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When a Story Has Three Sides

Have you ever found yourself in a room filled with anticipation? You are waiting, the guest presenter is almost ready. You've been one yourself; you know adrenalin is pumping, clothing adjusted and breathing calmed. You urge them on hoping to be wowed; you want them to do well.

But fast forward 10 minutes and you're thinking, "I just don't get it." You look around the room; it's a sea of rapt faces, you search, you look and you think, "maybe it's just me?" Then, relief as you spot another confused face in the crowd wondering what they are missing.

So that is where I found myself this week, in a room full of wonderful professionals, all hearing the same words, seeing the same thing and yet experiencing it in so many different ways.

We were there because we wanted to hear what our speaker had to say, to learn what life had taught him. Yet our values, our experiences, our past, our hopes for the future all meant we 'saw' something different.

For some, it was a new way of looking at life. For others it was an affirmation that they were on the right path. For a few it was a chance to question their life decisions. In amongst them all were a smattering of people thinking, "How has he made a career out of this?"

So who was right? Who had the correct perspective? If we listen without question, are we simply guilty of malleability? Or are we judging too harshly simply because the message does not strike a chord with us?

I think back to every time I have trained a group of people. I think about the faces I see looking back at me - excitement, fear, understanding, relief, a lack of confidence, challenge and, just occasionally, disinterest.

My role is to support each and every one of them to find a way to go back and do their job that little bit better. Each person comes with their own needs, their own strengths, their own weaknesses and their own vision for the future.

Will I be able to appeal to them all every step of the way? Unlikely. Can I acknowledge their individuality and work out ways for it to make sense to them all? Absolutely. Will I do that every time I step out in front of a group of learners? That is what I am committed to doing.

So I look around the room again. I see the different experiences etched on people's faces and I remind myself of my responsibilities as a trainer. The need to remain vigilant, watching for those emotions, considering the messages they are sending and adjusting my delivery accordingly.

It was not what I expected to learn from our guest speaker, but it was a fabulous reminder nonetheless.

February 12 2016Frances Ferguson

Frances Ferguson

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