At 11 years old, Malala Yousafzai began to advocate for the rights of girls in Pakistan to receive an education. As the Taliban occupied her valley, she continued to raise her voice, even surviving a brutal assassination attempt. At 17 years old, she became the youngest-ever winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. Now traveling the world, Yousafzai was recently in Denver, Colorado to share her message.
During her Denver interview, Malala was asked if she is afraid. Her response stunned the audience – she wishes she had more courage to face her fear of dogs and rollercoasters!
Over the last few weeks I have returned over and over again to this comment. Why is it possible to overcome fear of one thing and not another? I work with many people who are terrified of public speaking and are trying to overcome their fear. Malala’s comments highlight the importance of passion. When someone is strongly motivated to share a message, they are more willing and able to work through the nervousness.
In Susan Cain’s thought provoking book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking,” an interview with Harvard professor Brian Little sheds additional light on this. Little has developed Free Trait Theory – the idea that we are born and raised with free traits such as introversion – but we can act out of character when we are motivated by “core personal projects.” In other words, when someone is passionate about a message, they can overcome an aversion to public speaking.
Want to borrow some of Malala’s courage? Reignite your passion for your topic. What drew you to it in the first place? Why is it critically important? How can you share your passion with your audience so that they will also be ignited?
For more ideas on overcoming butterflies, check out Caffeinated Learning: How to Design and Conduct Rich, Robust Professional Training.
The old proverb "birds of a feather flock together" is thought to date back to Plato's time. In nature, birds of a similar species do often form a flock, probably as a form of protection from predators. In professional learning classes it is common to see participants band together in favor of (or opposed to) a common idea. Standing out with a different opinion is a risky stance for a participant to take. Yet, as a learning facilitator, it is our responsibility to protect those individuals and to encourage some "out of the flock" thinking.
One way to encourage independent thinking is to structure participation opportunities so that they grow from an individual reflection to a larger sharing.
By slowly building the task, all participants will have an opportunity to share in a non-threatening way, and divergent thinking will rise up.
How do you encourage "out of the flock thinking?"
For more active engagement ideas, check out Caffeinated Learning: How to Design and Conduct Rich, Robust Professional Training.
Last week I was leading a three-day conference for a group of about 100 dedicated professionals in West Virginia. Just before our start time on the second day, I was approached by one of the participants who told me she had a problem.
The night before, she had been approached in the parking lot by a homeless couple with a 4 week old puppy that they couldn’t afford to take care of. Given her big heart, she couldn’t bring herself to say no. Thus, her problem. She wanted to attend the conference, but couldn’t leave the puppy alone.
Her question for me – “Is it okay if I bring the puppy to your session?”
My husband has frequently heard me say “Now, I’ve seen it all as a presenter,” and yet this was a first for me. But if it’s not puppies, it might be babies, children, leaving a cell phone ringer on, knitting, standing up, taking photos or other unusual requests.
My mind quickly scrolled through a list of criteria for making a decision.
If the answer to all 3 questions is “no,” then go ahead and give permission.
If the answer to any question is “yes,” consider an alternative that would solve the problem.
The puppy stayed with us, in a container, with an agreement that she would take it outside if it began to bark. Everyone’s needs were met, including the dog!
How would you have answered her question? What thought process do you go through to insure that your participants have a distraction-free environment?
For more ideas on group management and conducting classes for adult learners, check out Caffeinated Learning: How to Design and Conduct Rich, Robust Professional Training.
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Anne Beninghof is passionate about teaching and learning.
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