How do you communicate with your athletes? Have you ever truly thought about it?
Communication is feedback. What I mean by this is that anytime you are communicating with your athletes, you are providing feedback to them. The biggest misconception with feedback is that it relates only to the verbal or written communication you provide back to your athletes. In actuality, this feedback only accounts for 7% of communication between a coach and his/her team. That means there is another 93% of feedback that relates to the nonverbal communication that exists. In this blog post, we are only going to analyze the non-verbal form of communication and what it is telling your athletes.
With non-verbal communication, there are a few keys areas that should be assessed in order to improve your feedback. They include Tone, Expressions, and Body Language.
Tone can be described as the feeling or attitude expressed by the words someone uses, according to Merriam Webster’s Dictionary. As we are providing feedback to our athlete(s) the message that we may be saying will be effected by the tone in which it is delivered. We can easily be saying one thing but express a feeling or attitude when the words come out. An example of this typically happens as we need to project our voices louder. The louder your voice gets we often see the tone turn to a negative more yelling like expression.
To enhance your feedback tone, practice. Assess your current tone when delivering feedback. Crank up your volume and see if your tone changes. The only way to provide better feedback is through assessment and practice.
Facial patterns or movements that disseminate feelings. These facial movements help express how we are feeling as we communicate with our athletes. Like tone, we may feel that our expressions are saying one thing but are being received in a completely different manner. Practice; take a selfie of what you look like when you’re excited. Show it others around you and see what the think it means. You will be surprised at some of the answers you get.
How do you stand and how close are you? Where are your arms? Do you make eye contact and for how long? What role does touch play? Do you smile? These are just few questions that can get you started to analyze your body language to determine if you are sending the correct feedback signals.
Confidence– Wide as possible. Hands on the hip
Feet – Facing = engaged , Turned away = disengaging
Proximity – Too Close = Arousal which can be positive or negative depending on the situation
Crossed – Not a threat and I am not very engaged
Behind – I’m in charge and I am not approachable
By your side – I’m approachable and engaged
Contact – Engaged
Length – Too long = Threat
Touch: When done subtly and in a non-invasive way, can create positive responses in others
Smile: Can actually trigger feeling of happiness
Lastly, when talking about non-verbal communication we must address how things are being decoded by our athletes. You may be saying great things with perfect tone, expression, and body language however, the athlete may decode it different. This is where you must analyze the signs they are giving you back. Remember that non-verbal communication is reciprocal so you must also look at the signals being sent back. A good coach will be able to decode these signals and make the necessary adjustments to get the best out of their athletes.
Here is a great TED Talk by Amy Cuddy titled Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are.
So….How do you communicate with your athletes?