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Communication and Coaching: The science of getting your message across

Society believes that communication is audible - it is anything but. As a coach your ability to communicate your message is linked to the understanding of both verbal and non-verbal linguistics and its impact on human behaviour.

Consider how the marketing industry now influences large groups of people into predetermined and carefully pre-selected beliefs. It provides us coaches pertinent lessons in how we frame our message and want to be understood.

Across sports, we see many types of great coaches with many different personalities;

the loud, the confident, the quiet (but still confident).

Even if we may not consciously recognise it, these coaches all frame their message by using the basic tools of marketing. They are "selling" a product or a thought pattern to another human.

You can be the Olympic champion...

They are attempting to persuade the person to change a belief with the goal of achieving performances they would not have achieved on their own.

This is communication. This is coaching.

We use linguistics to help get that personal point across. And I use the word 'across' and not 'heard'. Why?

Because most humans already have an opinion on most subjects, whether instinctual, read or previously taught. It is our job to cross that already cemented thought pattern. If you want to become a superior communicator, you must understand this very point.

The majority believe we react to the spoken word in a thoughtful, reasoned and logical manner. This is not true for most in a face to face situation. In reality, we act in a behavioural way, with emotion influencing the decision-making process. Good coaches are framing their "communication" with the understanding that they will receive an emotional response. That response doesn't have to be an external one, and most of the time it's an internal reaction. It's totally sculpted by prior behavioural education and experiences.

To me, this is an obvious point. However, experience has shown it's not always obvious to those whose coaching education has come via generic courses heavily weighted towards the theoretical.

Our human language lends itself to subjective interpretation, and thus cultural interpretation. It has inefficiencies and appreciating that will help you to think about what you say and how you frame it in an to attempt to achieve a certain outcome on a person to person basis.

In our world, there are no bad words or stupid questions. I would encourage this to be part of your new world of coaching also. I personally try to formulate people's opinion through stories and words that can easily be projected into mind pictures of what we are trying to achieve. Then to reinforce these through actions and drills in an environment where success will be inevitable.

This is the power of persuasion - and understanding this is what communication is when coaching. Attempting to present our thoughts on a subject in a way the athlete feels is superior to what he believes himself, or has been taught before.

We must also bridge the gap of how to provide relevant information positively, while reducing the noise or clutter associated with verbal language.

This is why children, in general, are much faster learners to adults. They have not formed opinions or have predetermined language patterns and so communication that provides "word pictures" are quickly picked up, but without inhibitors to slow the learning process.

The power to communicate your thoughts is enhanced when you fully understand the above parameters. Emotion trumps reason - teach with your language, but with as little talk as possible. As a great coach once told me -

"The difference between a good coach and a great coach is knowing what to say, but knowing when not to say it".


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