The Liking Principle and Building Rapport

It is plain and simple. Would you rather make a purchase from someone you like or someone you dislike? The answer to this question describes the essence of the liking principle.

Now, I could stop right there and see you all tomorrow, but I wouldn’t be doing justice to this powerful persuasion principle. You see, likeability is the onion of the world of influence. And each layer is sweeter than the next. Let’s chop it up and add it to our ESL broth.

Layer 1: Physical Attractiveness

As vain as it may sound, attraction is magnetic. Based off of research presented in Influence, even attractive children receive favorable societal treatment. For instance, an attractive kid is more likely to receive leniency for wrongdoings than an unattractive counterpart.

If you are attractive, you basically get a head start with your classes. However, most of us possess average looks, so what can we do?

I have good news: You can still enhance your likeability by being conscious of this principle. The problem is that many English teachers are more concerned with traveling and partying than they are teaching. If you want to make a true impact in the world, you can’t view it as an opportunity for you to get drunk and see pretty places.

My two suggestions to enhance physical attractiveness in class are simple.

  1. Dress professionally and try to stay reasonably well-groomed. This also creates an aura of authority, which is the next weapon of influence we will discuss.
  2. Don’t show up hungover because students will notice right away. You could also get fired if someone smells alcohol on you. Obviously, there will likely be weeknights when you go out with your friends. What’s important is that you drink responsibly enough to wake up earlier than usual the next morning and do a little maintenance work.

Layer 2: Similarity

As we discussed during the social proof post, we respond more favorably to those whom are similar to us in appearance and style. For instance, a study demonstrated that students on a college campus were more willing to help another student out financially if that student was similar in appearance or dress. The opposite was true when approached by a classmate who had contrasting appearance.

In the ESL world, it’s difficult to find similarities between you and your students. Instead, we must work on manufacturing them. Here’s how:

  1. Speak their language. This method is stigmatized in the ESL world because we are always asked to teach in the target language. However, joking around with your students and showing them your struggles in language learning will make you relatable and therefore similar. Just avoid using it to explain English vocabulary or grammar when possible.
  2. Dress like them. This is a tough line to walk because it’s imperative to maintain your professionalism. That in mind, we can load up on local accessories. This will show our students we are willing to proudly proliferate their culture. This is also easy because most countries have authentic artisan markets.
  3. Show them some pictures. Remember, you are probably interesting and even exotic to some of your students. Just because I was from the U.S, I was asked numerously if I was a millionaire. Oh, if they only knew how real the struggle is. Anyways, by showing selective pictures of your friends and family, you can communicate to your students that you are just another human being trying to get by in the world. By you being vulnerable, it will likely open them up to talk about their families.

Layer 3: Compliments

Do you like getting a nice compliment? Does your mother? Does your partner? You get the message.

Even in compliance settings, where the other party would obviously benefit from you liking them, you are still receptive and vulnerable to compliments.

Use them to encourage your students and raise their confidence.

Layer 4: The Jigsaw Classroom

This concept is featured in Influence and I think all teachers should familiarize themselves with it. Cialdini begins by explaining the negative effects of American public school desegregation. Basically, it caused white students to become more hostile towards minority groups rather than becoming more cooperative. The cause of this phenomena is attributed to the competitive atmosphere of the classroom. When twenty students are competing for the respect of a teacher, the waters start to get a little testy.

One solution to this problem is The Jigsaw Classroom. This approach requires students to collaborate to find answers. It is achieved by giving each student a different piece of the puzzle, which is usually a piece of information, and having them work together to finish the puzzle. Sounds easy enough, right?

Well, the results of this during a case study featured in the book were fascinating. The case study is focused around a native Spanish speaker, Carlos, whose English skills hadn’t yet developed. This made the student shy and the teacher rarely called on him in order to preserve his confidence. For this reason, the other kids called him stupid and laughed whenever he had to read aloud or speak. Simply brutal.

Everything changed, however, when a jigsaw approach was implemented. When other students were forced to work with Carlos in order to complete assignments, they were more patient and soon found out he was much smarter than they all thought.

Is this a panacea for all divided classrooms? Hardly.

However, it’s a great tool to have in your back pocket. See how you can incorporate it into your lessons by creating dynamic exercises with unique groupings.

Thanks for your time today. I hope you learned as much as I learned from writing it.