it’s nice to start with, but then it doubles the time it takes for me to make each point, so I can only cover half the material on my day – or risk finishing late which is a big crime. In a group of 10 people it’s rude to take up more than 10% of the commenting time, so don’t! The others in the group often roll their eyes – they know this person only too well. If the person is saying they do it the same as me then they are merely repeating what I’m saying and it’s a waste of time, and if they are saying they do it differently then excuse me, who is running this course? So I have to cut them off mid comment each time, which they don’t like, and they write something bad about me on the feedback form, but such is life!
- A common one but also one that really irritates me is the person who doesn’t write anything down …in fact often they haven’t even brought a pen. As if there isn’t going to be ANYTHING worth making a note of, in a whole DAY of training! This may not be their fault, because maybe nobody has ever explained that you learn more if you take notes, or maybe they are not good at making notes on the fly, maybe they can’t even write. Or maybe they were expecting handouts for everything. But still to me it gives the impression that they aren’t picking up anything good from my efforts. A subset is the doodler, and they used to annoy me too, especially the ones who just colour in all the e’s and o’s, but I have learned over the years that often doodlers are taking it all in and they can often be the best students of all.
- Then there’s the person with the tickly cough, who usually sits at the front end arm of the u-shape, on my right, for maximum volume, suddenly coughing straight into my ear, all day. Variations of this are the person with the running spluttering cold who also sits right at the front and gives it to me; and the person who clicks their biro all day, again right at the front. These aren’t bad people – they don’t know they’re annoying – but it’s hard to tell them!
- The next pet hate is one that I should really be pleased with, but I’m not! This is the person who comes up at the end and says “That was better than I expected” with a slightly surprised and also patronising tone. “You’re not a bad little trainer, you actually managed to come up with just one or two things I didn’t know already”. They thought I wasn’t going to be any good – do I look bad, or did they have preconceptions? Maybe it’s not about me, maybe the last trainer they had wasn’t any good, so I’m being a little harsh here? I guess if they were massively enthusiastic: “That was BRILLIANT, SO much better than the last course I went on” – that would be fine. It’s the begrudging admittance that it was just “OK”, the fact that they are judging me, and then saying to me that I was “OK”. And if everyone else thought it was great, is it me that’s OK or them that’s hard to please?
- Next is the person who comes up at the end – when I am busy packing up and want to get on the motorway for my three hour drive home – and offers their advice on how the course could have been better. Thanks mate! I’ve been doing this for 20 years and you’ve wandered in to one course and you are now qualified to tell me how to do it better, from just your point of view, even though the rest of the course participants might not agree. “This section could have been faster / slower / shorter / longer” – for YOU maybe but what about the others? Do you think I haven’t already thought about that, tried it on previous courses, and worked out the best way? And if, let’s say if, one part of the day didn’t quite work for some reason, do you think I haven’t already noticed that and thought about how to improve it? It’s what I DO, and NOT what YOU do for a living. And I think sometimes the suggestion on how to improve is a bit of a game, it’s not really meant to be helpful, it’s “I’m cleverer than you” – or am I too sensitive, too vain, too arrogant? Maybe! A variation is the person who hangs around at the end asking me extra questions about the subject, about their own situation “I’ve got this person who I work with some sometimes does this and that….. what’s your advice?” – it’s good that they are keen, but do they not realise I have a home to go to? Do they not realise that coaching is £100/hour? Do they not realise that I may find my personal life more attractive than continuing to work after a long exhausting day, with 3 hours of travel still to go, on their problems?
- Finally there is being asked “Can I have a certificate of attendance?” The certificate is worthless – can’t they see that? It’s not accredited by anyone, it’s just MADE UP and printed out by me! And they could have slept through the day but still get the certificate of attendance, so all it means is that they were physically on a course, in body but maybe not in mind. But the main objection is that it shows they only want to tick a box and collect another certificate, rather than actually learn anything.
Ooof, I feel better now. I hope you found that useful for when you are next on a course – we trainers do have our feelings you know!