Okay, you teach classes, but do you communicate with your trainers? Are some, or perhaps most, just faces in a crowd? How many of your students, if any, feel that you’re interested in them? Do they ask questions or hang around after class to talk with you? Do you always seem to have quiet, subdued classes with little or no interaction with your trainers?
Before you take pen in hand to draft a heated response to my insinuations that perhaps your communication skills could use some “exercise,” see how many of the following basic communication exercises you practice.
LITTLE THINGS MEAN A LOT
Return phone inquiries promptly! This is your first golden opportunity to set the stage for good communication. Your timely response suggests your ability to follow-up, and intimates you have an interest in the caller. Waiting two, three or even four days to return a call may (and often does) result in your losing a potential trainer. (Surely this is of concern to you!)
Make the most of your initial contact. Congeniality goes a long way (you know this.) And there’s no substitute for interest, so ask questions. Encourage the dog owner to tell you about him/herself and his/her dog. Remember, the first impression you give on the initial contact is usually a lasting one. It’s no time to have to mend fences because of a poor start!
Extend an invitation to visit one of your classes. “I look forward to meeting you and your dog. Bring your family, too.” With these few little words, you’ve reinforced your interest in the caller, conveyed your confidence in what you’re doing (“come see the dogs I am now training”,) and opened the door for future communication.
Greet your class visitors. You’ve started the ball rolling, don’t fumble it now. Even if you can only snatch a minute or two, grab em! Suggest further conversation during the break or after class. It’s just possible your guest will have some questions to ask you after watching your class. And who knows, you might pick up some information that will be helpful when the person enrolls in one of your classes. (Profoundism: The value of good communication is a two way street!)
KNOCK, KNOCK -WHO’S THERE?
Make it a point to greet each trainer the first night of class. “It’s nice to see you again.” “I’ve been looking forward to meeting you.” “So this is Archibald!” (You’ve got the idea.) It should be pretty obvious that the purpose of this exercise is to make your trainers feel welcome.
Also, say something positive about each dog. Sure, sometimes you may really have to dig deep to come up with something, but it’ll mean an awfully lot to the handler. Comment on a dog’s lovely coat, striking color or expressive eyes. Even an “Ugly McNasty” has at least one attribute… if you look hard enough. It could be a proud carriage or a healthy glow and how, might you ask, does this improve communication? It helps make a trainer more receptive to you and what you have to say. You’ve communicated, once again, interest in this trainer and this dog.
Call your trainers by name. “Hey you with the purple shirt” doesn’t exactly suggest familiarity. You use a dog’s name to get its attention, don’t you? By using a trainer’s name, you not only get his attention, you’ve let him know that he’s not just a “face in the crowd.” If you can’t totally rely on memory (like me,) make a cheat card and use it! Include as much information as you need in order to match a name to the right person. (By the way, how are you scoring so far?)
Next month: Part II. More exercises in communication.
©1990 Marty Martin