I enjoy reading Tynan’s blog and books for his practical approach to deep, risky, or unorthodox endeavors. He’s written about traveling the world with just a backpack, living in a luxury RV, and how to build incredible habits with the least amount of effort.
I picked up his “Superhuman Social Skills: A Guide to Being Likeable, Winning Friends, and Building Your Social Circle” last week and finished the short book (144 pages) in two afternoons of reading. [It is currently free on amazon with a prime membership!]
His thesis is our lives are shaped more by our circle of close relationships than by any other factor. Many dismiss social skills as being inherent traits (“She’s a social butterfly!”), but he insists that social skills are skills — ones that we can cultivate and master in order to change the course of our lives for the better. Just as we work intentionally toward professional success, we must work intentionally toward social success.
Tynan does devote some time to how to find and choose great friends, but one of the reasons I thoroughly enjoyed the book is that he focuses most of the time not on others but on the readers’ ability to improve themselves.
It is far more effective to spend time and energy making sure that you are a great friend than looking for other people to be great friends with. Tynan writes section after section of great ideas for how to be a net positive impact on other people and bring value to their lives.
Here are just a few…
- communicate well
- tell great stories
- make sure everyone feels involved
- be dynamic (always learning something new)
- smile and be positive
- don’t talk too much
- make introductions for people
- take the initiative to set up fun activities/dates/opportunities on your own
Some of the ideas will take longer to develop than others (read: telling great stories – this is one I’ll devote time to learning in the future – he wrote a blog post about it here), but he also includes a section with three easy ways to stand out in a positive way.
- Do what you say
- Be really honest
- Be on time
He encouragers readers to begin working on them immediately because few people demonstrate all three of these characteristics, but they are easy to develop and will never go unnoticed. I would argue that this is certainly true for social circles, but even more true for teaching private music lessons.
If you can put yourself in a class of teachers who always does what they say they will do, is incredibly honest, and works like a clock you will be highly respected and enthusiastically referred to.
Let’s dive into each one of these points. I’ll share my ideas for how each one can manifest in a violin teacher’s work.
1. Do what you say
Have exciting violin lessons led to incredible new ideas, assignments, and practice techniques? Have you embarassingly entered next week’s lesson with no recollection of the multitude of epiphanies that occurred last week? You should never let this happen. This is a huge opportunity to pass up.
Take great notes before and after every lesson and to keep updated practice charts so that you are ready to follow up with your assignments in the next lesson. If you promised to send information or make an introduction during the week, make sure to put it in your to do list and to complete the task as soon as possible.
Think about how much you appreciate friends who follow up on promises without prompting, and then consider how much more important it is sense you are a mature professional.
Be vigilant when you tell someone you are going to do something, to make note and act.
2. Be really honest
Your desire to be kind and positively impact your students might actually be keeping you from being honest. However, it is your responsibility as a professional to tactfully keep parents and students on track toward success even when it is hard and ruffles feathers.
If you can be honest early on in your parent/student/teacher relationship, you will demonstrate far more value as a teacher and build trust quickly.
- if your student is out of tune/isn’t playing with the group/has scratchy tone tell them
- if a lack of listening to the reference recording is killing progress, tell them
- if you know that a parent is not on the same page with you philosophically, tell them they aren’t yet ready to participate in your studio
- if the parent shared a practice strategy the perceived as working well, but you sense will be problematic, tell them
And, even more importantly, always be honest about your shortcomings.
- if you don’t know the answer to a question, tell them so, and promise to find the correct information as soon as possible (see #1)
- if you made a scheduling mistake, tell them as soon as possible and go out of your way to right the wrong
- if they’ve misinterpreted your training or expertise, make sure to tell them honestly the extent of your education and experience
There are so many opportunities to build the trust of parents and students, especially when it is difficult. Be courageous and tell the truth.
3. Be on time
Tynan makes the point that this is a special case of doing what you say.
Most teachers aren’t terribly late when teaching, but it is normal to run between 5-15 minutes behind. Families probably won’t leave your studio because of this, but imagine the respect you will show them and they will show you when you choose to always start on time.
I side benefit is when you are on time, everyone else is influenced to be prompt as well. Because parents know you will be waiting if they are late to a lesson (or group class, rehearsal, concert) they will work to be right on time.
In an effort to always be on time, I aim to be 15 minutes early to teach for the day – giving me time to prepare my space and meditate – and to finish every lesson at the 20 minute mark. I’ve actually written a whole post on taking small steps to be on time.
Consider how making these traits an uncompromising part of your daily life and work will put you head and shoulders above other music teachers in your community. Not only will your word, feedback, and time be respected, but people will assume they can respect your skills as a teacher too.
Furthermore, by doing what you say, staying honest, and being on time, you will encourage your studio to operate with the same values. And a studio that is proactive, honest, and prompt is simply hard to top.