The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances; if there is any reaction, both are transformed.
- Carl Jung, Man in Search of Soul
In the spring of 1999, I received a phone call. The United States Army, Logistics & Readiness Division Central Electronic Command (CECOM) had a question. Could I train military instructors how to teach with the eloquence and charm of a Regis Philbin, like talk show host? It took a series of phone calls before I began to take this seriously. The United States Army wanted to send career soldiers for acting lessons and charm school?
CECOM had launched a distance learning initiative that required military instructors to teach New Equipment Training (NET) via live video teleconference.
The instructors' inexpressive teaching styles were lacking in interpersonal engagement. Their lessons were flatlining, falling far short of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) requirements. The project was on the brink of disaster.
CECOM Logistics & Readiness Chief, James Lockwood hired my Santa Barbara, CA school, Actors In Training (AIT) to create a customized course and broadcast studio for CECOM's purposes. the job was to teach military instructors how to deliver teleconferenced NET Training that was "as good as" traditional face-to-face classroom instruction.
I created a course that merged the openhearted traditions of the acclaimed Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) with Sanford Meisner's step-by-step approach for actor training; the Meisner Technique.
Sanford Meisner, my teacher, is one of the most respected and influential acting teachers of the 20th century. His technique is taught the world over. Its distinctive characteristic is robust moment-to-moment human interaction.
I also brought my 25 years of acting and teaching experience at the highest levels of mainstream arts & entertainment. And, over the past 15 years before 1999, I had been devising innovative and award winning methods for teaching healthy life choices to at-risk teenagers; that experience was most useful.
I paired soldiers with my adult professional acting students. Together we agreed to put great emphasis on honoring and validating each other’s feelings and thoughts throughout the entire learning process. In this supportive environment, we all strove to learn how to actively listen more deeply, with greater empathy to our fellow human beings.
The battle-hardened veteran instructors became expert interpersonal communicators. Like my acting students, the soldiers acquired the skills to perceive and respond to the minutest nuance of another person's behaviors. This enabled them to modify their lessons in accordance with each of their student’s present needs. Their presence for engagement with others showed vast marked improvement.
I also noticed an immediate change in my acting students. Each made more progress with less fuss and effort than in a traditional, more judgmental, acting class environment. Their acting was more natural, less self-conscious and more confident.
The CECOM course was a big success. For the next two years more classes followed on a bi-monthly basis. It added a wonderful "reality" dimension to my acting school. But with my mission as an educator accomplished, I had to reckon with an even more meaningful unexpected result. Both, my student actors and military students consistently and enthusiastically exclaimed how the course not only improved their work, but also the quality of their personal lives, and in a number of ways.
James Pinkney, 2000
“My experience with AIT was one of the most fulfilling and to this day greatest experiences in my life. A little about my background I had been an instructor in the U.S. Army for about 6 years. After retirement I continued to instruct with a contractor named E.P.S. teaching the SINCGARS radio and other communications equipment.
I told Mr. Santana I was there to take all that he was willing to teach, he was/is a taskmaster, and he worked us INSIDE OUT! Things that were my strong points he made stronger my weak ones disappeared and if they came back he NEVER hesitated to remind me.
This is a program I would recommend to everyone. If you want to learn about yourself and what your potential is as a person I can't say enough about Mr. Santana's training. If you would like to talk to me my DSN is 312 4757940. There's more I can tell you but this message would be to long. After my tour in Germany I would love to come back and teach who knows, just to work with THE MASTER!
Mr. James L. Pinkney,
NET Frequency Manager,
U.S. Army CECOM"
The implications of my students' experience had a profound affect on me.
I never imagined that adults outside the performing arts could gain so much benefit from methods I'd used to reach at-risk teenagers. Or, that actors could do better work in an environment far different than in a traditionally taught acting class. One where the emphasis is on creating deep, authentic connections with others, in life, and then to bring that ability to imaginary circumstances.
In my experience, bringing together AVP with Sanford Meisner's technique, transformed both approaches in a way that brought about greater results than the sum of their individual effects; combined they had synergy.
I came to realize how this powerful combination could make a tangible impact on any sphere of activity with a need to raise the level of empathy between people and improve the authenticity of human relationships. Especially for greater teacher-student engagement, social work, youth work, leadership, and performing in the arts. Also, to increase intimacy in family relationships; skills to validate customers' feelings that creates an "intimate" connection with their needs; and for creating harmonious relations between co-workers or artistic collaborators. I came to see how this course might be of practical use in every situation of someone's everyday life.
What Happened Next
2002: US Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDEC) awards my school a 5-year contract to continue research in the field of human interaction. We find out how the first step toward mutual understanding is validation of the other person. The name "YOUAND" emerges. (It’s pronounced, “You, and…”)
2007: The “active listening” aspect of YOUAND attracts renowned advertiser Charles Rosner. In the '60's, he wrote VISTA's well-known recruitment slogan, “If you’re not part of the solution, your part of the problem." Rosner invites me to join the School of Visual Arts' celebrated faculty. Charlie believes the "active listening"element of YOUAND is the missing link between creative and account executives in advertising agencies.
José Angel Santana, PhD., Founder