“Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect that core belief, they will rationalise, ignore, and even deny anything that doesn’t fit in with the core belief.”
As a trainer you have likely experienced the cognitive dissonance Frantz Fanon describes above. It usually occurs when you discover new evidence, or evidence that is new to you, that conflicts with a long-held belief you have about training, learning, and teaching. Our natural tendency is to push back or ignore the new information and attempt to justify why we are right, and the researchers are wrong. We tell ourselves, and anyone else who will listen, that the information might apply to other professions, but not to ours. We often attempt to justify our position by saying that the researchers don’t understand our profession and the unique challenges we face. True, they may not understand our profession, and the challenges we face, but does that invalidate the evidence and the research, or is that simply an excuse to ignore the research?
As a trainer you need to embrace the philosophy of “Strong beliefs, loosely held”. You need to believe in what you do, and how and why you do it. But you must also be willing to change what you do and how you do it in the face of new and compelling evidence that reveals a more effective way of teaching and coaching. Again, the evidence may not actually be new, it may just be new to you. One of the keys is to stay curious and remember that you have a responsibility to the people you have the honor and privilege to train, coach, mentor, and guide. You owe it to them, their families and everyone they will work and interact with to provide the best learning environment possible to prepare them to successfully navigate the complex, chaotic and sometimes dangerous environments in which they will function.
In addition to curiosity, you need to have the humility, vulnerability, and courage to admit that there may be a better way, and subsequently change the way you deliver training. Sometimes this requires small adjustments, and sometimes it requires reinventing yourself as a trainer and coach and making significant changes to your training methodologies. This is not about jumping on every bandwagon or new fad that comes along. It is about continually reading, listening, learning, growing, reflecting, assessing, discussing, and sometimes debating. It is about continually seeking a greater depth of understanding of the material and the potential practical applications of the research that has been done and continues to be done in a variety of fields.
When you experience cognitive dissonance see it as an opportunity to explore, learn and grow rather than something to push back on. It may be uncomfortable, but what you do is too importance not to engage in the journey.
Winning Mind Training – Providing practical training to law enforcement professionals in the areas of instructor development, Performance Enhancement Imagery, leadership and mindset.