Whether you’re teaching for fun or for your business there are going to be times when as the expert of your subject matter you’re going to have the opportunity and also the obligation to introduce new concepts. But introducing new concepts can also be a dangerous time. So much so that there are serious chances that your new information can scare your audience.
In general Teaching is all about giving students a chance to learn new things, but it isn’t always that simple. No matter how much a students consciously wants to learn, subconsciously the student also wants to reject new ideas at the first available opportunity.
Just recently I had the opportunity to see this first hand. A presenter offered a radical opportunity for potential given to an entire audience of willing participants. The presenter eased their way into their idea carefully by doing all of the right things, giving a narrative, providing high level evidence before dropping down into cold details.
The details were quite specific covering the how, why, and when the system worked. Details around the results were even given as further evidence.
It was all going really well until it wasn’t.
So what went wrong?
From an instructional point of view nothing! The information was presented very well! The audience engagement was excellent and the control of the audience was brilliant.
However … from a psychological perspective … the idea and system presented ‘went the wrong way’. It was counter-intuitive. It was out of the norm, it was unexpected, had complexity attached to it, and did the one thing to the audience that any instructor cannot do. It created fear!
New information is a challenge.
Right or wrong, we are creatures of habit and comfort. Young students (school age) are quite mentally elastic (or indifferent) to new material. Tell a student that they’re going to spend the next two weeks of physics learning all about sound and acoustics and they’ll go with the flow.
Tell a mature adult that there is massive opportunity for long term financial gain even if your assets value drops, and all of a sudden walls are going to go up. And they’re going to go up high and strong.
Clarity means Comfort. Radical means Uncomfortable
As said we’re creatures of comfort and habit. Our natural resistance to change means that we’re more likely to (we’re more comfortable) to try and look for reasons why something with massive potential won’t work for us, rather than giving it a go and finding out for ourselves.
This comfort-zone is what keeps us where we are.
Rejection is safe
Our Brains do not like new and challenging ideas. Problem solving is something that we are capable of when it is absolutely necessary, not for the fun of it. The rest of the time we’re more concerned with our own survival.
When a new idea is given to us, that goes against something that is easily known and accepted, then we are forced to try and understand it. The issue that we find is we don’t know how long it’s going to take to understand it. The more complex we think it is … the more likely we are to give up early.
Even if the new idea can yield a massive benefit the natural action will be to reject it, even it means we make up an excuse to dismiss it.
No one wants to be the first cab off the rank
Not only is the outright rejection of an idea safe (even with no valid reason) the next step is about the social impact.
If there is one thing we crave more than anything it’s comfort amongst others. Even when we know there is something good and beneficial to us, we don’t want to be the first to take the leap.
We’re much more comfortable watching someone else take the risk first, and then and only then once someone else proves that an idea or concept is not dangerous will we then follow.
The five stages of Grief (Seriously)
Wait long enough and there’ll be enough early adopters out there which will prove the validity and viability of new ideas. At this point ‘the safe and cautious’ will be ready to jump in albeit only once ‘The Denial’ stage of the concept has finally failed.
After adoption we tend to go through ‘The Anger’ phase, and this usually comes around because of the realization of what the scale of the missed opportunity looks like.
Once we see results, the anger turns into a brief ‘depression’ due to the lost time we sacrificed during denial.
We cannot forget the amount of time that we have also committed to our resistance. There is an irresistible belief that what we have held onto it is still valid in some way so we ‘Bargain’ with ourselves in order to find some way of having the old co-exist with the new.
Finally we enter the acceptance phase where the dust has settled, and new information, new concepts – no matter how much fear they triggered when we first came across them have now become part of our comfortable normality.
So whether your a student or an instructor, Normality is what you’ll start with when you learn something new, and normality is where you’ll come back to after learning.
So what do you have to lose?