Monday, February 6, 2012

Influencers from Around the World - The Communicative Feature of Your Favorite Teacher

This month's Influencers from Around the World post comes from Yago de Marta. Yago has been a guest blogger at Influence PEOPLE for several years now. He hails from Spain where he works with clients helping them speak more fluently and persuasively. To learn more about Yago visit or connect with him on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. 

Brian, CMCT 
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

The Communicative Feature of Your Favorite Teacher

We all remember a teacher who made us love a subject in grade school, high school, or perhaps college. We all remember the teacher who helped us love literature, history, mathematics, or some other subject for which we had no passion to start.

That teacher seemed to get better performance from all of their students. He didn’t come to our home to study with us but nonetheless, he inspired us, and helped us find interest for a particular subject. In short, that teacher influenced us.

Even in the case of many poor students, most also had a great teacher somewhere along the way. These students had no interest in school or anything related to school; they didn’t enjoy studying, but they found “something” in that one teacher that motivated them to sit down, take notes and study.

As it is a “universal” example of influence, 13 years ago I began to ask this question in my training clinics: What feature did your teachers have that made you love a subject in high school or college?

Pause to think about that for just a minute. Remember back to your favorite teacher. See him talking to you, notice how he moved and what he did. Remember how that made you feel, how you began your relationship with that subject. Well, you’ve done it! I bet one of the features that came to mind is listed below:
A. He was explanatory
B. He made you participate
C. He knew his subject
D. He cared for you (the class)
E. He loved what he shared (the subject)
For the record, I bet most who read this article chose option E and perhaps one of the other answers.

The point is we all know that one teacher influenced us in an ethical and positive way. We also know that the five characteristics noted above were decisive in our experience. But how are they related to the Principles of Influence?

He was explanatory – On the one hand, to be explanatory implies a difference from the traditional teacher who was merely descriptive. So “to explain” implies effort, which implies an interest in the person – the student – to make sure he or she understands what is being shared during class. When the student understands that gives meaning to the class and that's a comforting feeling. Thus, we find Liking. Striving to explain something involves approaching the figure of the student, and that is translated into a form of mutual identification.

Likewise, when the student feels he understands something, some of the barriers he had about not study are demolished. In short, he is now open to learn more. This is an example of Commitment and Consistency which the teacher can draw on to further the learning.

Finally, when the teacher strives to explain the subject, strives to approach the students, this creates an obligation to respond which taps into Reciprocity. So the more explanatory is the teacher, the better results are obtained.

He made you participate in the class – The student feels important when he feels he is part of what’s going on. This feeling is comforting only if the teacher knows to balance the fears or nerves the student may have. However, in general terms the student will always feel positive when involved with peers. The student perceives the other’s participation and Consensus – going along with the crowd – makes him want to participate as well. This process increases the degree of student involvement with the subject so he feels more “compelled” to study after class. While making the class more horizontal, the teacher is placed on the same level as the student, a form of identification, and liking is increased.

He knows a lot – This is obviously Authority. We see that element is very important because the above items, with the great presence of Liking, need to be balanced. In this sense, the students value the use of anecdotes and examples unknown. On the other side “to know much” is a point of reference for students. It becomes a reference image that can be pursued to improve, and it becomes an element of inspiration.

He loved what he talked about – As I noted earlier, this is the most important point of all. This is what makes all the other points possible. To love your subject means you have passion and that passion is contagious, motivating people to listen. It also makes learning more fun. It is the perfect combination of liking and authority. As others get involved because of that passion which makes it easier for those on the fringes – consensus – to join in and feel a part of what’s taking place.

We all know the influence a teacher can have because we have all felt that force. The key is that we should make people feel those same things as we meet them in our everyday life. And that can influence them to change and improve.


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