Why assertiveness is an essential skill for trainers

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Written by Liz Willis on 25 November 2015

A good trainer is authentic; a good role model; an excellent communicator and has internalised what she/he is training. A good trainer is always learning and prepared to share her/his learning with participants.

Assertiveness is a key skill for achieving this quality of delivery.

Training, of whatever sort, is always about initiating some sort of change, whether it’s the acquisition of a technical skill or dealing with difficult feelings. At The Springboard Consultancy, we train hundreds of trainers from all over the world, and from all walks of life. We frequently find that the answer to many of the tricky situations which arise for trainers lies in their use of assertiveness.

This is because as a trainer:

  • At some stage, a course participant, group, or client will challenge you.
  • To set up courses, you may need to deal with people with whom you don’t see eye-to-eye.
  • From the germ of an idea for a piece of training, through to the final evaluation and report, you’re constantly tested in terms of your ability to be open, straightforward, understood, able to move things on and reach satisfactory conclusions.
  • You also need to be open to feedback about your performance and personality so you’re your training remains as effective as possible.
  • The whole business of being a trainer demands interpersonal skills of the highest standard, constantly in use and constantly under scrutiny.

Assertiveness is a form of behaviour that demonstrates your self-respect and your respect for others. It’s concerned with dealing with your own feelings about yourself and other people, as much as with the end result.

Because assertiveness is a form of behaviour, it has nothing to do with personality or character. A quiet introvert can be just as assertive as a bouncy extrovert. It’s a behaviour, so it can be learnt.

However, it’s easier to learn some subject matter and then teach it as an academic subject with a few role-plays and exercises, rather than work on your own behaviour.

Yet using assertiveness will ‘up your game’ and can enhance the following:  

  • Your course design
  • Your publicity/enrolment material
  • Your training materials
  • The way you lay out and use the room
  • The way you behave – with everyone and at all times
  • The way you deal with disputes or conflicts
  • Your relationship with the group/ client/co-trainer
  • Knowing which examples to use – perhaps from your own experience
  • The way you resolve disputes between participants
  • The design of your evaluation process
  • How you handle feedback
  • Your self-confidence
  • How you handle stress

You can get help in developing your assertiveness skills from many sources, including books, courses and online materials – and, of course, from time to time, Training Journal.

Assertiveness is one of those learnt behaviours that can take some effort to get the hang of yet, if you keep working on it, it’ll bring you many professional and personal benefits.

About the author

Liz Willis, joint CEO of The Springboard Consultancy reveals the value of assertiveness in a trainer.