How to build confidence in your students
Apart from the medical profession and the clergy there is probably no occupation that requires more people skills than that of a driving instructor. Getting on with nervous clients and building their confidence in themselves and in you as mentor requires patience. Here are some principles that will make your clients feel, that they are important to you.
All of us want to be treated with respect. Learn every client’s name, even if its long, foreign, hard to pronounce or all of the above. Everyone loves the sound of their own name. Never make fun of it, which belittles a person. What’s more, it’s frustrating, because no diet or exercise program can improve the situation.
If you’re late for a lesson, apologize and/or phone the student. It makes them feel that their time is important too. Should the need arise to extent their lesson, ask the pupil first. They may have an appointment to attend to. Extra time at no charge may not be appreciated on every occasion.
Affirm your student. Try to correct mistakes in a positive manner.
For example, after waiting for a considerable time at a roundabout, traffic behind is building up. Finally you order: ‘go, now!’ But he/she hesitates and waits again unnecessarily, frustrating for the most patient of instructors. The student explains: ‘I thought the car was turning into our direction’. To affirm the student just say: ‘Yes, it looked that way, but it would have been OK to go.’
Don’t overrule a person’s wishes or feelings. Some instructors pride themselves in taking a novice into very heavy traffic or up to high speed. If a persons expresses the wish not to drive onto the main road in peak traffic, respect their concern: “You still feel you are not ready. OK then, maybe next lesson.” Very slow, nervous learners need constant affirmation, despite their lack of apparent progress.
Never compare one student with another, everyone is unique. Slow learners sharpen an instructors skills and challenges to creativity. What’s more, the person beside you may be a very high achiever in his/her field of expertise – a writer perhaps or a member of the under 18’s National Youth Soccer squad. You may not even know.
Record every student’s progress and other data. This saves a lot of needless repetition. To ask a pupil at the beginning of the lesson: “What did I teach you last week?” is not very professional. Every driving school or instructor must have a system of recording data, not only the about a pupil’s progress, but personal information. To wish a student “Happy Birthday” (you took note of the date) or to remind him/her that the permit needs renewing in two days, shows that you take interest in the customer.
A little chat relaxes, emphasis on little! Stick to safe subjects, their new car, sport, cooking, school work, holidays. Talk about their interests. Try to be natural. Social talk should never replace solid teaching. Pupils may enjoy the conversations, but resent later if the main purpose of your weekly outings, learning to drive, is neglected.
Never make fun of a question. There is no such thing as a wrong question. Be glad, when customers do ask, because it helps you to assess their way of thinking.
Recognize little victories. Give praise about an achievement, when difficult tasks have finally been mastered. It can become very discouraging, when an instructor constantly focuses on wrong behaviour,
Ten behaviours to avoid
- Eating, drinking (especially alcohol) during a lesson.
- Smoking or offering a cigarette to clients.
- Using bad language*, telling crude jokes or compromising stories.
- Pushing any ideology or off-loading the instructors problems onto the customer.
- Flirting, suggestive remarks, even in a joking manner.
- Unreasonable involvement in pupils private affairs, unless asked for.
- Giving advice, other than driving tuition, unless specifically requested.
- Taking gifts, that may be interpreted as a bribe.
- Changing lessons for no reason or not turning up without phoning.
- Conducting private business, if unavoidable, explain and make up the time.
* Never swear at another road user or sound the horn angrily during a lesson, no matter what. This mild form of road rage may lead to a more serious incident. If you stay calm your pupil will. Your (good or bad) example will be accepted as the norm.
Every good businessman knows that keeping a customer happy is also to his own benefit. If you lose too many customers for no apparent reason, examine your style. It may only be one wrong word you said, a negative attitude or a small favour you did not bother with, that upset the client.
Treat everyone like a VIP, always encouraging, recognizing achievements. Don’t be surprised, when your customers recommend you to their friends.