In a two-way communication, both people are 100% responsible for the results.
How does that work?
If I am communicating to you, one-to-one, I am completely responsible for what I say, how I say it (what words I use), their precise meaning, the intention of the words, and the impact they have upon you, the listener, even if I don’t know when I am speaking what that might be. You, as a listener, are completely responsible for hearing what I say, what I mean, what you imply by what I mean, and how you react to my intention in my communication. Each person is 100% responsible all the time, every time.
If everyone understood this, we would all be better off.
I can’t know what you made of what I said unless I ask you. You may not know what you’ve made of what I said until I ask you. Both of us have to deal with the results. You may think you know what I said or what I meant, but if you don’t ask, your assumption might be wrong. Given that this is so, it is amazing that we can communicate effectively at all.
When you are teaching singing, you are up against language and its limitations. One word at a time we must describe a three-dimensional experience called sound — capturing singing in a verbal description. The other tools we have are making sound ourselves, as examples, and looking carefully at the person singing to see what they are physically doing while singing, which we might also have to describe in words. If you are not by nature an articulate person, or if you are not an observant person, and if you do not have a significant amount of intellectual understanding about the process of making sound, in terms of what happens inside the throat and body while it happens, you are not going to have an easy time describing it. Is it then a surprise when your student cannot understand what in the world you want her to do while she sings that will improve her sound?
The more conscious you become, the more potent your words become as well. If you are a responsible soul, you understand that words have power. If you are also an authority figure, at least to your students, the ante goes up. The words have a heavy impact on the students. That’s why it is very important to be careful to avoid starting a sentence with the words, “You are……”. It’s much better to say, “Your voice is…….” and follow it up with some kind of constructive explanation instead of criticism.
If you teach singing and were to listen back to yourself as you conduct a lesson, how would you evaluate your own communication? Is it clear? Do you ever ask your student, “Was I clear?” Try it once in a while. Students, if you don’t understand, say so. If you don’t get a clear explanation, it isn’t your fault. Go find the information you need if you can’t get it in your lesson. Be 100% responsible, even if your teacher isn’t.