The opposite of love isn't hate, it's indifference

Ever had students say to you they hate(d) English at school?

Ever had teachers rise up in protest at all the rapid changes in technology, yelling about how the way they've always worked has always worked?  It falls on deaf ears, when you tell them quietly, gently, the world is a different place today, it really is, and my oh my, tomorrow... well, tomorrow you won't recognize most of what we take for granted today.

Whether it's with students learning telephone phrases or with colleagues challenged to adopt the new technologies, change inspires great emotion.

But mostly this is because they don't understand the Why.

See, thing is, we humans (since the age when we stopped starving) really need good solid emotional reasons to do the things we do and we need an even greater knowledge when we're asked to change.  Reasons that connect to our needs.  

It's simply not enough to say, look lots of others are doing it.  

We have to believe that the reason for the change makes sense and that it will, in fact, bring  us happiness.

It's simply not enough to say, the whole world's learning to speak in one language so hey, you should to.

It's not enough to say your boss wants you to speak English so it has to be.

It's not enough to say if you learn English then you can go to the US on holiday next year.

Instead, a better approach might be:
"As the world's economies change it's no longer enough to do business on one's home turf.  Mastering another language (English) will enable you to master your communication when dealing across different cultures and as a result you'll probably get more projects or make more sales."
Selling them, if you like:
Put in the effort now to learn this language and you'll be able to earn more money and take care of your family even better in the long run.

When dealing with colleagues wary of edtech, your approach might be:
"Taking time to master a handful of tech-tools will help you to organize your teaching strategy, saving you a lot of time and energy in the long run.   It will make your lessons more up-to-date and dynamic and as your students will be excited with your innovative processes and their own marked progress, they'll talk to their friends and colleagues about how much they are learning with you and recommend you to others.
Selling then, if you like:
Become a part of a global community of innovative educators and you'll be able to earn more money and take care of your family even better.

Of course, different people have different reasons that motivate them.  

And to be truly effective an exercise it's even better if you can get your students or colleagues arriving at their own whys.  But whichever way, directly or indirectly, it's only once the people you're asking to change understand the reasons for the change that they will adopt and adapt. 

I'll leave you Simon Sinek's thought on inspiring others:

Useful links related to this posting: 

image credit: Questions by Oberazzi

p.s. Business English Lesson Tip: The Sinek video is a great one to take into class with top management types, 1-2-1s... ask them to talk about why they do what they do and make the products they make.

11 Responses to “The opposite of love isn't hate, it's indifference”

  • TEFL Ninja says:
    June 10, 2010

    It goes against the grain, because it focuses on a negative rather than a positive, and I am going back a good ten years here so it may no longer be relevant, but I saw fellow speakers get more of a "sit up and stop looking hacked off at such a monumental waste of time" reaction than I managed with my happy clappy motivations, when they said

    "Technology won't replace teachers, but teachers who know how to use technology in the classroom will replace those who don't"

    It wouldn't be my first choice by a long chalk, but maybe as a last resort ......

  • Marisa says:
    June 10, 2010

    Interesting reflections, Karenne! many times it's difficult to convince others that certain change is necessary.
    Marisa (@Mtranslator)

  • Ceri says:
    June 10, 2010

    Very thought provoking blog, Karenne, thanks. And a great link. I love the golden circle – so simple. And of course he practises what he preaches too, getting at the why of motivation, not the what - the fact that in order to buy into something we need to believe – to believe that this works for us, that we can do it, that it fits in with who we are, who we want to be - who we don’t want to be. And in order to believe, the change has to be believable – realistic – if possible, non-threatening. Above all non-threatening to our images of ourselves.
    Maybe what the reluctant teachers need is to see small scale, successful use at work - if possible experience the excitement first hand, or from someone they see as a peer, someone “at their level”, someone operating in their world.
    Mm, am I rambling? Does any of that make any sense?

    June 10, 2010


    It makes perfect sense! I love this TED video, Sinek is spot-on and your interpretation is perfect: non-threatening.

    So many times, edtech trainers (me including) rave on about the whats and the hows but we forget to mention the most important thing: get students from a-to-b successfully and it's just not that hard or life-changing, other means same processes same pedagogy.

    Thanks Marisa, yes - but I think as Ceri, it might have something to do with the way we "sell" edtech!

