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“All learning has an emotional base.” – Plato
Emotional intelligence (EI) is defined as the “ability to monitor one’s own and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different emotions … and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behaviour.” EI is a quality that is being increasingly valued in organisations around the world. The reasons are not difficult to understand. An awareness and understanding of our own emotions lets us recognise the same in the others. It forms the basis of empathy, which is a crucial attribute in a leader, a manager, or more pertinent to our point, a trainer. It’s not enough to be knowledgeable, well-read, smart, or intelligent. If you cannot meet people where they are, you will not be able to raise them to the level you want them to rise to. Fortunately, all of us can improve our EI. While some are naturally highly intelligent in this regard, others can work on building a better emotional intelligence. Let’s look at how EI can help trainers and coaches do their job better, and why you should work on honing your emotional intelligence too.
Now we are not saying that merely possessing good emotional intelligence also makes you articulate and adept at expressing yourself in all manners and ways, absolutely not. How well you speak depends on: a) Your natural talent for it. b) Your experience. c) Above all, your willingness to practise the skill. But assuming you have been practising your communication skills all these years, emotional intelligence can take you further because now you will have the added ability to actually listen to your audience and understand their reaction to your training. When you are able to gauge your students’ sentiments accurately, you are able to bring the desired changes in your own approach to engender a better dialogue, instead of just going on and on, hoping to impress one and all with your great eloquence and knowledge. Good verbal skills mean little if they are not complemented by good listening skills, along with the ability to understand different reactions and points of view. Good communication skills involve verbal as well as non-verbal signals, a combined understanding of which helps trainers put their point across more effectively.
We all get along with certain types of people better than others; mostly those who are like us and whom we can relate to on some higher or invisible level. If your job requires you to meet new people all the time, you don’t have the luxury to simply connect with those whom you are drawn to naturally and ignore the rest. You have to make sure you get along well with everybody at least reasonably well. It’s a tough ask, but those with a higher emotional intelligence will be able to pull it off better than those without it. As a trainer you will coach a variety of students over your career. Some of them young and fresh out of school, eager to learn new things; others experienced and at best lukewarm to you; and yet others old and jaded, not really interested in listening to what you have to say because they think they have seen and heard it all. Some will talk a lot and ask many questions, while others will simply not open up. It won’t matter how different they are from each other because your brief will remain the same – to coach them all to the best of your ability.
Here’s how. Because high EI makes you sensitive to other people’s states of mind, their emotions, as well as their defences/inhibitions, it helps you tailor your approach to different temperaments. This ability to switch gears when greeted with different personalities and learning styles is important for trainers to possess. It helps them know how to deal with the gregarious outgoing types, as well as those painfully shy and averse to speaking up. Your students will also be able to relate to you better. When they see you not just taking an interest in their learning but also moulding your approach to suit their personality, they are very likely to trust you and feel encouraged to participate in the classroom. In any case, it helps for a trainer to give off the vibe that he or she is approachable and that they value all their students’ opinions.
An acute awareness of one’s own self means a deep familiarity with one’s emotions, moods, triggers, motivations, weaknesses, and strengths along with a host of other things. Self-aware people know what they lack and need to address. They also know how to nurture their self-confidence. If they also possess the ability to manage their emotions well and have the work ethic to back their ambitions, they can go from strength to strength. For a trainer, this is a great attribute to possess. You don’t need others to point out your weak areas. You know them already and in all likelihood have been working on addressing them, whether they pertain to your professional life or to your personal relationships.
Because emotionally intelligent trainers relate with people better, they are able to gain a more than passing understanding of what motivates their students. One can eventually figure this out regardless of whether they are highly emotionally intelligent or not, but those with a good level of EI are able to determine this a lot faster. They sometimes know people even when the people may not know themselves. The ability to understand what motivates people helps trainers in a number of ways and not just when they are conducting training sessions. It helps them determine the training needs of the employees, design excellent training material around these needs, understand the goals and objectives of the management, negotiate with them for a better budget or enhanced facilities, and of course, deliver excellent training sessions. To sum up, EI gives you the understanding of how to negotiate with people, draw them out, persuade them, and ultimately win them over to your point of view. Depending on the trainer’s own level of ethics, this can be a good or a bad thing, but one can certainly see the positives to emerge out of the aforementioned abilities.
When you look at all the points presented above collectively, it becomes clear that EI can help you tap into your full potential. Training is about communicating ideas – whether these ideas are being exchanged with board members of an organisation, your colleagues, or your students. And you are always able to communicate better when you are aware of the underlying emotions at work.
Growing up we have all had teachers who couldn’t care less about the progress of their students. They did have the knowledge and the expertise to help us, but somehow they simply did not have the kind of effect on us that they should have had. If you’ve ever wondered what they were missing, the answer is emotional intelligence. The shows in the ability to relate to their students and meet them where they are, take an active interest in how they fare, and make learning a joyous experience for all those involved. Maybe they didn’t really care about us, which makes us all the more thankful for the teachers that did. As a trainer, you want to be the exact opposite of the worst teacher you have ever had. Instead, think of the most charismatic teacher you’ve encountered, the one who inspired you to do your best, and was happy when you actually lived up to your potential. A trainer needs a host of skills to succeed and create an everlasting impression on their students. It’s important to work on them all, but it’s equally important to base your approach to coaching in sound emotional intelligence. It’s the thread that ties everything together and helps you stand out as a trainer.
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