Four male Neurolanguage Coaches Andy Gilbert, Dionisis Rigopoulos, Peter Greliak and Richard Twigg talk about men, women and Neurolanguage Coaching in one of the most intriguing and original interviews we have ever published. How is coaching viewed by men and how is the male perspective different from the male one? Why are there fewer male coaches than female coaches? Questions like these and many more are answered below.
Interviews conducted by George Kokolas and Rachel Marie Paling
Statistically, are there fewer male coaches than female ones? How does this make you feel? Any comments?
Yes, this is something that I have reflected on during the course and since. Indeed, it came up as a topic of discussion during one of our course sessions.
I guess in general men tend to be less emotionally aware than women. Perhaps this is due to cultural beliefs, our educational institutions, traditional societal roles…, perhaps a combination of all of these. Whatever the reason, I think that in general women are more open and expressive of their emotions, whereas men often tend to suppress their feelings, either consciously or subconsciously, and take a more ‘practical’ approach to life. In light of this, for me it stands to reason that if men are generally less adept at listening to their own emotions, and probably also more reluctant to do so, they will be less drawn to a profession like coaching that has at its core the need to listen to the feelings of others, and respond in an emotionally sensitive way.
Perhaps another factor that might explain the gender balance within the NLC community is that Rachel herself is such an inspirational role model – for everyone, but especially for aspiring entrepreneurial women – within a business landscape overwhelmingly dominated by men. Her ability to seamlessly juggle the demands of being at the forefront of a new educational paradigm, with all the work that involves, whilst also conducting her courses with consummate poise and serenity, is an extraordinary feat and I imagine that many women are attracted to the NLC course thanks to these exemplary qualities.
I am not wholly surprised by this – some people see EFL as a woman’s area. Case in point, when I was teaching in Malta, roughly 6 months post CELTA I was told by my female ados that EFL teaching in Malta was for women and strange men like x. Name omitted for privacy reasons. Some years ago, I trained as a hotel inspector and I was the first male to do the job in Yorkshire. It seems I have an affinity with choosing areas that are female dominated – not sure if that is something to do with my sexuality! On a more serious note, I think it might be that NL coaching is more “touchy-feely” and involves emotions and listening, something that full blooded men are notoriously bad at.
Really? Great news for me!!! I would say that I feel totally unique as I can make a difference and stand out among my female colleagues! Is anything better than that? I mean… we all try to attract more clients employing more or less commonly shared strategies but we forget the most powerful tool which is our personality. Most teachers or language school owners usually promote their work by advertising the material (equipment, books) they use so as to convince prospective learners.
The result of such policies is that we expand competitiveness as far as the products surrounding us are concerned. And I challenge you… how would you feel if you came to my school to inquire information about my services and I told you that you can actually create your own course by choosing your learning style, or the equipment (audio,video..etc) or even nothing at all, not even books…just you and me in the classroom with only a notebook on your desk? You would probably say that this “MAN” is crazy!!! What if I told you that the origin of the basic principles of Neurolanguage Coaching dates back to ancient Greece where Socrates (A MAN!!!) was the one who never taught anybody but simply tried to lead his students to find their own answers to their queries? He didn’t recommend any material, any book, or any equipment! Just powerful conversations, that is, coaching!!! Now what would you say? Would you still insist that I am crazy? And If you are still skeptical… Why have millions of people never stopped studying or talking about Socrates? Talking about…just a MAN? I wonder how Socrates would comment on that question. And the fact that I am Greek is an asset because I know how to talk about Neurolanguage Coaching through a genuine Greek perspective! It comes out so naturally!
So being a MALE NLC Coach of GREEK origin is definitely making a difference in my country at least! On the other hand, allow me to say that in a coaching session 70% of the time should be allocated to the learner to speak and just 30% to us, coaches. I even have delivered a session by just greeting my student and leaving him in a constant pursuit of his answers and my only feedback being just nodding! By the way, how much do women and men talk in a conversation? What is the norm? I read somewhere that women talk way more than men, specifically they use 20,000 words a day, compared to 7,000 that men utter. I am 45 years old and I can definitely confirm this…. Generally, in my country women talk far more than men in interactions. What I am trying to say is that being a male NLC coach is easy as you do not need to lecture anybody! It’s natural for men to talk less!
