Are You Guilty of Stimulus Overload When Teaching Your Clients?

An excerpt from People Training Skills for Pet Professionals

Your essential guide to engaging, educating and empowering your human clients by Niki Tudge

The Human Component

Let us now talk about the human component of training. To be great trainers we need to understand how clients deal with, access and retrieve all the stimuli that we surround them with during our training sessions.

Here is a simple way to understand how we respond to stimuli using the different senses. Imagine for a moment you are sitting and relaxing in your back yard. You are capable of hearing for a mile or two, smelling at a distance of about 20 yards, touching at an arm’s length and tasting at a couple of inches. If you were to close your eyes and then open them for a few seconds, you would then be able to recall a lot of information about your surroundings, such as the color of the grass, trees, roads, birds, fencing, flower beds etc. This shows how powerful the human sense of sight is. Human hearing processes much less information in the same timeframe and our senses of smell, touch and taste even less. When we are training our clients we need to activate as many of their senses as possible. The more senses we engage the easier the learning will be.

Each of our senses has different capabilities. In terms of learning, sight and hearing are the two strongest ones. Sight helps us process stimuli from the environment and hearing helps us connect words with visual concepts. Each of the five senses acts as a portal for learning. Every stimulus passes through the portals of the five senses and then into our brain.

When multiple stimuli bombard our systems we are not capable of perceiving them all. Our brains have to quickly decide which are important and which are not. According to Stolovitch & Keeps (2011, p. 24), we are “hard-wired with an automatic ability to filter out perceptual irrelevancies.” This is important to us as trainers because, when we are actively engaging a client, we need to understand and recognize that, if our students feel what we are saying is irrelevant or non-essential, they will filter it out. Our goal is to ensure that we deliver pertinent and relevant information and that our students recognize this and personally connect to its importance.



Stimulus Overload!

One of the first things I do with a new business consulting client is ask them to describe what happens in the first lesson with one of their own new clients. Almost 100 per cent of them start to laugh and begin explaining or making excuses for everything they do in that first session. It often includes the distribution of multiple handouts and, after the session, the consultant often sends video links and more handouts by email.

My second question asks how many lessons, on average, each client purchases or participates in for a behavior case. Nervousness once again sets in as the students respond. In most situations these self-confessions explain that it is never enough, neither to theoretically resolve the problem through the implementation of a behavior change program nor for the client to learn how best to manage the problem. This generates two problems. The first is that we are not resolving client problems. It is my guess that clients scurry away completely overwhelmed by the generosity of the knowledge bearer. The second problem is that the consultant is completely underselling their services.

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