Whenever I’m speaking to a teacher or a parent about the challenges they face with behaviour and relationships, whether this be with a specific class, child or a general issue, what seems to transpire is that the individual is having trouble ‘leading’ their class or specific child. They are not viewed or respected as the leader in the environment. The students for example do not identify the teacher as someone that they wish to follow. This of course is related in part to the PEGs (Positive Emotional Gains) that the teacher does or does not appear to possess and disperse. To further illustrate this point I’ll ask you to participate in another strange metaphor.
Imagine for whatever reason that you are completely lost in a forest in a foreign country. As you look up through the highest branches of the trees you can see by the tone of the sky that night is beginning to fall. You know one thing...you need to find your way out of this forest! As you make your way through the darkening forest in an anxious and directionless manner, to your surprise, you happen upon a very large clearing. You are taken back as you can see what must be close to a hundred people walking across the clearing, each of them emerging from different points in the trees and heading in every different direction. As you observe these people you can see that none of them appear to have a map and you know you cannot converse with any of them as you don’t speak the language. As you have no idea where you are or where you are going, your task is straight forward. You must choose one of these people to follow. The question is, how do you decide who to follow? You can pause now for a moment in order to give this question some careful consideration.
I’ve actually asked this same question in a number of training sessions. Once we get past some of the 'clever' answers such as “Well I’d have a look if any of them are on the phone so I can see where I am on google maps.” I always receive the same sort of answer which is something along the lines of “I’d follow the person who seemed relaxed and confident with where they are going.” What this indicates is that we would observe and somehow evaluate the behaviour, emotional state and general mindset of the people we can see. We would instantly exclude anyone who appeared stressed, frustrated, uneasy, uncertain or unapproachable and would follow the person who seems content, confident and secure with their direction. We could say that in a child’s attempt to navigate the forest of life, they evaluate the behaviour of the adults around them and decide who it is that they should follow. If we want to establish ourselves as leaders then quite simply, we must demonstrate leadership qualities. Metaphor time!...
Music is amazing. Think of the infinite variety of musical compositions, from Beethoven’s 9th Symphony to gangster rap and beyond. Think about the different way in which each of them elicit emotion, thoughts, moods and imagery. Music can make us feel relaxed, sad, happy, motivated, inspired and everything in between. What’s even more amazing is radio waves! These waves have the ability to transmit this vast spectrum of musical influence yet are entirely invisible! The waves start at the transmission tower and travel through the air before being detected by a receiver which then interprets and converts the waves into a musical experience for us to connect with.
Us humans are all transmission towers, we all emit waves at different frequencies and the music we transmit elicits different emotions and perceptions from those around us who receive it. This is an invisible process which is happening continually every time someone is in our presence. There is no need for us to talk in terms of spirituality, oras or energy fields in order to explain this. We exhibit what we can call ‘micro-behaviours’. These are important subtleties in the way that we behave and appear. These might include everything from the tonation in our voice, a micro-expression on our face, a small shift in posture as we communicate, the rate of our breath, the rhythm at which we walk, a minute change in our complexion, an unconscious choice of language and probably thousands more. The important thing to identify about these micro-behaviours is that we do not consciously or intentionally exhibit them. Furthermore, the people in our presence do not notice or process them consciously. When you are in someone’s presence, you evaluate them. You do not consciously notice their micro-behaviours at all but your subconscious does! You have an internal receiver. Your subconscious evaluates all of this subtle inbound information and provides you with a ‘feeling about that person’. You’ve ‘weighed them up’ and both you and I are being weighed up continually by our students every time we are in their presence.
This evaluation process tends to happen more intensely when a group of students meet a new teacher for the first time. The children seek PEGs such as security, familiarity, certainty, predictability and awareness that come with knowing the nature of who they are dealing with. When meeting a new teacher there are many subconscious questions that the children want answers to. These questions may be something like...
Do I trust this teacher?
How secure do I feel with this teacher?
Is it in my best interest to follow this teacher?
Do I lead this teacher or does this teacher lead me?
Do I respect this teacher? Does this teacher respect me?
What does this teacher expect from me? What do I expect from this teacher?
The main question of course is the following.
