Many professionals in the corporate world fear or have anxiety about learning new software. Although they can envision how the new software will enhance their productivity and work life, it’s difficult to overcome that fear and anxiety. As a software trainer, I see this concern quite often.
Fear is a dominant force. Fear causes the brain to release the stress chemicals that signal the body to be on alert. This can hurt higher-order thinking and long-term memory. It can also cause difficulty concentrating on anything other than the fear and ultimately can reduce one’s capacity to perform.
In this blog, I will use fear or anxiety to describe similar things. However, I am aware that fear has a specific, immediate context which provokes classic ‘fight or flight’ response. This automatic reaction occurs faster than conscious thought and releases surges of adrenaline which disappear quickly once the threat has passed.
Anxiety, on the other hand, involves a lingering apprehension, a constant sense of worry, tension or dread. The things that make us anxious are usually more unclear than the things that evoke fear in us. It’s commonly associated with the thought of a threat or something going wrong in the future, rather than something happening right now too.
As a software trainer, I see fears and anxiety of learning play out in five areas:
- undue concern over others’ opinions,
- anxiety around changing routines,
- panic over the possibility of failing,
- personal distrust in one’s own ability to master a topic,
- terror associated with learning new functions and processes.
Each fear leads otherwise curious people to avoid exploration and to lose out on learning experiences.
Identifying the issues is the first step in overcoming the fear or anxiety about learning. As a software trainer, I make every effort to reduce and even remove the concerns associated with learning.
I often begin my training sessions with a needs assessment. This needs assessment may range from a quick phone call to the attendee or a complete Pre-Course Student Self-Assessment Form. Vocalizing or explaining what one needs to learn reduces the fear or anxiety. Exposing worry or concern to the light of day makes it seem less menacing.
I provide laptops with virtual images and let attendees know that they cannot “break” or damage the data. In this environment, there is no fear of trying new functions or procedures. I encourage attendees to set up a current test system in their work environment, to continue the learning process without fear of affecting production data.
I will first demonstrate every exercise that you will be asked to do during the session. By doing this, I hope to remove the anxiety and personal distrust around mastering a new function or topic. Also when an attendee sees the process demonstrated first, they have increased confidence in their ability to master the subject. This can reduce or eliminate the terror around learning new functions and operations.
I hope to see you in one of our classes someday so we can experience the joy of a terror-free learning experience together.