The Messages We Send. (Independent Music Teachers Forum)

Article excerpt

What message does the tone of our voice send? What impression does our appearance have on students and parents? Body language, voice inflection, speech habits, eye contact, facial expressions, posture and clothing all can impact the way we are perceived in the independent studio.

There is an old saying, "The way you say what you say and the way you look when you say it speak so loudly that I can't hear what it is you are saying." If our body language and words are inconsistent, people will believe our body language. For example, "I'm sure I could do it" said with a soft voice and shaky demeanor will not inspire confidence. "I am not angry!" delivered with clenched teeth also is not convincing.

How can this be applied to the studio? Explaining tuition rates to parents in a timid, apologetic way opens up an immediate debate on the subject. Conversely, if a parent questions why a child will not receive a make-up lesson, a firm, direct response without fidgeting or looking down will reinforce the existing policy.

What if students don't appear to be engaged in their lessons? They could be reacting to a voice tone that is boring or difficult to follow. We can ask ourselves, "Do I speak in a monotone? Do I speak too softly?" Both convey that what is being said isn't very important. Speaking too loudly is perceived as being aggressive. Speaking too quickly could frustrate a student, especially if he or she is having trouble understanding. "Do I repeat things too many times before moving on? Do I take a long time to explain what could be covered briefly?" Well-paced speech, at an appropriate tone level, can help keep our students involved.

Filler words such as "um," "like," "okay" and "you know" detract from the directness and interest of what is said. The first time I taught a class in graduate school, I said "okay" eighty-four times in a half-hour. "Okay, are you ready? Okay." (Yes, someone was counting.)

The significance of eye contact is immense. Often, our students are not facing us in lessons, and it is easy to lose track of how much time goes by without eye contact. Eye contact is an important part of being perceived as honest, sincere and confident. Our students need to be looking in our eyes as we speak to them, and we need to be looking more directly at them when they answer our questions. …