Profesorul, negocierea și FBI

Am scris acest articol în engleză, pentru că am avut șansa de a discuta despre el chiar cu un fost mare negociator FBI, și autorul cărții Never Split the Difference, Chris Voss.

Is your teacher an undercover negotiator?

 Who would have thought that a teacher would also be compared to a negotiator?

We have all watched thrillers and dramas where a certain negotiator would manage to convince a perpetrator to give up their evil plan. So, how would a teacher even find themselves on the same page with a preeminent practitioner of calibrated questions and mirroring?

What you are about to read is a genesis emerging from my own classroom experience, as well as reading and studying I have been doing on my own, in order to apprehend the hidden meanings of words, gestures and actions.

Let us explore a few cardinal points regarding teachers and educators.

The subtle art of letting the other one speak first.

Does this resonate with you, the reader, the student, the parent, the teacher?

Have you ever found yourself in a situation when you thought that you should have better listened before speaking? Sure you have. We all have.

As teachers, we tend to develop a subconscious feeling of lessons to be taught or learned out of anything. We also develop an entirely different persona, complete with voice change, mimic, gesture and the inclination to correct and adjust, even when it is socially not necessary.

We might know from our parents, family, from home the value of allowing someone to finish all they wanted to say before we would intervene. Letting a person express their thoughts without interrupting them is just as strong as offering emotional support that they do not know they need. The subtle and subliminal power of listening goes far beyond what it seems like, it has such an immense psychological impact that, as I have been studying and reading, it almost makes the speaker do the work for you.

As a teacher working mainly with adults for the past 10 years and counting,and who began working with children since August 2022, I have been noticing a rise of the deep-rooted need to be heard.

Like, truly heard, not just what we do with our ears.

When I meet a new student, it is usually a lesson, up to 4 hours, that we choose to spend getting to know each other, rather than me shoving foreign notions down their throat. There is no better time to gain their trust and make them feel comfortable than that first encounter. You know what they say, first impressions are ever-lasting, regardless of what modern popular culture is trying to change.

Learning to label

Humans like labels.

They like knowing what is going on, who is the person sitting in front of them, where does the person come from, you get the gist. Labeling is not just a powerful ‘negotiating tool’, but it stems from a defense mechanism. We do not fear something that we have a name for. The name is an identification. And that makes the unknown more known.

In the light of the current international situation, your students or pupils might want to reach out to you and talk about their anxieties or, on the contrary, to want to just chat and avoid focusing on what is happening.

There is much confusion in the air.

Schools and educational institutions have closed and reopened, there is a war raging in Europe,  people display typical defense mechanisms by panic hoarding, by becoming more aggressive verbally, and all of this mixture is going to certainly take its toll on the young minds and spirits of children and teenagers. Actually, I am mistaken: it will take its toll on the human collective as we know it.

Conflict and power

Each individual has explicit and implicit cultural elements, standards, of their own; also changing and rarely completely clearly structured. But goals nevertheless serve as positive or negative sign-posts, perceived or not perceived, along the life-line of any individual or set of individuals (collectivity).` (Johan Galtung – `Theories of Conflict. Definitions, dimensions, negations, formations’,different editions)

Do not be afraid to create a little conflict.

A well-managed conflict in the classroom can give life to creativity, brilliant ideas and probably resolutions.

The paradox of power is a real phenomenon.

Thus, when a teacher pushes hard for instant results, they will be met with resistance, as power is not what unlocks the door to knowledge, but the gift of listening is. Therefore we can easily close the circle and return to the subtle art of listening.

Achieving goals

There is an everlasting effort to realize goals, to implement programs written in a goal language, which leads to conflicts.

We should never forget that education and togetherness both are included in the basic human needs list. Hence, by becoming a more attentive and more performant educator, we subliminally attend to our students’ core needs.

We, as teachers and educators, take on two other other roles: that of “protectors” and of mediators.

We mediate membership in a community with others, so that the need for communication is fulfilled. Dialogue and said communication engender education, the highest of aims.

Regardless of our age and background, there is not a day that goes by when we do not wish to be or become extraordinary. As children, we all have tremendous dreams and hopes which know no bounds of the rational and logical.

 Later in life, it is the adults who try to make a clear difference between what we are allowed and not allowed to do. So, as a teacher, we take over an indirect parenting role, that of a guide or of a “mental GPS” and it is one of our responsibilities to keep the flame of dreams alive in our students.

‘If you don’t go within, you go without’

Teachers are humans who are, like everyone else, subject to mistakes. Do not be afraid of apologies in the classroom. They do not disclose weakness but build that empathy bridge that we all try to achieve and make our students see us in a whole new light: the person they can connect and resonate with.

Teachers are ‘learning and production architects’, who draft the learning process and follow it until execution and beyond. I have lived this so many times: after a certain student would finish their course with me, we would part ways, nevertheless not really.

 I have tried to keep track of some former students, their whereabouts and professional ascension. After all, my contribution was one of the many drops that fell into their oceans. And yet I feel that my drop caused the birth of a wave.


Sources, inspiration /besides my personal input and observations:

1.Chris Voss with Tahl Raz – Never split the difference

2.Recentering the teacher: from transmitter of knowledge to mediator of learning – article by Mary Grosser and Elda de Vaal, published online on 25th of September 2009 – abstract

3.Johan Galtung – Theories of Conflict, different editions