It is easy to talk down about other instructors when working with students. You hear a student say something to the effect, “well, so and so said this.”

Shared Vision

I have been working in this industry for a long time. The hardest part is coming to the realization everyone is out for themselves. There is no collective or shared vision. I am not naive enough to believe we could all hold hands and it would be okay, but there is an amazing amount of infighting and eating our own. No matter the reason there needs to be a sense of professional courtesy. Something I believe has been forgotten or place aside out of convenience or a quick buck.

Two Sides to Every Story

Professionalism comes in many forms, but an important trait is giving the other party the benefit of the doubt. As wisdom soaks into my bones I have learned what I’m hearing is not always the whole story. There are vital points missing from the dialogue. Part of being professional is realizing this happens often. Whether on purpose or by accident important information is left out of the conversation. My approach is to assume there are two sides to the story, the student’s and their instructor in question.

Knowing is Half the Battle

Recently I was conducting a private lesson with an out of the areas student. I spend the first few minutes of each session trying to get to know them and their training history. It helps frame what I can expect from the student. In our discussion we talked about his goals for the current session. What immediately struck me was he knew something was missing from his training. He couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but it centered around marksmanship. Most who comment about their marksmanship are typically generous, in his case he knew he had a terrible flinching problem. Already, half the battle is won.

Corrective Strategies

Once we got on the firing line and started working diagnostics it was easy to see the issues and how deep they ran. As we discussed his corrective strategies he began to chuckle. Apologizing he went on to explain the comments on the subject from his last instructor. They were basically opposite of what I was saying, but the difference was two fold. First, what I was saying made logical sense. Second, he could see the improvement in real time as a result of what I was saying.

It Ain’t Easy

He went on to explain his feelings toward the instructor. At that point I felt compelled to take a moment and further expound. I’m sure I have been the subject of this conversation dozens of time so I would appreciate a professional approach. I broke down the big picture and while I have no idea of the instructor’s skill I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. That his approach was based on the knowledge and experience he had achieved. His belief was the catalyst for his instruction. It is easy to misdiagnosis a shooting error, it is even more challenging when you add the student’s ability to the equation. However, it is far better to give them the benefit of the doubt.

The Play & Repeat Lifestyle

Yes, there are plenty of firearms instructors and not all are created equal. The biggest concern I see is the regurgitation of information without understanding what you are saying. In today’s information rich environment it is easy to fall victim here. Even then, I will still give them the benefit of the doubt for the simple reason I want to believe they are doing their best job. They have the student’s best interest in mind. That what they are telling the student is what they believe. I can work with that, we can work towards helping the student achieve their goals together.

It is easy to second guess or criticize someone else’s work. It is a lot harder to understand it, see it through their view in order to provide the best instruction for the student’s sake.

2 thoughts on “The Benefit of the Doubt

  1. John W says:

    Very true, your insights here. I would also forward that sometimes the dynamics between the student and the teacher may interfere with what is actually being taught. The student may think they are being told something, or the teacher may think the student is asking something, but what is being communicated is entirely different. Always good to learn the ways of different mentors, and then to pick what works best for you. Hope you can come to So Cal one day to run a class!

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