Michelangelo’s David is on display in Florence, Italy. When you see it, whether or not you are an art lover, you are amazed by Michelangelo’s accomplishment. Michelangelo, in his lifetime, accomplished much more than just the statue of David (such as the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel).  

What we need to remember about this artistic genius is that despite all of his obvious skills, and all the statues and paintings he was able to produce in his lifetime, he always considered himself to be a student of art. At the age of 87, he was quoted as saying, “Still, I learn.”

When it comes to facilitating in-house training sessions, taking Michelangelo’s approach is something for us to consider. If we’re going to be effective in providing training, we have to accept the fact that people may have specific tendencies and methods of communication when it comes to learning, and that our method of understanding things may not be a perfect match to theirs. One aspect of personal communication we can study to learn more about how to be an effective facilitator is known as Neuro Linguistic Programming. Known commonly as NLP, a simple way to consider to explain it is:

  • Neuro = Brain
  • Linguistic = Language
  • Programming = Information Processing System

This simply means that the human brain may employ a certain language for processing information, and, we’re not all the same when it comes to our learning style.

NLP came about when two university professors (Richard Bandler and David Grinder), one a linguistics expert and the other from a mathematics background, wondered why some students seem to “connect” with a particular instructor in an academic situation, and in turn, do well in their studies, while other students don’t seem to connect and do well.

They believed that people may be more dominant in one information processing system than another, and they identified three basic categories.

Visual Learners

According to their study, about 65 percent of people are visually oriented in their learning and communication methods. A visually dominant person understands best when they can see what they need to learn or do. They also use certain key words when communicating. For example, if you were to ask a visually dominate person the generic question, “Do you understand?” their response will likely be something along the line of “I see what you mean.”

One aspect of this segment of the population is the obvious fact that those who have a tendency toward art or photography are visually oriented in their approach to communication. Also, many academic teachers, it turns out, are visual people. And, of course, this is means that since the majority of the population is a “match” with most of the elementary and secondary teachers in our public schools, a fair percentage of people get passing grades as they go through the system. (Stay with us here, we have a point to make about the technicians who will be attending your training sessions.)

Auditory Learners

The second group, which makes up about 15 percent of the population, is referred to as being dominantly auditory. This group of people learn and understand best when they can listen well. If you were to ask a dominantly auditory person the “Do you understand?” generic question, they response would likely be something like “I hear you.” Auditory people are often found in professions where voice and tone are a part of their job, such as music or in radio and TV work.

Kinesthetic Learners

And then, there’s the third group that emerged from the development of the science of NLP (our people who may not have had a stellar experience in academia). They’re referred to as kinesthetic, which means that they learn and understand best when they can get their hands on things. This group makes up 20 percent of the population. And, as you would expect, this is the group of people tend to become technicians, mechanics, machinists or welders, or go into other “hands-on” professions. The typical response to the “Do you understand?” question for this group, they may respond, “Yeah, I’ve got a grip on that” or something in that order.

What these categories mean to us as facilitators is an opportunity to learn how to communicate effectively with those attending our training sessions. No matter what your tendency may be, if you understand that there are differences that can lead to a mismatch in communication, you can listen carefully to others, and, if necessary, adjust.

Or, better yet, with an understanding of the three categories, make sure to present important information from as many perspectives as possible:

“Focus on equipment voltage circuit first, then look closely at the control circuit.”

“Listen closely to the point I want to make about this particular printed circuit board.”

“You can grasp how this control works by understanding the input and output connections of the board.”

Another factor to consider about NLP is that people often tend to be dominant in one of the three major categories of verbal communication while using the other two as a kind of support system to make sure we understand things. When we understand this, it gives us a way to connect with those attending our session.

Employing NLP skills in your training sessions can help you establish rapport with everyone in your training session, making them more comfortable with the interactive elements of your presentation (using meters to test components or connecting gauges to a system) that are such an important component of technician development.   

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