The only thing you need to do is make the right question the right moment and just be there whenever your student really needs you. I hope I won’t be judged negatively by my lovely fellow female NLC Coaches, many of which are really competent and extremely skilful and definitely make good friendships because they know, to some extent, how a male brain works! To cut a long story short I think that the days of similar discussions about gender differences in various work fields are long gone and anybody can master the required skills especially in the domain of coaching. But both men and women need to try harder. I can’t omit the fact that Socrates, as Rachel always points out, used to bite his lips so that his students could find the truth themselves…..so a MAN does need to perfect “silence” too….and believe me it’s not easy even for me, a man of few words…
It’s sad to hear there are fewer male coaches. On my NLC course I was the only male coach, and funnily enough on my life coaching course it was the same story. I’m not sure as to the reasons for this higher weighting of women in coaching. Maybe, women socially have developed more of a sensitive side and therefore find that sensitivity can be used in coaching. Men feel they don’t have that sensitivity and emotional awareness that could be useful in coaching. I can’t really think of any other reasons.
What inspired you to take the NLC course and what was your biggest takeaway?
I decided to take the NLC course because, after a number of years teaching English as a foreign language in Spain, I was looking to acquire a new perspective. I felt that my attitude to teaching was becoming a little jaded in certain aspects, and I was keen to learn some new techniques to keep both myself and my students interested in the classes.
Probably the biggest takeaway for me was learning about the neuroscience of language learning, and specifically how important it is to create the correct conditions for an optimal language learning state. Thanks to the course, I’m now a lot more aware of the words I use in class, and the types of questions I ask. I’m also better at signposting to make sure the coachee knows what to expect, and I’m always looking for an excuse to give positive feedback to promote the dopamine response. Individually, they are little changes to the way I was previously teaching, but collectively I think they’re making a big difference to the quality of my classes.
I have always been a good listener – one of my strengths and something a number of people have commented on. Some time ago I had the remote idea of becoming a life coach before it became the rage (this thought was way back in the early 2000’s) when I saw and heard about Neurolanguage Coaching, something was triggered in my subconscious and I just knew it was a path that I wanted to follow. This has been borne out by my having completed the advanced and registered for the next professional course. Another of my favourite expressions is take my advice – I don’t use it. Teaching is something I’m good at and I enjoy and Neurolanguage Coaching is a natural extension to that. It was also encouraging to discover that my teaching was more in tune with coaching than traditional teaching. I have always held the theory of teaching the student and not the coursebook.
So…how did it all start? Well I need to go back a few years now….hmmm…now I remember it was Saturday morning and as usual I was having breakfast while at the same time I was scrolling down on facebook when I saw a book by the title “Brain Friendly Grammar” Neurolanguage Coaching. I don’t know why…I usually scroll even faster down the page when I come across “annoying” advertisements but for some weird reason I just stopped there looking at it perplexed. The title included words I couldn’t make sense of!!! To be more specific, the words “Brain”, “Neurolanguage” and “Coaching” were out of my idiolect as a teacher. And even more strange was their connection with “Grammar”. I mean …after having completed my Master’s degree in Applied Linguistics and being myself the owner of an English Language school since 2005 I felt completely …sort of embarrassed because I came across meanings that I couldn’t explain to myself let alone to someone else.
In addition to it the publisher “Express Publishing”, which is one of the most dependable ones, couldn’t leave any room for ambiguities in terms of both the value and quality of this book. I didn’t have any second thoughts and I ordered it at once!!! And as I was saying…it was Saturday and because the order was placed that day it meant that the waiting time for the delivery would last more than usual, something which made me really impatient. Needless to say, I read the book almost in one sitting feeling inspired but I was not yet sure of what I needed to do to put these new insights about the brain into practice. By pure coincidence the author of the book, Rachel Paling, was to present this “masterpiece” in the “International Publishers Exhibitions” in Athens for which I had already booked my seat. But before the presentation started, I had already met her at the Express publishing stand where we talked together for the first time and it was then when I first met with George Kokolas, Chief Editor of Neurolanguage Collective Magazine at ELC Language Coaching Certification, who had already completed the “Advanced” course!!! It sounded to me as If I were still in the dark Ages…. possibly I was! So, getting back to Rachel’s presentation, I was even more inspired but again unaware of what I was supposed to do in the classroom.