    Sarah, hey! again! Actually I've used that exact quote in sessions and also, blush, in blog posts (there are some here with me cracking the whip e.g.

    Start using technology or go ahead and retire (guest piece for Alex Case)


    Where are all the horseshoe makers now

    but I reckon that might have been the wrong approach!


  • TEFL Ninja says:
    June 10, 2010

    I don't know that it is the wrong approach.

    I had "motivation must be postive" so ingrained into me during my training that I find it hard to get past.

    I sweated buckets to try and sell the message without significant sucess in the groups that had the hump about having to be there.

    Others who had no issue in telling it like it is, giving a very good reason why the disinterested should get interested, at least managed to get many of the disgruntled involved and once they had a taste some of them took to it like ducks to water.

    I think in future if I see that there is strong resistance I am going to cut out the happy clappy stuff, go negative, and see what happens.

  • TEFL Ninja says:
    June 10, 2010


    I read both the bookmarks and they going to be delicioused.

    I'll be using them as inspiration the next time my spoonful of sugar is making no impact on getting the medicine down.

  • TEFL Ninja says:
    June 10, 2010

    And I am so stealing Shelly's quote from the comments of the 2nd one.

    "If I expect to motivate my students to keep learning then I should set the example"

    PS My small son is so enamoured by your PP idea (taking pics of the house, labeling it) that I am forced to do a rather late spring clean (for fear that the entire teaching staff of my town will have the opportunity to chunter about how the English woman is a lousy housewife). He had the idea to embed videos to include associated vocab, like phrasal verbs. Cue him trying to blow a fuse tuning a light on and off until he is convinced his hair looks good in the final clip.

    If I end up in hospital suffering from cleaning fumes inhalation I am holding you entirely responsible LOL.

  • Félicia M. says:
    June 13, 2010

    Bonjour Karenne,

    I realise that when I am the most motivated it's when people don't try to motivate anyone, but just *glow* with motivation and happiness from what they are doing : that's the best motivation ! and I agree with Ceri : no threat, no moralisation : just be, enjoy, and the light will stay on.

  • Félicia M. says:
    June 13, 2010

    The previous comment is from me,
    ALiCe__M (I write as Mafalda on my blog)

  • David Warr says:
    June 16, 2010

    Here is my summary of a book called "How To Get Your Ideas Adopted" by Anne Miller.

    It is not easy to get the world to adopt a new idea. In the book by Anne Miller, who has worked on many creative projects, there are hundreds of examples highlighting the struggles people encountered. From studying failures and successes, she provides a way forward for those who want people to accept their idea. Here is a summary:

    People are often deaf and blind to new ideas. They have a rigid mental model of the world, and the new idea doesn't fit into it.

    You must therefore open their eyes and ears to the new idea, and fit the new idea into their existing model, using language they already know. Or you can try to trigger a dormant mental model. People are complex, and can have many models, one of which is dominant, with others dormant. If you have to create a new mental model all together, this can take time.

    People might then accept your idea as being different, but still be unwilling to accept it. They are frozen. The cost of the new model, learning it and integrating it is too great. They prefer to stick with what they've got. To unfreeze them, you must make them see that the new model is better. They must care about this, and feel either anxious and/or guilty that they now know they can change for the better. Most importantly, they must feel safe to change and use the new model. The presure to use the new modelmust have a release - the knowledge that they can change. You must show them that there is a clear path to follow.

    People will now become interested. You must provide a clear, strong vision that inspires them. Also, they must fell that they can share and contribute to the idea. They want to be involved, not feel scared or coerced. You should use stories and facts, a mixture of emotion and reason.

    If they trust you, they can go away with the intention of using the idea. But life's pressures, the choking weeds of life can cause people to fall back into their old routines. Don't let this happen. Follow them. Supprot them. Make the idea part of their new mental model. Let the world own the idea.

  • Karenne Sylvester says:
    June 16, 2010

    Wow David, what an excellent and comprehensive comment. Thank you so much for bringing this to the table!

    I particularly like and agree with: To unfreeze them, you must make them see that the new model is better.

    The a clear, strong vision is harder to manage especially in the ever changing techie world - one second we're saying "hey, use Ning!" the next second "hmm... they're going to charge now so maybe try Grouply..." the next second... so staying on track in this rapidly changing world is difficult, isn't it!



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