What do your learners want?

Have you ever had a conversation with someone who said they were hungry, but couldn’t tell you what they wanted to eat if their life depended on it?

It goes something like this:

My partner: "I’m hungry."
Me: "Okay, what do you want to eat babe?"
My partner: "I don’t care."
Me: "Want me to order Thai?"
Her: "No, we had that last week."
Me: "Ethiopian?"
Her: "No."
Me: *10 million food options later* "How about I just pick up some tacos?"

I don’t have to finish that dialogue for you to know that tacos are always the answer. So why didn’t she just say she wanted them in the first !#$%*@# place?!

Because it was my job to know.

Because if I’d been listening and learning over the years, I would hear "hungry" and show up with three fish tacos, plus chips & salsa. Duh!

It's the same with your learners (minus the side-eye). If you want to help them, the first thing you need to do is listen. 

  • That’s how you find out what they want.

  • It’s how you find out why they aren’t getting results.

  • And it’s how you find out what you need to do to improve the learning experience.

Remember Bryan from yesterday? (If not, click here)

When he asked me to help diagnose the learning problems in his course, the first thing I did was interview a sample of his learners--and listen for three things. 

Thing #1 to listen for: Feelings

“I feel like I’m on my own and don’t know where to start.”

“I don’t have time to apply all this information. I always feel behind.”

(Pro-tip: Whenever your learners use "feel" statements, pay attention.)

What they were really saying is:

  • “I’m afraid to take the first step.”

  • “I’m not confident in my ability.”

  • “I’m overwhelmed! Please don’t give me another thing to do.”

Thing #2 to listen for: Wants

We knew what Bryan’s learners were feeling. We knew they weren’t getting results. But we didn’t know what result they wanted.

Again, I asked.

Every single person initially shared what I call Level 1 Wants:

  • “I want accountability.”

  • “I want community.”

  • “I want mentorship.”

These wants are important, but you need to keep pushing.

You need to identify the deeper want. You need to get them to admit they want tacos.

And that’s where it gets tricky. Because many of us feel uncomfortable saying what we REALLY want. (Hell, sometimes we don’t even know!)

These are what I call Level 2 Wants and they are the true result your learners are looking for you to deliver. 

3 fish tacos. To-go. With chips and salsa.

(Pro-Tip: Level 2 Wants are often expressed as a need because they're commingled with pain points.)

For Bryan’s learners, I kept hearing the same Level 2 Wants in different forms: “My business needs to make more revenue...”  or "I need to spend less time working and more time with my family..."


Except they still weren’t doing the work to make it happen.


Okay, so how do you engineer action? (And--hey!--what was the third thing I listened for?)

You’ll find out in the next post.

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