How do you communicate? Do you need words? We communicate feelings, emotions, thoughts, questions, and so much more all by using language. But did you know that up to 70-75% of our communication is non-verbal?

Communication is one of the hardest and simplest aspects of our lives. From birth, we are communicating. But, do you ever ask yourself, “What am I communicating?”

What are you communicating with your body language at the boring staff meeting, during your favorite class, with your significant other? Is your non-verbal language matching your physical language?

How much of our communication is effective? Mainly individuals stress the importance of less is more. So it’s important to take a look at your communication and understand if it’s effective.

I spoke with a few hockey players the other day about communication. As a fun exercise, I had them do an activity called the Balloon Train. In this activity, they have to place a balloon between them at chest/stomach height and get from a designated point a to point b without using their hands and without the balloons dropping. If they drop a balloon or someone uses their hands, you have to start over. After the first time through, I modified it. A few modifications included no one can speak, only one person can speak, and everyone can speak but everyone’s eyes have to be closed. For the latter, I aided in making sure everyone was safe and didn’t run into anything or anyone.

A few days prior, there was an issue in the weight room and one guy was yelling at another. The team as a whole was unsure how to react or what to say, even the strength coaches had trouble breaking up the argument. We talked through scenarios and tried to find the best solution for these young leaders to address the situation if it were to arise again. They were timid at first, but as they worked together as a team, they each brought value to addressing potential situations. I taught them it’s about the language and the tone that you use. If a coach were to have an angry tone and say, “Let’s have some fun!” The language and tone don’t match, and most people would be confused. As we ran through scenarios, they better understood how you can communicate to your teammates without yelling, without using hurtful language, and by being a good teammate. I told them that not everyone will listen or follow what you say, but you have to try.

I asked them to evaluate the way they communicate with friends, family, teachers, coaches, and strangers they interact with every day. I asked them to identify where they thought they were communicating well and areas where improvement can be made. As our communication styles change, we have to be aware of not only what is being said, but how it’s being said.

If you’re having a hard time with communication, just know it’s a process. Everyone can improve their skills if they take the time. I used to struggle with communicating clearly with large groups as an artist for Paint Nite. I had to walk groups of 40-50 people through a step-by-step painting for two hours, and for some reason, I couldn’t communicate what I wanted to say in a way that made sense to everyone. As I practiced more and found other ways to communicate to my groups, I learned the language that was most appropriate for the situation, how to better explain my techniques, and even how to explain one aspect of painting in multiple ways so it made sense to more people.

paint nite 2.jpg

Even as I work with athletes today, I check in throughout the session and ask them, “Does that make sense?” Most times, I can read their faces and body language to see if I am making sense to them or not, but I found it’s great to check in with them, so everyone is on the same page, which creates more of a conversation than a lecture.

“I think when you look at a struggle in your life, just know that that’s just an opportunity for your character to grow.” -Nick Foles

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