Emotion in learning (Part 1)

The secret behind learning design? Emotion.

You know the old saying:”leave the emotion out of it.” I’m here to advise you to leave the emotion in, at least in regard to creating your training programs.

Training at its core, is a change management effort, with any training program something needs to change. A skill needs to be developed or improved, or a behavior should be on the road to modification.

emotion in learning

If there is no change expected, then you shouldn’t be creating a training program. Now, because change is expected – we must reach a person’s emotional core. It’s all about reaching hearts and minds, people. If we do not reach the hearts and minds of the HUMANS in your organization, meaning if we do not provoke thought and evoke feelings, your training >will fail.

Why is emotion important to learning? 

It’s all about motivation. Our emotions strongly affect motivation and as we all know, motivation is the drive or desire that compels us to do something, such as learning something new. It is true that we cannot motivate people. People must motivate themselves. However, we must set the stage to allow people to believe they can “do better”.

Often people don’t seem to be motivated when it comes to professional development. They don’t want to go to workshops, read or participate. This is primarily because they lack control of the development process, but it may also be because your people believe that the training program will not help them improve or that they may not be smart enough to learn a new thing.

The result of these feeling is that they begin to feel stressed out by the idea of another training program and start to feel helpless and out of control. Creating an overall negative feeling toward this situation. Therefore, this creates a lack of motivation preventing them from new learning. Without connecting emotionally, we are not turning on the switch that opens the mind for a new opportunity.

Why Emotional Intelligence is important in learning design

Dr. Daniel Goleman pretty much wrote the book about “emotional intelligence” (the ability to distinguish and manage our emotions from general intelligence). Here he shares the five qualities that comprise emotional intelligence:

  1. Self-awareness (knowing our emotions)
  2. Impulse control (managing our emotions)
  3. Persistence and self-motivation (motivating ourselves to achieve goals)
  4. Empathy (recognizing emotions in others)
  5. Social Skills (managing relationships with others)

Because emotional intelligence is learned, it can be nurtured and strengthened. A person who lacks in emotional intelligence will experience problems in relationships both personally and professionally.

Now, what has this to do with creating training experiences or dealing with bigger organizational development issues? First, we as L&D professionals need to have strong emotional intelligence to connect with the HUMANS in our organizations. Emotions influence how we perceive and react to life, affecting our believe filters. Research shows people who are in a positive emotional state of mind will be open to new learning experiences. They will react more positively than someone in a negative belief state. Our challenge is to create learning experiences that are meaningful, thought-provoking, and engaging. In doing so we need to evoke positive reactions through thought and emotion.

When we create training (or other learning experiences), this means we are asking for change and change triggers strong emotions. Strong negative emotions. These emotions may cause people to close their minds. Therefore, as L&D professionals, understanding our own emotional intelligence is essential to how we help others cope with change, such as new technologies, processes or procedures or change on a larger scale such organizational realignments. “Seek first to understand, before being understood,” as the great late Dr. Stephen Covey once said.

If you’re enjoying this subject matter, please continue on to Part 2 of this article, where I delve into how to design learning for emotional impact. Go to Part 2 now >