Saturday, September 29, 2012

Selling In Your Teaching Room

When you start a lesson with anyone, you want to be totally fascinated with that person. Wholly absorbed, as though you were considering a life time relationship, which actually you are.

Is that how you approach teaching?

No agenda, no plan, no form – just utter fascination and curiosity. Listening, watching, waiting – letting your unconscious feed off the millions of packets of information hurtling their way through your sensory system into your brain for processing. At some point this process prompts you to say or do something in response: this is the process of exploration with your student. People who are averse to marketing and selling need to understand that their teaching process is fundamentally the same in nature…

For the ethical marketer, or the ethical seller, the student is of primary interest. People who have a “thing” about selling just have to make the well-being of their student their top priority. What you want for them is what they want for them – but often out of suspicion or doubt, they walk away from the very thing that would help them the most. Don’t let them walk away until they acknowledge that they are walking away.

Your job, as a marketer selling something, or as an AT teacher, is to engender clarity for the student about their choice. To get them to a clear yes or a clear no about how they are living their life day to day. If your lessons are full of “maybe, probably, possibly” language, my guess is that you are struggling to find students too.

Take responsibility: “Understand that you create pain which gives you the capacity to undo it.” That’s an AT message, and that needs to be your sales message too. Except when it comes to people giving you money, you blink. Right? And if you could video how you move, my guess is that you are being coordinated by old fears and prejudices, not conscious intent.

Marketing and selling is not something that happens outside the teaching room – it is fundamentally what you doing when you give a great lesson. You are “selling” an idea, and quite a radical one to today’s socially validated victim, but do you really sell this idea? How much do you compromise based on your intent to be liked, to look good, to avoid uncomfortable silences? If you have never experienced an awkard confrontation with a student based on principle, my bet is that you don’t know how to sell…

So what do you do?

Start working on selling ideas in your teaching room. Notice if you use a “forgiving” language too often: ask why you do that? Is it to make the student comfortable? Or is it actually to make you comfortable? Be honest. Decide you will open your awareness to catch moments where a choice is presented, and skillfully guide the student to make that choice. Keep the moment alive, stay with it until they choose. Be open to hearing no and yes, not just one outcome. Notice when your pupil tries to wiggle away “Oh, I am tired to-day” or “This stuff is too hard” Help them understand it is actually easy – it is their habit that makes it hard. Support them to realize their own potentialities in the process of developing their art of living.

How well are you selling Alexander's ideas in your lessons?


  1. I love this post, Jeremy. And I suspect that reading it may trigger just the kind of awkward confrontation from some of your AT-teacher readers that you propose goes hand-in-hand with your ability to sell it!

    I just looked up "sell" in a couple of online dictionaries; this one has good definitions:

    Reading through the definitions, I was struck by how most of them have negative connotations for me. In fact, only definitions 5a and 5b were clearly positive for me. Which led me to see how strong our preconceived ideas about this word may be; and why so many of us react to the idea of selling something as positive as what we envision as the Alexander Technique.

    In true keeping with AT principles, it behooves us as teachers to stop and reconsider what this word "sell" means to each of us. And if we ARE going to ask for money in exchange for our services, then it would make a lot of sense to inhibit our negative reactions to this word and instead choose to use it in its most positive sense. It is only once we are free of our negative ideas about selling that we will be able to sell with real freedom and success.

  2. Beautifully put. Thank you. Jeremy.

  3. Great blog, Jeremy, thank you. And thank you, Jennifer - like you I am amazed at the 99% negative connotations around the word 'sell'. (Thanks for the link.) And even 'persuade' and 'influence' don't sit well with me. And yet yes; this is very true if I am coming from my head, my fears of 'not enough' (students aka income) thinking only about me, but if I think about the other and come from my heart, from my desire to serve, to assist another in having less pain, having a strong technique for living, feeling happier as a result of this, (and not, thank you Jeremy, from too much 'forgiving talk'), then this is a very different 'persuade' and 'influence'. I know I mostly come from the latter, and in actual's the "What do you do?" conversations out and about that I fall down. (I know I tend to step back here, the AT being (seeming?!) such a 'time-taker' in the average conversation!) Thank you again, typing that last sentence has shown me an area to focus on, to 'play' in and make important discoveries. And I bracket it, I guess because I assume it is an aside, not important? Ah ha!!

  4. Assumptions are tricky to get past, because they hide so expertly!
    It was odd for me to get over my convictions about not wanting to "manipulate." (I equated "manipulation" with "coercion.") At some point, I realized that, with permission, that's what teachers do - they manipulate the circumstances of a new learning experience for their students.

  5. That's a nice frame Franis. We "sell" all the time with friends, family, workers - but as soon as it involves the exchange of money, our legs go all wobbly with our mind!


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