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Student and trainer relationship hurdles

April 23, 2008

The relationship between the trainer and the student can stumble or falter for a variety of reasons. Understanding the enemy can help you to combat problems or avoid them outright. Invariably the relationship will suffer minor setbacks throughout the training but this is usually the result of the additional stress placed onto the student. In some cases the relationship may suffer a more permanent regression or plateau early and result in slower student progress. Action is required to remedy this problem and intervention from an external mediator may also be necessary. These difficulties are usually the result of one or more of the following five main hurdles to building and progressing the relationship.

  • Miscommunication: This the most common relationship malady and can quickly end up in a catch-22 situation. You need the relationship for the communication to prosper but without communication, how can the relationship develop. The only solution is to take a proactive role and instigate open, honest interaction between the two of you so that any miscommunication is cleared up quickly.
  • Ego versus empathy: The trainer has to be confident in their own ability and if this confidence is massaged often enough, ego will grow in its place. The trainer may feel the need to pamper this growth personally, often to the student’s detriment. In severe cases the trainer will neglect obvious signs for attention and place more emphasis on their training over the student’s learning. Comments like “you won’t understand this but” or “when you’ve been doing this as long as I have …” are indicators that this is occurring.
  • Credibility: This may or may not have any bearing on the trainers aptitude for the task and is often based on intangible evidence such as social status (e.g. your trainer isn’t well liked by their peers). Unfortunately for the trainer, this is also the case of being guilty until proven otherwise. The best solution is prove them wrong but this can take valuable time. Students may be difficult to sway and the only remaining choice is to rely on coercive power to have them complete the tasks with some enthusiasm. The moral of the story; don’t blow any credibility that you do have with poor preparation or negligence.
  • Expectations: The trainer has misread the ability of the student and set goals that are unrealistic or provide little to no challenge. Unachievable goals can lead to despair and the student may just give in or make half-hearted attempts with no expectation of success. If the student is not challenged, they may become bored or frustrated with the training, especially if they feel that they are being treated like a complete novice or simpleton. This problem lies solely on the shoulders of the trainer and occurs because they cannot assess or apply the correct training pace for optimum learning. Seek help before the student quits – it will be much harder afterward if this occurs.
  • Professionalism: This covers the trinity of honesty, integrity and sincerity. In essence it is the trainer preaching a set of standards that they themselves do not adhere to and the student is well aware of it. Honesty means tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Integrity means do the right thing even though you think no-one is watching – act as though your boss, your mother and your eight year old child are scrutinising your every move. For sincerity it is simple; say what you mean and mean what you say. You may think a little rebellion or individuality will assist the student in identifying with you, but do so with caution, because any one of these professional sins will jeopardise credibility. If it causes moral dilemma in the student, then irreparably so.

You may or may not have control over any or all of these when the training begins but it is essential that you don’t add fuel to the fire of dissension. It is far easier to degrade the relationship than it is to rebuild it after a rift appears. Treasure the relationship with the student because it is the key to effective communication. Without effective communication, your efforts will be spent on salvaging rather than developing.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 29, 2008 10:16 am

    Interesting post and I love your site by the way – very informative.

  2. November 30, 2008 7:17 am

    Thanks Sandra.

    I appreciate the support.

    Cheers, Duane.

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