VolunteerToday.com ~~ The Electronic Gazette for
Return to 2002
~ January 2002 ~
- Encouraging Dialogue During Training
- Leaders Are Lifelong Learners
- Climbing Out of the Well
Encouraging Dialogue During Training
The trainer asks a question of the learners; and there
is an agonizingly long silence. This is the nightmare for anyone who
trains. Will the participants respond? Will a dialogue be created between
trainer and learner or learner and learner? Here are some tips or hints
on what has to be present in the learning environment for dialogue to
be fruitful and multiply.
- Focus on commonalties, not disagreements.
||Start dialogue by discussing
those issues where people agree. Save the divisive things for
late in the training.
- Use specific cases to raise general issues
||Most people develop their
beliefs based on reality, not abstract thought. Case studies or
real experiences can be used to help learners think through large
||Discussion is like tennis-bat
ideas or opinions back and forth. Dialogue requires the patience
of empathy for the speaker's views or situation. Real dialogue
comes when the trainer is motivated to respond empathetically
to someone with whom they might disagree or find distasteful.
- Be fair and do not compel
||Training adults means learners
with widely varying skills, experience, status, and authority.
Dialogue means trust must exist. The trainer cannot "play"
to those in authority and expect to create a trustful atmosphere.
Be fair and create an environment where all present are equals.
- Encourage the building of relationships
||Many times adults arrive
at training and sit with those they know, never venturing to meet
new people. The trainer can enhance the climate for dialogue by
encouraging activities that build relationships and humanize the
- Dialogue has three qualities: equality, empathetic listening,
and being non-judgmental
||The trainer must monitor
the classroom environment for the presence of all three to ensure
the opportunity for dialogue to flourish.
- Distinguish between the types of talking; discussion, dialogue,
||Dialogue works close to our
value and belief system. The trainer's job is to clarify what
type of talking is going on in the class. This helps everyone
understand the appropriateness of responses.
- Bring ideas or views out in the open for discussion
||Never assume that everyone
agrees on a certain assumption. The learners might not be willing
to bring up their own views, so the trainer must state assumptions
so they can be discussed.
- Clarify to reduce distortions
||Each learning group has different
sub-cultures with different views. The trainer needs to clarify
to reduce distortions. The trick is to clarify without identifying
sub-groups or exhibiting the effort to engage the learners. Every
effort takes place with an eye toward equality.
- Engage those who disagree
||The entire group is impacted
by how the trainer treats those who disagree. An effort to seek
mutual understanding is a powerful example of the three dialogue
principles at work.
- Tackle areas of disagreement after group members have developed
||Dialogue can be compromised
when there is no trust in a group. The trainer must monitor the
group's willingness to tackle value and belief issues that are
likely to raise the emotional level in the room.
- Focus on conflicts of opinions or values, not on individuals
Help the learners separate between ideas or opinions being expressed
and the person saying them. Remind people that John Adams and
Thomas Jefferson disagreed on powerful ideas, but were fast friends
until their deaths.
Leaders Are Lifelong Learners
Leaders are individuals who know they can never stop
learning and are personally committed to self-improvement. This attitude
is contagious. The volunteer manager who believes they still have things
to learn sets an example for the volunteers and staff with whom they
work. Here are four skills for the Leader/Learner.
- Be humble.
Acknowledge that you do not have all the answers and are seeking new
ideas to improve your life, your work, and your relationships.
- Identify personal prejudices.
Most adults prefer certain ways to learn; reading, hearing, hands-on.
A forward step in learning is to explore a learning method that is
not your favorite. This increases versatility in gaining new information
on a variety of topics.
- Gather unfiltered information.
If information about your volunteers comes from reports, do something
different this month. Walk around. Visit with supervisors of volunteers.
Talk to people informally over coffee, tea, or hot chocolate. Read
journals and magazines that contain the views of people with whom
you might not agree.
- Look for the new way to think and do.
Encourage dissenting views. Banish this sentence from your responses
to new ideas, "We tried that two years ago and it didn't work."
Be open to new ideas, even about things you are sure are "true."
Climbing Out of the Well
The long days of winter and let down from the holidays
can sap your energy and make you feel sad. Here are some tips to keep
- Call the most positive person you know and invite them to have
lunch with you.
- Build momentum in a project. Start with small steps and reward
yourself as each step is accomplished.
- Write down all the reasons why working will bring you benefits.
(Hint-improve the relationship with your supervisor, make volunteers
proud of our work, better meet the needs of clients, etc.)
- Think back to when you loved this job. Remind yourself of what
that felt like. Use the energy from that feeling to build new energy.
- Keep a joy journal. On your computer or desk, write down one thing
each day that gives you joy. Reread it on the days when you feel
COLLEGE PROGRAMS ON NONPROFIT AND
Close to 200 colleges and universities offer academic
programs on nonprofit and volunteer sector management. They are usually
master's degree programs, but not always. American Humanics sponsors
undergraduate programs, as well. If you are looking to push out the
professional development window, consider taking a course at one of
these colleges. A full list resides at http://pirate.shu.edu/~mirabero.
Thank Roseanne Mirabella, of Seton Hall University for keeping up with
Copyright 2002 by Nancy Macduff.