• Audrey Tang

Top training tips for inclusive learning

Delighted to be interviewed for "Everybody Roar" on top training tips:

ER: What's the fundamental difference between introverts and extroverts, and how can you tell one from the other?

AT: I enjoy solitude, it gives me time to re-energise. Like many of you who feel similar, it’s not that we “introverts” can’t deal with social situations (in fact many would assume I was an extrovert) – but rather, I can “turn on the charm” when occasion calls, but it exhausts me and I need time to myself to recharge.

The terms “introversion” and “extraversion” are colloquially understood as “extroverts are outgoing and introverts are quiet loners”. This – albeit common – misunderstanding is an oversimplification of psychoanalyst Carl Jung’s original approach. According to Jung[AT1] these two concepts are attitudes – “Each person seems to be energised more by the external world (extraversion) or the internal world (introversion)”.

As with any preference, an extrovert can perform well in a quiet setting, and the introvert vice versa but they are best energised by situations relating to their preference. Note - There are also “ambiverts” who are people who may enjoy specific group company and specific quiet pursuits.

In some ways, you can’t tell the difference between a skilled introvert and a skilled extrovert because they are both capable of performing to the needs and demands of the job, but they might require different ways to re-energise after situations that were challenging for them. For example the people who are wonderful presenters but don’t often want to socialise after work may well be introverts, the people who are always checking in with others, especially after a long day in front of a screen, or doing solitary pursuits such as research – may be extroverts…

ER: Why is it important to recognise those differences, and adapt your training techniques accordingly?

AT: There are benefits of each and where the social charm of the extrovert is often celebrated, there are advantages of being introverted too – and as with all forms of diversity it is not just about learning balance and developing the skills we might feel we lack – but actually celebrating the benefits of the differences that we bring to the working table.

When it comes to training, the most important thing is to establish a “safe space” for everyone to contribute. Let us also remember that the training environment is not the same as a working one. We actually do not really want the “character” that the person may use for professional success to be present in this context as that can interfere with the ability and opportunity to learn and develop – where one needs to be a little more vulnerable and real!

As such, introverts and extroverts may either revert to their “comfortable” states (which is what you want) – or they may compensate eg: the extrovert trying hard NOT to take the lead in a group task although they can see it’s not working out well; or the introvert putting on a bravado of humour to deflect attention.

Trainers simply need to be aware of that. It is not unusual for adults in a classroom setting to revert to their classroom behaviours – or coping strategies from school. (This behaviour can be described as an example of the “the looking glass self” (Cooley) where people see themselves in the eyes of others – so for example, in the classroom setting, the individual transfers the emotions and thoughts about learning that they have held in the past to the trainer – and behave in that way, the trainer then responds to it*, casting the same lens as their previous experience – and so the cycle of the looking glass continues.)

*I would say personally that it is too easy to say “oh well, that’s because they are behaving like children and the trainer responds in kind”…which is sometimes true – of an inexperienced trainer, but trained teachers are taught to VALIDATE children’s behaviour, to speak to them quietly outside, to not embarrass them, to not always make jokes back unless they feel it is appropriate – they read the room…any of these would actually be EFFECTIVE behaviours…so sometimes issues can be related to the trainer’s own style, confidence and ability to cope.

The reason why adapting techniques is important – is not just accessibility for all, but actually because without labelling anyone, people all learn differently anyway. AND any adaptations made also help keep the session engaging and may work for more people than you think. For example, students with a diagnosis of ADHD or Autism often benefit from knowing what tasks have to be done, and a time set for each, but also in some cases the option of doing the tasks in the order they choose:

- The “time limit” could be made into a competition for the whole group – which can be a lot more energising than “do the task”

- The ownership of choice might also encourage more people to really think about what they are connecting with.

I am not saying teaching adults is like teaching children…it really isn’t – for a start children have to be there, when teaching adults – if you aren’t passionate and enthusiastic about what you are delivering, the audience, quite rightly starts to think “well, why should I be!?”…BUT I am saying that there are SKILLS to teaching which not everyone has if they haven’t been through a thorough enough training. Just because you know a subject or topic doesn’t mean you can deliver it in a way that engages and helps delegates learn.

To return to introverts and extroverts – consider having options such as writing answers down rather than shouting them out; also you might want to swap between people volunteering to do any presentation feedback, and picking people…or simply setting the task with enough for all the group to speak out.

Sometimes swapping groups can help, but adults really don’t seem to enjoy this – if you run training for more than a day you’ll notice people always choose the same seat…unless you make a point of it, and if you’re going to do that, perhaps say so from the start.

Managing expectations is also important, having the agenda, having times to check learning, having opportunities to ask questions – both publicly and perhaps more privately is important – but again this is not specific to supporting introverts and extroverts – but rather a skill of an effective trainer.

ER: Can it be detrimental to the training of introverts if you don't consider their needs during training sessions?

AT: Absolutely – if anyone’s needs are not considered they may end up not getting the full benefit of the session. Of course you cannot please everyone, but you can construct the session in the most effective way to learn, and then be adaptable as you proceed.

For example, if you observe one exercise and find your approach is not working, then have enough skill to change the approach – a common example is the group task of writing things down and getting feedback. Firstly, if you do this all the time, it’s very dull – so maybe have another option of groups writing it down, sticking it on the wall as a gallery and then letting people read and give feedback on post its and just taking 3 key reflections from each group. A third option…if it’s a room full of extroverts with one or two introverts is to tell them to give their feedback through still image or mime (or something “silly) – but allow room for a narrator to describe what’s going on, reminding them it’s not an acting exam nor a speaking exam – so they can write down what they want to say…and if you’d planned to do that, and it’s a group of introverts, then change to one of the earlier options!

