So you have this learner who seemingly at every break wants to share critical information with you.
Sometimes it’s an observation. “The heater is making a strange clicking sound.” Sometimes it’s a suggestion. “I think you should line the class up in alphabetical order.”
Sometimes it’s a gossip. “Mawande has a bag of chips in her pocket, and I saw her eating them here in class.”
They’re not interrupting or being rude. Nor are they breaking any rules.
But it gets on your last nerve.
Especially because you only have so much time to use the toilet, eat your lunch, or prepare for the next lesson.
The best response, however, isn’t to shoo them away or tell them to mind their own business.
No, the best response is to give them exactly what they want.
Here’s how (and why):
Although it may go against your every impulse, lean in and hear them out. Place your hand on your chin, look them in the eye, and take their concerns seriously.
After listening and nodding your head, respond briefly but honestly and then thank them for their help. It’s the fastest way to end the conversation without creating friction between you.
“Hmm, interesting. I’ll look into it. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.”
“It’s a good idea, but the reason I don’t is because it takes too long. Thanks for the suggestion.”
“Really? That’s against the rules. I’ll take care of it. Thanks for letting me know.”
- Follow through.
If it’s something that you said you’d do, then be sure to follow through. Let them see you take action. You may even want to give them an update. “Hey, thanks again for letting me know about the heater. The maintenance worker said he’d take a look at it.”
If you embrace the concerns learners bring to you, and validate them with your response, it tends to happen less often, not more.
Knowing that they’re seen and heard and spoken to in a manner that tells them that they matter relieves the compulsion to continually approach you for your time and attention.
It’s also their way of making a connection with you.
It’s a moment you share together, pulling in the same direction. Rejecting it is rejecting an opportunity to build greater influence and connection.
So don’t mess it up. Don’t send them away, cut them off in annoyance, or risk ruining your relationship. Instead, welcome their thoughts. It takes just a few extra seconds of your time.
But it’s well worth it in the end.