Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Selling of You II: Abraham Lincoln & the American Election & Selling Alexander Technique.

Newsweek is running a fascinating article on Abraham Lincoln this week. Lincoln was a gutsy politician who’s attained almost saint like status in the world today - but the point of the Newsweek article is to bring people back to earth about the means whereby he effected the changes he wanted - and Alexander Technique teachers would do well to study his approach.

Lincoln sold himself ruthlessly, tirelessly - shaping his message delicately into the listening of those surrounding him. He was clear that you can not introduce an idea to an audience not ready to hear it. He said in a speech in 1856:

"Our government rests in public opinion. Whoever can change public opinion, can change the government, practically just so much.
December 10, 1856 Speech at Chicago.

My teacher, Marj Barstow, expressed it differently, but essentially agreed with Lincoln, when she taught me:

"You have to begin with your pupil’s thinking." 
Jan, 1989 in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Lincoln was also quite secretive, never revealing the full extent of his intentions to those around him. I noticed that Marj worked in a similar way: there was always a sense that she held something back, that whatever she told you was not the full story, but the story you needed to hear right now.

Lincoln, on his part, was willing to articulate positions and ideas in ways that would seem oppose his deeper, long term intentions. Marj also crafted her words carefully, continuously jettisoning any jargonized expressions that confused or alienated her students. These are lessons that apply in the selling of Alexander Technique. It is a lesson Alexander Technique  teachers need to consider more deeply.

So what can you do?

Ask: how are people listening to you? What is “public opinion” today? It’s all about correct posture, right and wrong positions, about doing something to fix the problem. People think like this, they are looking for this kind of solution. So how do you speak to them?

I read people complaining about the American election, how the message is all about form, never about substance. Well duhhh. Why do you think that is? I don’t blame the politicians, I understand that this is the way selling works! People want to hear something - the people shape the message, as much as the message seeks to shape them. It is a process that both play. Lincoln understood that, so did Marj.

If you sell Alexander Technique by trying to educate, be careful you are not being too smart, or saying too much. Hold back, stop trying to tell the whole story. Give them a small piece that will stick, leave the rest for later. The undecided 15% of pupils that equal financial success in a practise (readabout that in this blog) are not interested in you or the Alexander Technique. They don’t care what it is - they just want to know if you will do what they want? Same is true in the American election today: undecided voters shape the message, as much as Obama and Romney are trying to shape them. Lincoln understand that, and he won the unwinnable election.

When Alexander Technique teachers stop trying to sell the Alexander Technique, they might actually be successful. So stop talking about you, and start talking to them - in a way that they can understand you; in a way that connects to what they want to hear...

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