How Does Your State Influence Your Capacity to Learn English Effectively?
This post will discuss how powerful our emotions and feelings are when it comes to learning and teaching English effectively. It is mainly directed at fellow trainers and coaches, but not just in the English Training industry but trainers from all industries. Additionally if you are a learner and want maximum ROI from your efforts, I believe you will also find valuable insights in this post.
What is State?
In a nut shell, ‘state’ is basically how you are feeling at any given moment. Your state determines to a large degree not just what you are feeling but also what you are thinking. So, as you can surely imagine there are a great number of states we can be experiencing at any given time, which can change from moment to moment due to a variety of external and internal stimuli.
What Drives Your State & Can You Control it?
Physiology – Our motion and movement. How we move our bodies, how much we move, how we stand, our posture and body language, our breathing, the food and drink we put in our bodies. All this greatly influences how we feel at any moment.
Focus – Whatever we focus on, we will feel. Are you focusing on the areas you can communicate well in and your English progression? Or are you focusing on what you can’t do, your weaknesses and the mistakes you made in your English business meeting? What you choose to focus on will cause you to feel completely different and opposing feelings.
Language and Meaning – So your performance in the English business meeting wasn’t the best. Do you conclude from this experience that your English is terrible, you are a failure and it’s pointless to even try to improve your English because you have the wrong brain? Or do you conclude that you are human and mistakes are part of the process towards success. It was a valuable learning experience as the mistakes have shown you gaps in your English learning strategy and this will help you to communicate even better. The mistakes you made will actually drive you and motivate you to push on. You can clearly see the meaning you attach has to an event has great consequences on how you feel and will act in any given moment.
How Do I Get My Participants in State?
Unless you are training or working with children, carefree young adults or child like adults, getting your English course participants to jump around like a lunatic in an aerobics class is likely to be greeted with plenty of resistance and blank faces. Furthermore, even justifying and explaining the ‘ Why’ for the ‘Get in State’ exercise will make your English Learners to look at you like you just arrived from some far away planet and you have 6 eyes and long tentacles coming out of your head.
So the challenge for me and for any English Trainers is, “How can I get my English learners in state?” and “How Can I get their commitment?”. I have been an English Trainer in Germany since 2010 and one of my biggest English Training clients has been Siemens, so you can probably imagine one of my typical English Trainees would not be so open to doing something out of the ordinary. So rather than directly asking them to stand up, jump up and down like crazy with a big smile on your face shouting “Yes, yes, I feel so good”, I recommend a more tactful, undercover approach.
Have fun – Whenever the energy is low and the course participants are in a bad state, stop the lesson immediately and have some fun. There are so many English word games you can do. You can check out one of my blog posts to find one that is right for you or just create your own. To make it even more effective, use a game that requires the participant to move, even if it is just to get off their seat and come to the whiteboard to draw or write something.
Get them to focus on positives – At the start of the your English Training sessions, don’t just ask “How was your weekend?” This will often bring a response like “nothing special, not bad” or it prompts them to talk about something frustrating and negative that happened. Remember people generally like to have a good moan and share their crap with others. I ask questions like, What were the best things about your weekend? What did you do over the weekend that made you feel good? What are you looking forward to? What are you liking about your jobs at the moment?
Get them to move – Emotion is created by motion (E = Energy + Motion). If you have a small group or even better if it is a 1-2-1, go for a 10 walk and talk. This will work wonders for both of you. Alternatively, like mentioned above, inject some fun and laughter into your lessons through fun English games. If your course participants are willing and open, doing a few minutes of stretching is a good way of waking up the body. I also encourage my participants to stand up and move a little during the lesson, not just sit down on their butts for a couple of hours.
