Empowering Students by your tone of voice

Weekly Teaching Tip – July 22, 2013

As a teenager I read a book called “The power of positive thinking” by Norman Vincent Peale, among other books about carrying around a positive attitude with you. This had an enormous impact on my thinking and outlook on life.
Our brains have a really hard time processing a “negative” thought. If you think to yourself “don’t think of a big white elephant standing in the room” it is pretty much guaranteed that you will be thinking of a “big white elephant standing in the room,” whether there really is one or not.
When we speak to our students, it is important to use positive verbiage to accomplish the desired results. If we say to them “don’t flip” when you get to that Bb, of course all they can think about is flipping and are more likely to display the undesirable behavior.
I have found that if I use words like “hang on to what you are doing,” or “keep repeating that feeling, it’s the right one!” I usually get much faster and more desirable results. Students also walk out of the studio knowing what they have done RIGHT instead of always hearing what they are doing wrong. People are very sensitive and get enough negative messages in the world. I think it’s nice to walk out of somewhere knowing that you are “ok.”
I also read an article a while back that said that 8 year olds and younger really don’t process negative feed back. They don’t realize that they have even done anything wrong, So, if we just point out mistakes and tell them to fix it, we won’t be very effective. If we tell them what they are doing RIGHT and reinforce the good habits and don’t spend much time on the bad things they are doing, I have found young children to be much more responsive and successful. The article also said that age 12 and up they start to process a negative feed back and can make adjustments accordingly, but I still find that a positive reinforcement approach  almost always gets better results.
So, this week, try to make everything you say take on a positive form. It can be anything from “lets keep our cords together a little longer on that note” or “keep right on that pitch! You can do it because I just heard you do it a few seconds ago.” Give it a try. I know you’ll do great! You are already doing a great job teaching, now keep doing it! 🙂

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