How to Teach Instead of Preach
By Guest Post
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Last week I wrote about the importance of teaching the people we’re in contact with, and how important it is to avoid preaching to them.
I got a couple emails asking about how to do that, and how to best communicate the concepts of preparedness without preaching.
The most important thing to remember is that preaching is an inherently emotional engagement, while teaching appeals more to the logical side of things.
You can see this in particular when we get into the huge policy debates that end up dividing people. Emotions get heated, we start pushing hot buttons and using canned examples and buzz words. We often attack the position of others … intentionally or inadvertently.
We humans tend to get defensive if we think we’re being attacked, even if we aren’t. And when we preach to folks, we often end up making them feel defensive even if we have good intent.
Unfortunately for us, since preaching is that emotional approach it is almost a default approach when we talk to people about a topic we feel passionate about. It takes real effort to subdue some of that passion and avoid preaching.
In all transparency, that’s an issue I have with my wife. I tend to feel pretty strongly about some things, and when we discuss them I will easily become a little heated … which in turn triggers a defensive reaction and she feels like I’m attacking her.
The thing is, even though I’m NOT attacking her, and have no such intent, for her it’s a REAL feeling. It’s not her fault, it’s mine, because I’m not communicating effectively. I come across like I’m forcing her to adhere to my opinion, and that will trigger anyone.
Preaching has a purpose. Getting folks motivated is a great one. But it’s not so good for educating folks.
For that, we go to teaching. There are a number of different teaching styles, and I’m not really going to address them here today. But the core thing they all have in common is that they remove much of the emotion from the conversation.
When you’re teaching, you’re sharing knowledge. You’re providing facts and letting people come to their own conclusions.
One of the best ways to bring people around to a point of view is to share those facts and avoid the emotional hot buttons. Let them come to their own conclusions based on what you’ve told them.
Don’t force your opinion on them. That just triggers an emotional response.
Teaching is a repetitive practice. You’re going to have to explain the same things more than once. You’re going to have to go over those facts more than once.
A great way to help enhance the learning process is by example. A great prepping example is teaching someone why having a vehicle bag is important. Instead of dooming and glooming (the emotional preaching approach) stay away from the emotional side of things. Talk about how useful having spare clothes or a good first aid kit could be.
And then when you’re out and about and someone gets hurt, or falls into a mud puddle, use your kit. Don’t say “See, this is why we need a kit” … just quietly use it and move on.
If you’ve left the right foundation you don’t even have to say a thing. Folks will learn.
In closing, one cautionary note. No matter what you do, don’t EVER say “I told you so” if there’s an emergency and someone isn’t prepared for it. Help if you can, and answer any questions they might have.
Avoid anything that could hit the emotional side of things. They know they blew it and weren’t adequately prepared. They don’t need you pointing it out. Just be there to help if necessary. Be a resource. Not a critic.