It goes without saying that I definitely needed more information. And I was fortunate in that the very next day Rachel delivered a workshop for English language teachers where we would at least scratch the surface of what Neurolanguage Coaching is and as you might guess……I was still full of questions!!! I remember Rachel saying that our brain is like a horse and unless you sit on its back, take the reins and steer it, it will gallop off on its own. Such statements along with the findings of neuroscience about the brain left everyone speechless! Yeah… “neuroscience” …I wonder how many teachers know what this field has offered to us and how many of us still “teach” using our fantastic brain without knowing how it works!!! Terrifying…. It’s as if you drove a car ignoring basic functions or not knowing how to change a flat tire!!! You just stay there frozen, helpless waiting for someone else to pick you up. But it’s OK!……I mean….at some point someone or the road safety will provide the services they are paid for but what about your brain? Who is going to help you? Who knows what we need to do as teachers so that our students improve their skills, learn faster and reach their maximum potential? And in the words of Rachel, “Isn’t it time to start talking and learning about our brain before we enter the classroom?” All these questions and insights at that workshop made me, forced me, obliged me to take the course and delve into this fantastic world of our brain and how grammar is picked up faster according to the principles of neuroscience!!!
Of course, I haven’t said anything so far about coaching and how it can lead both teachers and students to a mutual insightful learning experience by improvising on the spot, experiencing aha moments, leaving the class and wanting to get back as soon as possible. And it’s not just fun and games as our learners set goals which have to be achieved following deadlines set by themselves. The “teacher” is transformed into “coach” and the student into “coachee” , a relationship far more fruitful and inspiring at the same time. It’s as if everyone involved danced following the same music but making different moves in sync. How amazing does it sound!!! And this is consistent with what Rachel always says “I do not want to be told what to do” and…in my words “just help me find my own way”!
I was feeling a bit stagnated in my career in ELT, I needed a fresh approach and I also felt that there was something lacking in my teaching. The biggest takeaways for me were: 1) How powerful coaching is and what potential it has in empowering and creating more autonomous learners 2) How the Neuroscience can help us to understand how to learn more efficiently 3) How useful comparing to the Native Language when learning another language
During the course, did you experience any differences in comparison with the ladies fellow participants?
I guess you would have to do a survey of the ladies in the class! To be honest, I think that the views expressed by all the participants on the course, and the resultant discussions which ensued suggested that everyone benefited greatly from the course content. Looking back, I don’t think there was anything that stood out as being particularly different for male and female participants.
I have not really thought about that much. On reflection the ladies were more willing to get involved, they seemed less inhibited – male macho ego coming out here. I didn’t feel intimidated though I feel very comfortable and at ease – almost honoured to be the token male or one of two in the case of the advanced course. The fact that it was a female trainer both with Rachel and Clare kind of reinforced the token male feeling. In Malta all my directors of studies were female until I became a DOS myself.
Any Neurolanguage Coach knows that no two brains are the same. Our brains are unique! Regardless of the gender we own a unique mental “print” which is definitely far more different even if we compare it with one of our family members. Has anybody noticed any similarity between brothers and sisters, father and children, mother and children etc. in terms of their way of thinking? Even we ourselves sometimes find it difficult to define who we are and why we react differently depending on our mood. Of course, the gender has its role in creating a certain atmosphere in class. Being around women has lots of advantages. Actually, during both the basic and the advanced course, I felt as if I were in paradise!!! How can so much beauty be present on a screen? In the Bible just the presence of one single woman, “Eve”, would be more than enough to actually help us conceptualize what paradise looks like! And if we add the unique cultural temperament of each of my course mates, I would say that NLC is the epitome of sociolinguistics! It’s magical!
