Do you remember your first HPDE program, when you first began learning about driving on the track? If you’re like most drivers, it was a bit of a tense experience. That might even be a gross understatement! But try to put yourself back in that situation again.
The first time you drove around a track, what did your instructor’s body language say to you? It may have been so long ago, or you were so busy driving that you don’t recall what was said, either verbally or non-verbally. It may not be something you remember now, but I bet at the time you sensed something from how your instructor communicated with his or her body language.
Fast-forward to now, and put yourself in the right seat with a student, with you as the instructor.
Students can sense your expectations - and they will live up (or down) to them. If your driver senses that you don't trust him/her, he/she will perform poorly. So, get in the right seat, adjust the seat so you have good support, do the seat belts up snugly, and then... slouch in the seat. Relax in the seat. Appear as relaxed and calm as you would riding with the best driver in the world on a slow drive to the corner store. Rest your arm and hand on the door (don't clutch the handle), and your left arm/hand on your left leg close enough to be able to use it to point where you want your driver to look, or even "assist" with the steering wheel (if that’s allowed in your instructing world). Relax and expect the best from your driver. You'll be surprised at the positive impact your body language will have on your students.
Expect success. Do you perform better or worse when people have confidence in you? Students can sense your expectations. Expect them to be successful. Students sense your expectations of them not only through what you say but also, more powerfully, by the way you look at them, your facial expressions, and the tone and quality of your voice. Think of your student in terms of their potential, not their performance.
This simple little tip has had one of the biggest impacts on the students I’ve instructed through the years (well over 10,000 students, and counting…). As instructors, we tend to think a lot about the mechanics of the techniques we teach. We even think a little about the verbal language we use with our students. But we don’t think – and do something – about our body language, our non-verbal language, enough.
By relaxing our bodies, we’ll relax our students’ bodies. By expecting our students to be successful, they will live up to our expectations.
For more of Ross' writing, along with articles by other famous and not-so-famous contributors, go to www.speedsecretsweekly.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.