In his book Interrogator, Hans Scharff, an interrogator in the Germany army during World War II, tells how he extracted information from the brave pilots on our side. He did so without resorting to any form of brutality, bullying, or inhumanity. In fact, several former prisoners of war made it a point to locate Hans after the war to express their admiration for his civility. His exceptional talent was his ability to obtain information from even the most determined POW. How did he do it? Hans listened.
He listened to American radio and read our press to collect information on our pilots. Then, during long walks with his captives unaccompanied by guards, Hans would reveal intimate snippets of information about his captives. They believed Hans already had the information he needed. This lowered their defenses. As Hans continued asking questions, he'd listen to what his captives said, how they said it, when they said it, and the way they said it. This was his secret. It can be yours, too.
As a flight instructor, your job is to collect information on your students so that you can more efficiently train them. Students are always communicating with you, telling you directly or indirectly about their fears, goals, frustrations, conceptions, and misconceptions. The last time you informed a student that an upcoming lesson would be on stall recovery, did you listen carefully to his response? Was he excited? What questions did he ask? These subtle clues are the mental maps that will help you to better understand what's going on in your student's mind.
With them, you can gain teaching leverage and multiply your effectiveness and impact as a teacher. If you listen carefully to your students, they may actually tell you a little more than just their name, rank, and serial number.
By Rod Machado