How To Get People To Follow Your Directions

In the nineteen sixties, the famous experiments conduced by Stanley Milgram and his team of social psychologists, shocked the world when they showed how normal every day people can be driven to horrific acts of cruelly if they are under the direction of someone they perceive to be an expert. In Milgrms experiment, they hired an actor to play the role of a professor, who directed volunteers to follow his lead and even commits acts of torture. It was not just the professors white coat and job title that did the trick however, it was his confidence and the certainty that he expressed.

If the professor appeared to know his stuff when it comes to the psychology of learning, but showed uncertainty about the specific experiment they were participating at the time, the effect would have been different. The point here is not just to show confidence in your expertise, but to show confidence in the specific expertise that the client wants you to show confidence in.

The Right Expertise

The ‘expert effect’ can be very powerful, but only if applied correctly. Consider it this way; would you prefer the cancer specialist that has expertise about the causation of various cancers, or would you prefer the specialist who is an expert in treating the particular cancer you have? Even then, would you prefer one who knows about treating cancer in general, or one that knows specifically about the treatment you’ll be receiving? The answer might sound obvious, but it’s a common mistake among tutors and teachers trying to play the role of expert.

So to play the expert right, you first need to spend a moment asking – what is it that, in each specific circumstance, does the client want to feel comforted in knowing that I have expertise about?

Imagine what kind of expertise a mother with a 13 year old son struggling to find any interest in his year 8 maths homework, is looking for in a maths tutor. You might be doing a PhD in quantum physics. You might have won a Nobel Prize for developing a new mathematical theory. Guess what; she doesn’t care. This mother just wants to know that you have an expert understanding about year 8 maths, how her son learns best, and how to motivate her son to feel more confident in understanding his homework. Consider what her particular fears may be; her particular uncertainties. Those are the concerns she has. These are therefore the things that she will be looking towards you for certainty, confidence and expertise.

Whilst the same is true of all subject areas, maths is actually the most common area where this becomes problematic. The most common feedback we receive about maths teachers in general, is that whilst the teachers have a strong understanding about mathematics, their understanding about how to TEACH maths is the hurdle causing their problems. The specific expertise the client wants you to have is in knowing how to solve their problems. Their problems are not centred around mathematical equations. They’re centred around human beings. In fact, feeling like ‘just another number’ is part of the reason for the family’s frustrations to begin with. Maths minded people who are used to thinking about the world quantitatively – please take note!

Even if you teach an arts or humanities based subject, it is still crucial that you think about the following question; what does the client want to see in my role as an expert? The more you think about that, the more you’ll be able to deliver it. The more you can deliver the right expertise, the more positive change you can facilitate in the clients lives.

How To Demonstrate Your Expertise

How to demonstrate expertise in these areas will require two three things of you.

The first thing you must do is ensure that you take time to demonstrate your expert knowledge by conversing with those you wish to impress about the things that will impress them with confidence, enthusiasm and certainty. Even if you are confident in what you are talking about, the ‘expert effect’ will only kick in if that confidence shows to the client.

The next things is that you must actually have a good knowledge of your subject content. There is only so much that you can ‘fake it ’till you make it’. You might have fantastic acting skills and you might be good at giving a false impression of certainty, but eventually the cracks will start showing if you don’t really know your stuff. To know you’re stuff thoroughly, have a well prepared lesson plan and know how to implement each teaching strattegy propperly. Also make sure you understand the student well, understand their strengths, their weaknesses and have a good understanding of what is going on for them at school.

The third is to have a good rapport with the client. A confident expert without rapport is just an arrogant, stuck up snob that no one will like.

Have you ever been treated by a medical specialist who, despite being confident and expert, looks down their nose at you as if you are just a worthless pleb getting in the way of their next round of golf?

This is actually very common among people who desire to fit the role of the expert personality. A lof of people specifically pursue a career path which allows them to be seen as an expert for the sake of their self esteem. Although it might feel good for others to look up to you, remember that you have not done much until you are able to make them feel as if you look up to those people too.

Have the right mindset prepared, know how to show confidence in the specific areas someone wants your expertise in and establish a strong rapport with them, and you can lead just about anyone to do anything. Miss out on one or two of those three criteria (as most people do) and you will never achieve the full effect you were searching for.

For more resources, information and advice about tutoring inner west, refer to the Top of the Class Tutoring Sydney website:

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