Communicating effectively is a skill.
It’s also an underrated skill for many gym owners. Most gym owners focus on the skills of movement, nutrition, and healthy habits. But at the foundation of being an effective trainer, is the ability to clearly and effectively communicate what your members need to hear. Effective communication is how clients buy into your coaching. It’s how people learn to trust you.
Communication is also just as important for developing your staff. You can be the best trainer in the world, but if you don’t know how to communicate your knowledge and vision to your team, you’ll never be able to scale your business. You will always be the bottleneck to your business growth.
But communication is a skill that takes a lifetime to master. Even master communicators have room for improvement. In all reality, most of us are pretty bad at communicating. Fortunately like any skill, it’s something that can be improved.
Since communication is something we can practice, it’s helpful to understand some basics for what to practice. Here are 10 tips for what to practice to make you a better communicator.
Ask for Clarity
If you aren't certain about the tone or intent of what someone is saying, ask for clarification. Sometimes doing so can feel uncomfortable. When we ask for clarity, we are signaling to somebody that they are not communicating with us clearly.
Asking for clarity can also help avoid that awkward moment where we don't quite understand. Or worse, making the wrong decisions based on a miscommunication. It helps to ensure the conversation is clear and concise.
There's a stark difference between showing someone support based on what we think they need, verses supporting them in the way that person actually needs us. That might sound kind of silly in the concept of communication, but it’s a crucial element to being an effective communicator. This is called empathy
Being there in a way that someone else needs us to be can help make that person feel more comfortable. And the more comfortable we are with someone else, the more likely we are to communicate well.
Remember, communication is a two-way street. Improving empathy boosts your chance that your communication is received and understood.
Provide Constructive Feedback
Simply telling someone that what they've done isn't good or good enough doesn't help anyone. It doesn’t leave room for improvement. It doesn’t provide the other person with clues for how to improve in the future.
Explaining why it wasn't good and how it can be better, builds stronger bridges. This is especially important when you're talking to someone that might be on your team. If we give them a task, and that person doesn't do that task well, and all we do is say, "Hey, that's terrible," that doesn't really help, right?
Instead, we can go to them. We can tell them what we didn't like, how we think it could be better moving forward. And suddenly, we're starting to create a constructive feedback loop that helps everyone improve in the long run.
Express Appreciation and Thanks
Now, I know that this one might sound extremely common and kind of like a duh moment, but it's also something that a lot of us don't do nearly often enough.
No matter how big or small the actions someone takes might be, it's important for us to take the time to acknowledge those contributions or conversations as something we are thankful for. It could be as small as someone providing you with an idea and you expressing the appreciation of that idea being shared. Those little us go a long way, and they help us to feel more comfortable working with or speaking to the people around us.
"I" Statements vs "You" Statements
This one might be a little bit longer, but that's because we're actually going to walk through the process of what these are. When we create "you" statements, they can come across as aggressive and accusational at times, which can create this sense of us seeking conflict.
Changing that same statement to an "I" statement is less assertive, but takes practice. It can change the tone of our conversations. Structuring an "I" statement might look similar to the following:
Step 1: "I feel..."
Opens up the conversation with us expressing the emotion that we're experiencing as a result of an action.
Step 2: "when you..."
This, on the other hand, allows us to convey where that emotion is coming from and what that specific action, that someone else might be doing, actually is.
Step 3: "because..."
Allows us to tie the "I feel…” and “when you…" statements together so that we can let the person we're speaking to know "this is why."
Step 4: "I would really like it if..."
Gives the person that we're talking to an opportunity to hear what kind of changes we would appreciate that might result in a better outcome between us and that person.
It's always helpful to balance these statements with hints of some of the previous points, like expressing our thanks or appreciation for what's good and not only focusing on what's bad. It helps to keep the conversation feeling a little bit more upbeat, less accusational. And it keeps possible conflicts to a minimum.
Sometimes the differences between a productive dialogue and a destructive one, lies in the nuances. Taking time to acknowledge those tiny nuances is a great way to make sure that the conversation is staying the course and that any tiny things that could derail it, cause conflict, or might spark confusion are clarified.
Pay attention to the small things
Wait to Respond
A common human reaction is to provide immediate response or feedback to the things people say or do around us. But sometimes that immediate feedback loop could result in a more harmful or less productive outcome.
Think of this in the context of a personal relationship. You might start off being in a disagreement about something that happened within your relationship. That turns into something else, and then suddenly you're arguing about who did the dishes five weeks ago and how that made you upset. If we give ourselves time and wait to provide a reply to something, that allows us to think through what our response might be, so we can be more concise and speak more clearly.
Walk Beside, Not Against
When we sense aggressive behavior towards us, our nature is to push back against that aggressive force. Finding a mutual ground or a commonality where both of you can walk on together can be crucial and avoids that sense of fight or flight.
Whenever we invite that type of communication with the person we are communicating with, and we incorporate another skill from this list, suddenly people feel less opposed. And the less opposed we feel, the less aggressive the reaction is likely to be. And almost like magic, the outcomes' pretty great.
Stay The Course
It's often pretty easy to get sidetracked from a conversation and find that the topic we are discussing has snowballed into another. Think back to that relationship example from a little bit earlier. To help remedy that, it's important for us to practice our awareness of when that snowball effect starts so we can get back to the topic at hand so we can keep the dialogue productive.
At first, doing this might actually feel a little bit intrusive because it might involve you interrupting a conversation to say, "Hey, can go back to the topic at hand?" But doing so can help in a myriad of ways, and it's a good thing to get into the habit of.
Apologize and Admit
Now, this is the final point, but it's an important one. Admitting when we feel our communication with someone was lacking, or maybe the point we were trying to make wasn't clear, and apologizing for that poor communication can be a great step towards building bridges that ensure that the relationship stays in a good place. It also lets those around us know that we recognize when our communication skills maybe aren't what we expected them to be and that we're working towards communicating in a better way.
Phew. What a list!
I know that might seem like a lot of information to take in, but hopefully a few of those points made you scratch your head a little bit and think, “Huh… maybe I could do that a little bit better”.
Becoming a good communicator, much like perfecting an olympic lift, rowing like a champion, or improving our health. It takes time and practice. It also takes making mistakes. That's an important thing that I can't emphasize enough. As you go around practicing these different principles, it's okay to make mistakes in your communication. That just gives us an opportunity to learn and communicate better down the line.
So, what do you think?
Are any of these specific things standing out to you that make you think of things that you need to practice?
What are other aspects of communication that you would add to the list?
Let us know down in the comments below and let’s have a conversation together.