Adaptations in training are all about making people engage better which encourages learning – but they DO still need to challenge them, so you might ALSO want to say at the start that some exercises might challenge them – if that’s true – but that this is all good in terms of personal growth.

I always tell my delegates two things:

I. Learning is a pick n mix, get what you can, and use what works – but remember the other stuff is there should you want it.

II. Even if you hate everything about me, you are here now so you can still learn…you can learn what you DON’T want to do if you run a session, you can learn WHO you don’t want to be when you run a session, you can learn WHAT to avoid when you run a session – take SOMETHING from it!!

ER: What can trainers do to help introverts feel comfortable in training sessions, and what are some techniques they can use that makes introverts feel valued, while respecting their emotional comfort levels?

AT: I think I’ve sort of covered this above but you might consider:

- Exercises which allow people to work on their own, or work with the material in their own way – as long as you can check learning in some form.

- Timed group exercises (I show a timer on the screen) – this way YOU keep time, and people remain task focused, but be mindful and flexible enough to stop time early if you see people are finished or negotiate more time if they are focused and need longer

- Try to avoid the awful – “pick a partner” – you divide them…and here’s my FAVOURITE tip – I divide people not by 1, 2, 3, 4 but “Brilliant, Awesome, Wonderful, Superstar”…because then when people find each other they say “are you Brilliant”…and this makes them all smile!

- I am personally a VERY interactive trainer so I do things like “leadership aerobics” where people have to teach 8 bars of aerobics…BUT I only do this deeper into the session (eg afternoon if it’s a day, or session 2 or 3, so they can get used to me if it’s a programme) – let people build up to anything comfort zone challenging…AND when I run that exercise I teach enough first (I qualified as an aerobics teacher many years ago – before my QTS/Teacher training) so that people don’t need to think too hard…they can just repeat my steps

- If you are going to use role play – USE ACTORS. I use role play because it’s a great way to get people to try things and then reflect on them, but asking THEM to play roles is a bit “GCSE Drama”…and a) I used to teach that, and b) it’s AWFUL for adults!! So I have an actor (also an L&D professional) who is briefed on the areas of exploration and also knows when to push and when to stop. This way people are only doing the SELF development work…and through using the “forum” technique (Boal) – not everyone needs to volunteer to do the “performance” – but instead they can offer suggestions. (Or, if you have a lively group – then I do a whole set up where EVERYONE plays a part)…but again the reflection at the end is essential…reminding them NOW is the time to make mistakes and NOW is the time when it’s ok to think “Oh no….”! Brunel Business Life Customer Service Training 2AA - YouTube (BUT the key tip – use actors!!...but admittedly I’m a qualified professional British Equity actor so I know a few)

- It is not the exercise but the LEARNING that matters – so another thing I deliver is a “tabletop escape” to teach team dynamics – and while the game itself is fun, where I can really teach is in the feedback eg: by asking people whether anyone surprised them, or observing (sometimes with video footage if the group allows) – and asking people “You said this at the start…why did you then do that…” https://youtu.be/DE1aNcC6ht0 ALWAYS make time to reflect, and always ask people things like:

o What key things did they learn about themselves/the topic

o How will they apply them

o What one thing can they do when they leave to make the changes they want?

§ Again – this can be done on a post it and they stick it in the wall as they leave, or they can speak them…again, read the room and have options.

- Be positive with your feedback – but the “hamburger technique” is too known and can sound false. I actually acknowledge this but take on the responsibility by saying – I don’t like the hamburger technique because the praise at the end sounds a bit like “and well done for showing up” – so I will ALWAYS praise something, then give them a very clear and specific area for work – and how they might make a start, but then ask them to ask any questions – or remind them they can chat in the break or at the end.

ER: Any more advice you'd like to give introverts about training sessions and how they can make sure they make the most of them?

AT: This is not just for introverts, but for ANYONE – in the “Housekeeping” bit at the start where we talk about respect for each other, and listening – you may also want to remind them (as I always do) – that DURING the session is the time to speak up (even if you have to take me to one side) and tell me what isn’t working, if that’s the case. It’s all very well putting it on a feedback sheet, but that will only change things for the NEXT group, and it’s MUCH BETTER to change things for YOU. A good trainer will really appreciate the opportunity to improve, and will hopefully have enough in their teaching artillery in order to make the changes you need without affecting the quality of the session.

If you really can’t bear a face to face class, ask about options – if there’s the opportunity to do things online or in your own time…my only reservation with this is, if it’s just because you don’t want to talk to people and you are happy with that…OK, but if that’s something you want to change, then attending that class will be a good start to pushing your comfort zone.

If a training session didn’t live up to expectations – PLEASE SAY WHY – it is really unhelpful to just say “I didn’t like it” without suggestions as to how to improve – please be specific on what YOU NEED that way it is much easier for the trainer, or the organisation to provide it either within the time of the training, or outside it (sometimes as a trainer I will ask what people are hoping to get out of a session – and have that visible to me throughout, and refer to it again at the end).

Ask for any reading recommendations so you can learn more in your own time, ask for the slides, ask for the workbooks – and as a trainer – provide these – I always put together a workbook of the exercises I use so that people can go back to it in their own time…learning is not just in a capsule, it’s ongoing.

[AT1]Jung, C. G. (1921) Psychologische Typen, Rascher Verlag, Zurich – translation H.G. Baynes, 1923.

Dr Audrey Tang is a chartered psychologist and author with a specialty in the "how to take action", rather than just giving explanation and advice. Listen to her podcast Retrain Your Brain here; and catch her practical masterclasses Psych Back to Basics on DisruptiveTV & Energy Top Up for resilience. For self development tools based within positive psychology: click Her YouTube Channel . Twitter/IG @draudreyt

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