The moment you get connected a whole new but real world is unfolding before your eyes. People from different countries interact instantly but not only using words but feelings as well. How amazing! Shared feeling and no competitiveness whatsoever! Isn’t that great? You know… in the very first session with Rachel I didn’t actually know what was expecting me. And when I got over emotional during an activity about dilemmas then I realized how powerful this course can be and how it can change or rather transform a man’s life. When the first session ended…I will never forget that moment… I looked for my 3 year-old-son and hugged him soooooo tightly- thank God he is still breathing- and I started noticing things my beloved wife said that actually went in one ear and out the other in the past. Yes, Rachel showed me the way to actively listen and even if I failed as a coach in the future, I would never regret attending these courses since they “opened” both my “eyes” and my “ears”! So, this wonderful mixed “gynocratic” “neuro-paradise” is a blessing and I hope I was not an unwelcome distracting guy because of my full “masculinity” appearance. And just a final comment…. all these differences I noticed broadened my horizons and I familiarized myself with “otherness” even more which is the most crucial part offered in these courses and …..of course, let’s not forget that if we weren’t different, such courses wouldn’t exist!
The only difference I would say is that the women participants seemed to get more emotional, especially when we did more life coaching on the course.
What would you advise any male language coach/trainer/teacher?
Well, I guess if a teacher/coach/trainer, male or female, came to me asking for advice I would advise them in the same way irrespective of their gender. In my response to the first question I have surmised why I believe there are less male coaches than female ones, but I think it’s worth stating that I think men are just as able to be effective coaches as women. I don’t believe gender itself is a determining factor in whether someone is a good coach or not; it’s simply that within modern day society men don’t tend to develop the same level of emotional awareness as women, and I would contend that this deters them from becoming coaches or entering other similar professions that require listening and empathy skills.
As a male teacher/coach I certainly don’t feel that my gender is a handicap to doing my job, and I wouldn’t want any prospective male coaches reading this article to think that would be the case, either. Indeed, I’m acutely aware that gender equality can be a sensitive topic and I hope all readers will forgive me if they feel that I have misrepresented either or both genders through any of my generalisations and subsequent conclusions. It’s a privilege to be asked to be interviewed for the NLC magazine, and I’m very grateful for the opportunity to share my views on such an important issue.
Get out of your comfort zone – learn to listen and take your skills to the next level. Your students will thank you for it and you will learn a number of things along the way and also some insights into yourself
You know …as a Neurolanguage Coach I have already erased the notion of giving any piece of advice to anyone. But I can say a few things I’ve done so far which have helped me make a difference in my area. When I first started putting into practice Neurolanguage Coaching I was somehow skeptical with regard to the effectiveness of this new “teaching” style. Since 2005 many teaching methods have taken place at my school but the general idea behind any type of teaching was more or less the same. I mean there was always graded material in terms of grammar and a yearly plan which had to be completed by the end of May. Everything was organized in detail but…. there was something missing!!! My students’ opinion about the whole plan! Any time I entered the classroom I could sense both the excitement and the lack of enthusiasm which was always consistent with the planned activities.
This got me thinking about their own views about teaching. And maybe the fact that I was a male teacher might be the reason why I was always eager to know what they think about me or if they liked the way I delivered a lesson. And I think there is some revealing information which can explain this “silly” guess. A Male language teacher, according to a recent survey conducted by Taqi et al. (2015), exhibits certain qualities in terms of his personality! Being not only friendly but also kind as well as showing more respect towards the students, not to mention the utmost charisma of controlling their emotions, male teachers are by far preferred over female ones. And of course, anybody can find this survey or similar ones online.
Now I would like to point out a few points for a while. The first has to do with the respect towards the students. I wonder how can any of us claim that he/she respects his/her students when you are the only one who defines what will be done on a daily basis? I wonder how many of us have handed out questionnaires to measure “respectfulness”? And if they have done so, what did they do afterwards to show that they really respect their students’ feelings? Is following your agenda what others want? Don’t they deserve to be heard? Aren’t they a part or rather the most important part of what is called a learning process? How could you expect excellent results without being aware of feelings? Is there any link between success and how someone has felt up to that point? Most successful people mention hard work, pain, tears, isolation and lots of sacrifices but it doesn’t make sense why most students should feel that way to get a B2 level certificate.
