Why I don’t want you to feel terrible so that you will sign up for my English classes

When I was starting out in business, and a bit less wise than I am now, I signed up for a marketing course. I knew I needed one – I’d had experience in teaching, knew a bit about websites, had done a book-keeping course, was already used to working in communications – but the one thing I didn’t know that much about was sales and marketing.

The problem was that there’s a big difference between knowing you need a marketing course and signing up for a good one.

I’m not here to complain about the company – I don’t think it’s around any more anyway – but one of the things I really didn’t like about the training was the intense focus on all the negative things.

According to the training, my advertising for English lessons should look like this:

Do you worry that all your colleagues are laughing at you because of your English?
Do you have sleepless nights whenever you have to present something in English?
Does the telephone send you scuttling for cover because you think it might be an English enquiry?
Do you look at all the progress your colleagues are making in their careers, and hate yourself because your English skills are holding you back?
I can fix all your problems and send you out of my class jumping for joy!

Ok, that’s a slight exaggeration – but you get the idea!

Some of these things may be true, and it’s an old trick in the marketing book, but it’s not very nice, is it?

Someone tried it on me the other day. They wrote me an email in rather bad English, telling me that my website was awful, but it was ok because they were an SEO whizz and could help me with my website texts. If the text in the email was a reflection of their best work, the claims were highly unlikely, but even if the text had been ok, the idea of bringing people down and making them feel so bad just so that they will be more receptive to your offer just feels very cheap and manipulative.

I can’t stop other people doing it, but one of the nice things about being self-employed is the freedom to choose that English with Kirsty won’t use these techniques. Yes, I do want to help people with specific problems, but we can still talk about those difficulties like adults, without making people feel completely useless!

I believe that you get out of things as much as you put in. I’m not going to offer English training for lazy people – someone did actually ask me for that once – because to some extent you really do have to be motivated and work for your success.

But generally, the people whom I work with do try hard. Most of them are better at English than they believe they are. One of the biggest problems is that they just don’t believe in themselves or have the opportunity to practice in a relaxed atmosphere so that they can use and improve their skills.

It’s a bit like the weight loss industry – trying to make people feel as bad as possible so that in their desperation they’ll buy dubious weight loss products and sign up for potentially dangerous programmes. All from a place of feeling bad and looking for solutions.

Of course if you want to sell anything, you need to show how you’re giving people something that they want, adding value, or fixing a problem. I don’t have any issues with that. My problem is the way that we’re sometimes encouraged to make people feel as bad as possible before they buy things. I don’t think there’s any need for that.

It’s partly because I don’t respond well to emotional selling . Give me facts – don’t keep on about how you’re going to make me feel! I can work that out for myself! Chances are my business will attract the kind of customers who see it the same way – the more logical, pragmatic people.

But its also because I believe we can be better human beings than that. I’ve found that my customers tend to make much faster progress if they can feel good, or at least not feel bad, about what’s already there in terms of their knowledge and language skills. Then we can build on that together.

Maybe it’s a cultural thing too. We English people are often known for understating things. We’re not usually comfortable telling complete strangers just how awful an area of our life is. Maybe other cultures can relate to that too.

Do you feel a complete failure when it comes to … no actually I don’t.
Would you like a bit of help with … yes ok then!

I want people to leave my lessons feeling positive that they’ve learned something and can put it into practice, not to be dragged down and come for the next lesson because I remind them how very far they still have to go!

We can all keep learning. We all have things that we find harder than other things. But I’m not going to focus on sleepless nights, racing hearts, and feelings of despair! It’s not cool!

Having said that, if you are looking for some help with your English, from a positive and proactive trainer, you can take a look at my training pages. They’re available in English and German You can also use the comments forms on these pages if you have any questions.

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Kirsty working with students

Author: Kirsty Wolf

I am an English teacher and a language enthusiast who also speaks German and Romanian. I help motivated professionals to improve their English so that they can communicate confidently and authentically.

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