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Teaching technique - getting a straight answer from a timid person

As an art teacher, I found that the vast majority of my students were quiet, shy, timid people. Like I had been at a young age, they mostly enjoyed pursuits that were not social - they liked to draw, to paint, to play video games. They tended not to be people who always wanted to be in a crowd.

If you are frustrated by someone who can't ever seem to say yes or no, or express an opinion, or make a decision, it's important to note that there is always a big difference between the behavior and the desire. You may ask a timid person where they would like to go for lunch and get a vague, rambling, unclear answer. But that doesn't change the fact that this person has as much a desire to get what they want as anyone else.

So mostly, it's best to leave these people alone. Don't ask them to make important decisions, you'll just annoy them. You will probably just make them mad, as they are doing their best to remain quiet, and invisible. My parents were wise enough to supply me with art materials, and let me play quietly in a corner. I learned to draw very well. I developed an interest in art that provided a nice living for me as a Graphic Designer and Illustrator.

But as a teacher, I did have to encourage my students to make some decisions. In an art project, they could decide the subject matter. I insisted on a particular software, but it could be a duck, or a dog, or whatever. My students had to say to me *I want to draw a duck* and I had to say, *OK*. For many of my students this was very painful. And some even went off and drew something else, and took a failing grade, rather than be restricted.

Shy and timid people hate being pushed into a corner. They want to keep their options open. Many times it's because that's a way of avoiding failure. Goals imply the possibility of failure. If there are no goals, no commitment, no straight answer, there is no chance of failure. Whatever happens, happens.

So you have a choice when dealing with a timid person. You can either leave them alone (many great geniuses worked alone) or you can give them a little push. I was surprised to find that with clear instructions, and questions that can answered by yes or no, I was able to get answers from people who *never gave a straight answer*. Most people would consider that no big deal, but to me it ranks as some of the greatest accomplishments of my life.

Yes? No?