Don’t dwell on negatives – If you are anything like me, sometimes I don’t actually feel like an English Trainer, but more like a Therapist – I guess that is the downside of creating a good rapport with your course participants. Business English participants that are based at their workplace are known to have a few complaints about their jobs, their colleagues or their bosses and they see the English course as a good place to vent their dissatisfaction and get a sympathetic ear. Now I am not saying cut them off straight away and make clear that complaining or having a rant is off-limits – because this can help people t get in a better state, but it does need to be controlled and limited. Secondly, you will need to switch the conversation and get their focus back on something more productive via asking targeted question as quickly as possible. Avoid making the lesson a beating up the boss and company a discussion.
Relevant Tasks – Make sure the participant can relate to what you are teaching them to their own needs, values and goals. A participant who can not make this connection and is thinking “why are we doing this?” will soon get bored or frustrated and will close themselves off from learning.
The Right Way – Now I am not saying here you should abandon your style of teaching and your core beliefs about how to effectively teach English, but every English Trainee will have a preference on how to learn. One might like to speak and be active, one might like to read, one might to watch videos or use pictures, drawing and charts to learn. Just bear this in mind and find out the individual preferences of your English learners, so you can address their needs, develop an effective strategy for them and for your lessons, and importantly keep them satisfied.
The Right Level – Your English learners need to be stretched and challenged, otherwise they will get bored. However, if something is too difficult which means the participant can not get started, can not contribute to the class or task, can not make a good calculated guess at the meaning of something or if they can not complete reach a reasonable level of the performance criteria, they will soon feel demotivated and give up. Moreover, it will likely eventually induce thoughts and feelings of failure, why bother, I’m not good enough, I can’t do it. Also if a task is too far out of the comfort zone, it is likely to create too much anxiety and fear in the participants, which will also put them in a disempowering state.
Progress – Make sure your English learners can see and feel the progress they are making. Evaluate and measure their starting points, their development of important communicative skills and their progression towards their goals. Build awareness by highlighting or eliciting from the English participants, what was practised and learned in that day’s lesson. What were their takeaways.
Only Healthy Stress – The environment should be free of frustration, anger, stress and annoyances. This means deal with anything and anybody that is effecting the energy and atmosphere in the room.
Empower the learners – Make the English learners feel important and respected by allowing them to guide the lessons. Serve them, be customer focused, give to your English learners, make them and their needs the priority.
Active Learning – Focus on English Communication. What does this mean? A huge proportion of your lesson the English participant’s (not the English Trainer) should be communicating in English.
Praise and Recognition – Keep the highlighting of negatives and mistakes to an absolute minimum. But rather, positively reinforce effective behaviour and habits by rewarding not just good work, but good effort and progress through praise and recognition – even and especially the small stuff. It does not cost anything to give a genuine “well done” and it will light up your participants and make their day.
Be yourself and be at your best – I realized at the start of my English training career that I was not being myself. I was pretending to be somebody I wasn’t simply to cover up my inexperience I guess. It was only when I decided that I would go into each and every training session and show my true self and I stopped being a people-pleaser. Only after making this decision, did I truly enjoy my work and as a result my English Training seminars took off and developed to a whole new level. Also being authentic and true to yourself will allow you to…(see next point)
Your Key Takeaways for Effective English Sessions
Admit it, there’s a part of you that, when it’s turned on, you can make anything happen; but when it’s turned off, your world and potential for great results is dead. You know what I’m talking about don’t you? I am sure you can recall a time you were in a good state, you were in-flow and on a roll – everything flows just perfectly without your even having to think about it? You create a great peace of work, you ace your examination, you deliver an awesome presentation and had so much fun doing it, you played your best game of tennis ever and it felt effortless, you said exactly the right thing in the business meeting or walked out of a business negotiation with exactly what you wanted. I believe if learners can master their state, they will master their learning and will take a big steps quickly towards speaking English effectively.
Thank you for reading this post and for giving your time. For this I am very grateful. I now welcome you to leave a comment and offer your opinion and thoughts on this topic. Make today a great day and I look forward to connecting with you in the comments section.