The Art of Coaching


What is effective communication, and how can we optimise our own communication?

Barack Obama is an example of a very effective communicator. Consider the below video. Consider the change in body position, tone, speed of delivery, visual emotion that you can see between all the different types of messages he sends. The clear distress when talking of the Sandy Hook massacre, how slow and deliberate and real the message of care is. Then consider the final section of the Farewell Speech, the intensity, the volume, the passion, the delegation of responsibility ("believe in yourself", not the use of "I" or "me") with the intent to rally the American people to effect change. Great communicators will attempt to do this consciously by carefully considering the way they want their message to be delivered based on the outcome they want to achieve. This may seem tricky, but it doesn't have to be! You can achieve this by either A) visualising the "character" you wish to portray and imitating their style or B) working backwards from a feeling to the person/event that made you feel that way. For example, that may be remembering back to your first experience with a pet if you're trying to achieve a calm and caring persona, or the classic "I'm not angry, I'm disappointed" parent talk if you are wanting the group to take responsibility for poor attentiveness in a session. 

How do you know what message the other person or people need to receive? In order to do that we need to truly understand the audience, what they are feeling and ideally even why they are feeling that way. Listening is much more than just hearing what the other person is saying, it involves truly listening to what they are saying, how they are saying it and even their behaviour around that. The first and easiest place to start is the next time you are in a conversation, catch yourself when you start planning your response to the other person. You will find that the majority of the time we are planning our response before the other person has even finished talking. The human brain can only really focus on 1 thing at a time and so if you are planning your response then you are not truly listening. This is why good speakers encourage a pause between the end of the question or statement and the response as this allows you to listening to the full message and then plan your response before answering. Barack Obama is also known for how slowly he will often talk, and how long he will take before answering a question. This allows him to truly listen, then plan his response and adjust as he goes along as required. 

We also know a lot of the time we as humans will not say what we are truly feeling as we don't like to appear vulnerable. And so it is our role in assisting in influencing those around us to attempt to truly understand what they are feeling. My favourite example of this involves Alastair Clarkson, the Hawthorn coach and Grant Birchall when he was playing for Hawthorn. You can read Grant Birchall telling the story here ( The thing I love most about this story is at no time did Grant Birchall say he was lonely or that he needed support, but as a leader and supporter of his, Alastair Clarkson chose to do it as he thought that is what was needed. 

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