Tip #386: The Value of Being Willing to Admit: “I Don’t Understand”

“You don’t understand anything until you learn it more than one way.” Marvin Minsky

Trainers often say with great sincerity that “There are no stupid questions.” Despite this clear encouragement, some learners are still hesitant to ask a question that will let others know they are having difficulty. This is a shame, because a learner’s lack of understanding is rarely a personal failure. It can just as easily be attributed to the trainer, the training content and/or the training techniques.

Learning is not a race where the person who understands first wins. The primary focus of any training program is to help all learners ultimately be successful. If a learner doesn’t let the trainer know there is a problem, the trainer will never realize there is a need to reteach the content and the learner will remain frustrated.

When learners are willing to admit that they don’t understand a concept or technique, everyone benefits: the individual, the trainer and the other learners in the workshop. There are many reasons why asking for help is the best thing to do:

  1.  It’s honest.
  2. It indicates the learner’s sense of ownership and commitment to learning.
  3. It shows that the learner wants to understand.
  4. It means that the learners have seriously tried to work it through by themselves and come to a dead end.
  5.  It reflects the learner’s degree of comfort with and trust in the trainer.
  6. It gives the trainer important feedback.
  7. It puts a spotlight on key learning stumbling blocks.
  8. It challenges the trainer to focus on alternative ways to deliver the information.
  9. It forces the learning down to a real rather than a theoretical level.
  10. It requires the trainer to dig deeper to discover more useful examples.
  11. It frees the learner and trainer to try again.
  12. It benefits those who were similarly confused but uncomfortable asking for help.
  13.  It encourages teamwork as co-learners try to help each other better understand.
  14. It increases the likelihood of successful learning outcomes.
  15.  It paves the way for a real sense of accomplishment once understanding is achieved.
  16. It enriches the learning process for everyone.

So, trainers, encourage your learners to let you know as soon as possible when they are having difficulty. And learners, recognize and admit when you need help. The trainer and your co-learners will appreciate and benefit from your honesty.

May your learning be sweet.


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