So, in line with the surveys, men seem to be more competent in dealing with such situations. Ready to make decisions and take steps and not bury their head in the ground…. I guess you are aware of the well-known pseudo-empathy which goes as…… “I know what you feel but you have to do what I’m telling you”. Don’t tell me that teachers have never said that! Unfortunately, some even omit the first part of the statement which shows a kind of sensitivity. I don’t know why but maybe because I speak less, it helped me notice more!!! And as a male teacher I may just employ my qualities to be a better one and of course a better NLC coach. Now the second point I would like to comment on is that male teachers can really control their emotions. Isn’t emotional intelligence about controlling emotions? Isn’t Emotional Intelligence at the heart of coaching? And following the findings of the surveys, someone could infer that men could possibly be more appropriate to be coaches. I guess yes…it’s inherent and why lose that opportunity? It’s our chance to disentangle ourselves from well-established strategies and those billions of coursebooks with “happy students” on their covers which promise high spirits during lessons while at the same time no-one’s opinion matters. Even the publishers never ask by conducting surveys of the students but ironically/tragically the professionals who have stopped being students themselves long ago…. And as far as the smiles on my students’ faces are concerned, I dare to say that they are on almost anyone’s face, even those who have to attend remedial lessons during summer. Why not? Personalized lessons with a male teacher full of …respect….kindness….patience….silence…… how can someone be stressed in such a calm atmosphere…
I definitely believe that when Neurolanguage Coaching catches the males’ attention, “the teaching chessboard” will change once and for all as long as the core principles of NLC are applied as Rachel dictates. Otherwise, anyone who just gets the certificate without applying the new knowledge looks like the “one who plows and plows and never plants” as Plato said. So, let’s make it happen!!! Hey MEN!!! Join us!!! Time for action!!! By the way, I don’t think I will take part in any of the upcoming seminars/workshops for obvious reasons………
Don’t be put off by the higher numbers of female coaches. Coaching is a profession which is just as appropriate for men as it is for women. Men can be great coaches!
Andy Gilbert has been teaching English as a Foreign Language in and around Barcelona since 2013, after having previously worked in the UK as an Environmental Consultant. Among his various pastimes he enjoys walking and cycling in the mountains, baking bread, and eating freshly baked bread.
Richard Twigg has over 20 years teaching experience in the U.K., Malta and Italy and has been a teacher/teacher trainer for the last 15 years. In 1998 he graduated from Huddersfield University with a Certificate in Education (Further Education). He was then a lecturer at York College before he moved to Malta in 2005, where he obtained his DELTA in 2007. He is currently the director of English Consultancy and Mediterranean Training and he works as a freelance teacher / teacher trainer in Italy and Malta. He delivers teacher training seminars (face to face and online) across Italy for both MacMillan Education and Eli – National Geographic Learning, aimed at educators in mainstream education. He has delivered online teacher training programmes for the Malta ELT Council – Ministry for Education and Employment (MEDE), on behalf of the Malta Tourism Authority through Mdina International and also to a number of educators in mainstream schools in both Malta and Gozo. He has recently qualified as a neurolanguage coach with Rachael Paling, completing both the initial and advanced course.
Dionisis Rigopoulos has been running his own English Language School for more than 15 years, he realized that “experience” wasn’t always enough to teach the English Language. His Master’s degree in Applied Linguistics along with his ELC (Efficient Language Coaching) Certification have proven to be powerful tools in acquiring deeper insight into the way in which people learn foreign languages. His ambition is to become a teacher that will make a true difference in the classroom, bringing and implementing current practices and methods to my teaching.
Neurolanguage Coaching is definitely a turning point in his vision. Also, holding a degree in Physical Education and Sport science as well as being a professional musician affords him invaluable opportunities to inspire his students and explain first-hand how neuroplasticity enables us to develop our brains.
Peter Greliak has worked with individuals and business professionals from around the world helping them to become more confident and competent in their English communication skills. His 1:1 training, courses and workshops have helped his clients transform their English for greater professional, academic and personal success. His clients have included executives, entrepreneurs, business professionals, government ministries, schools, multinationals and start-ups. He is Cambridge DELTA trained and is a qualified Neuro Language Coach certified by ELC (Efficient Language Coaching ®) and accredited by the ICF (International Coach Federation). He is also a Life Coach. He was born in London, speaks 4 languages and has lived in Spain, Kenya and Mexico.
Taqi, Hanan & Al Darwish, Salwa & Akbar, Rahima & Al-Gharabali, Nada. (2015). Choosing an English Teacher: The Influence of Gender on the Students’ Choice of Language Teachers. English Language Teaching. 8. 182. 10.5539/elt.v8n12p182