Is this teacher a source of positive emotional gain for me? (PEGs)
It is common and understandable for a teacher to be focused on their more overt behaviours when introducing themselves to a class for the first time i.e. specifically what the teacher plans to say and do. What’s really being listened for however is your music or the ‘feeling you transmit and elicit’. Following their subconscious evaluation, the children then make a subconscious decision as to whether to ‘tune out’ or ‘dance along to your melody!’ This of course does not mean that once you’ve ‘lost a class’ that you cannot regain their positive engagement by changing your radio waves. We can discuss strategies for this in a later post.
Before we connect with the full relevance of this concept we must quickly define an important term, it is the word 'suggestion' (when used in the context of behavioural influence).
Suggestion often means ‘to put forward an idea’ e.g. “I have a suggestion for you..in future if you wear oven gloves before taking the lasagne out of the oven you will avoid burning your hands.” In the context of behavioural influence and this blog ‘suggestion’ means ‘an indication that something is true’. Suggestion therefore can influence one’s beliefs. A particular event could form a suggestion. For example, I was attacked by a dog when I was 9 years old. This event suggested to me that dogs were dangerous. I adopted the belief that dogs were dangerous. I then went on to behave and react as if dogs were dangerous for a significant portion of my life. The more powerful, emotionally potent and convincing the suggestion the more impact it has on one’s beliefs and behaviours.
You are a walking suggestion! Everyone is.
This is easy to grasp when clearer more demonstrative behaviours are being considered. It is crucial however that we understand that our micro-behaviours are no different. They too form a suggestion which affects the beliefs and behaviours of others. Here are some examples of the messages or suggestions that our micro-behaviours may transmit.
I am happy and content.
I am secure.
I am relaxed.
I am confident.
What I am saying is important.
I truly believe and meant what I just said.
I am emotionally robust, there is not much point in attempting to throw me off balance.
I see the best in you.
I expect the best in you.
I am about to see the best in you.
I am enjoying myself.
This is a great learning experience.
You’re really making my day.
I value you.
You are full of potential and excellence.
You are a good person with good intentions.
I am full of positivity which I can share with you.
You can succeed!
You are succeeding!
Imagine if the above suggestions created by our micro-behaviours were so convincing that our students came to believe that they were true. How would this affect their beliefs about themselves if only when in your presence? How would this affect their PEGs?
Let’s look at some less useful suggestions which may be transmitted by one’s radio waves.
I am fed up.
I am not looking forward to this.
I am fearful that you will challenge me and cause me to feel distressed and powerless.
You are a threat to me.
I have little positive emotion to share with you.
You will most likely misbehave because you always do.
I know you don’t like me.
I don’t really mean what I am saying.
I don’t truly expect you to follow this instruction.
I don’t really think you can do this.
I am anxious and cannot provide you with a secure environment in which to learn.
I’ll say it again, we are all walking suggestions! The question is, what does our behaviour suggest, and how does it affect the perceptions, emotions and behaviour of those in our presence?
Action: Develop an active awareness of your radio waves and the radio waves of others.
As you go about your day, pay attention to the adults you come into contact with. Notice how their presence makes you feel. What do you detect about the way they feel? What does their behaviour suggest? Don’t focus on specific behaviours but more on the person’s ‘general vibe’ if you like. Is it a positive experience? Is their beat one you feel like stepping to? Is their music the type you want to listen to? Would you follow them through the forest? Is their vibration one which has a positive and attractive resonance? Does their presence add to or detract from the quality of your experience? How might their radio waves affect the emotions and behaviours of those who they come into contact with throughout the day? Are they a source of PEGs? At the same time, begin to develop an awareness of your own thoughts and feelings and how these may be manifesting themselves in the form of micro-behaviours which are being subconsciously evaluated by those in your presence. What do your radio waves suggest and how do they affect the perceptions and behaviours of those around you?
Before we wrap up allow me to preempt a potential question or concern that I would expect someone to raise when reading about the concept of micro-behaviours for the first time. You may be thinking something along the lines of “This process of subconscious influence which takes place due to our micro-behaviours makes complete sense but how on earth am I supposed to control such subtleties in my behaviour? It sounds impossible!
You’re right. It would be pointless and absurd to become aware of and attempt to control our individual micro-behaviours. The most important thing to identify is that they are a byproduct of our internal beliefs, perceptions, thoughts, feelings and emotions. The collective term for our beliefs, perceptions, thoughts, feelings and emotions at any given time can be referred to as our ‘state’’. Isn’t it wonderful that our state is something we can deliberately influence and control?