Page 56


Facilitating Learning

Niki Tudge discusses the importance of being able to communicate with clients so they can achieve their goals for themselves and their dogs

“Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. We can choose to use this force constructively with words of encouragement, or destructively using words of despair. Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate and to humble.” - Yehuda Berg


key part of our effectiveness as trainers is being able to interact positively with our clients. This means we must present ourselves well and communicate appropriately with them. When meeting new or prospective clients, we perceive and interpret stimuli based on our sensory impressions. A cycle of perception and behavior follows and, if we get it wrong, it can lead us to fundamentally misunderstand their mo- © Can Stock Photo/barsik tives, goals and actions. As individuals, we tend to apply identification rules to the moods, attitudes and intentions of others from the stimuli we receive. In other words, we stereotype. All of us do it to some extent. Once we have created these inaccuracies and drawn our own conclusions we then expect others to behave in certain ways. This not only affects how we treat them but also how we communicate with them. Instead though, we should be treating our clients with respect, fairness, and integrity and - yes - interest. If we are to teach and coach our clients effectively, we need to be invested in them as individuals and not just their goals.

Communicating with Powerful Words

Is hearing a passive activity? Hearing is a passive activity, but to really hear what is being said one must actually listen.

The secret to understanding others depends on our ability to communicate effectively. Words are very powerful tools and the choices we make can influence the thoughts, attitudes and behaviors of others. By paying close attention to the language our clients use, we can get a greater insight into what they are really trying to say. We may have to query them and dig deeper to truly understand their challenges and goals but, if we understand their language, we can respond more appropriately and effectively to them as individuals. How many of us actually listen and pay attention to a client’s every word without the distraction of talking to the dog, delivering treats or even taking cursory glances at our phones? 56

BARKS from the Guild/March 2017

As the saying goes, “two ears and one mouth” sums up what our communication should be: ask questions and then listen carefully to understand more. When we hear, we perceive sounds from our environment but, when we listen, we actually identify those stimuli. Of course, listening involves extra effort on our part. To really understand what we have heard we have to take extra steps, i.e. give our clients undivided attention and be present in the moment with them. If we take the time to do this, the impact it could have on developing a clearer and more impactful relationship is enormous. Ultimately the process of communicating is about exchanging information. We, the consultants, must ensure we gain access to every detail, whether as part of our functional assessment or during the experiential learning cycle as a component of our coaching role. Mastering the art of asking well-crafted questions will help us create more engaging conversation. Also, by communicating that we are interested in learning about our clients, we can establish a relationship with them more quickly. Anyone who is shy, concerned about making a mistake or being perceived as a busybody will find their capacity to get the job done impeded, as it will inhibit their ability to ask the necessary questions to extract the relevant answers. There are many different reasons why we need to ask our clients questions. Maybe we want to help them feel at ease or motivate them to engage in a discussion. We may want to encourage them to actively participate or move the focus elsewhere. In other instances our questions may aim to inspire a family member to join in, or establish how much the client knows and understands from a training session. The secret to understanding others depends on our ability to communicate effectively

Appreciative inquiry focuses on what is right and how we can make it better. It is an enlightened way to approach client communication and fact finding. Appreciative inquiry is the art of seeking information about the things that we value.

BARKS from the Guild March 2017  
BARKS from the Guild March 2017  

The bi-monthly trade publication from the Pet Professional Guild covering all things animal behavior and training, canine, feline, equine, p...