This article was written and contributed by Scott Rosberg
There is power in the words we speak. Our words carry great weight for those to whom we say them. However, the words alone are not what make them powerful. It is our intention, our tone, our inflection, and our desired outcome of speaking those words that give words their greatest power.
Words spoken or written on a page but independent of each other do not carry nearly the same weight and power as they do when they are put together into sentences. The way we string together certain groupings of words into sentences give meaning, life, and strength to the words. It is critical that we choose our words carefully and wisely in all instances. Many of us have uttered things that we wish we could go back and “rewind the tape” so as to not say what we said. But our words cannot be unsaid; our actions cannot be undone. While we can augment, tweak, clarify, apologize, and re-state, we cannot “un-state” the words we have stated.
Therefore, it is important that we choose our words wisely. As teachers & coaches, it is absolutely critical that we “watch what we say” and “how we say it,” especially to the young people in our charge. We must always keep in mind that children are taking their cues from us.
While it is true that actions often speak louder than words, our words still speak very loudly. Kids are constantly listening to what we tell them (even when we feel like they haven’t heard a word we said!). Be careful what you say to and around them. You never know what they are picking up. Kids have a funny way of reminding you of something you said days, weeks, months, or even years later. They will talk about what you said at halftime of a game 10 years ago, and you will not even recall saying what they tell you that you said.
The other issue with that is the difference between your intended message, the actual message, and the received message. These three messages can end up being quite different from each other. I might know what I am trying to say. However, my words may come out different than the way I am thinking it. The person to whom I speak it filters the message through his/her own ideas to determine what was meant. My intention might be quite different from the final perceived message of the person to whom I spoke. Or I may have intended a message for one person, but there were others there who picked up a completely different message.
Have you ever had a parent question you on why you said a particular thing to their child, and your response was, “I never said that.”? This happens all the time. When you “rewind the tape” to consider where the miscommunication happened, think about the words you chose, your inflection, your tone of voice, and your body language. Maybe you thought you were saying a certain thing, but what came out was not exactly what you thought you were saying. Then consider what the child’s state was during the conversation. Was s/he focused & attentive? Did you get confirmation from him/her of their understanding of what you said? These types of miscommunication are common, but they can be reduced by just being more in tune with your own communications and how your audience is receiving them.
We must always keep in mind our intention with the communication we are about to have with our players. Am I saying this to serve my needs or to serve their needs? Are the words I am about to speak going to help build up these young people or tear them down? Am I creating a positive, trusting relationship with these words, or am I destroying the trust that I am trying to create? Keep these questions in the back of your mind as you are building relationships with your kids.
Our tone of voice and our body language play a major role in giving power to our words. Just as words have more power when they are strung together with other words to intentionally give them power, our tone of voice and our accompanying body language give added power to our words.
We must be careful that our tone is conveying the intended consequence in the receiver. The exact same words said in different tones of voice can mean very different things to the receiver of those words. Listen to yourself and to your players utter the simple exhortation of “Come on!” Is it said as a positive form of encouragement, or as a desperate cry for help or condemnation, or even a sarcastic dig? The tone of voice says everything in a statement like this. Be careful that your tone conveys the right message.
Also, your demeanor when you say the words can create a certain feeling and response. As the leader of your program, you need to be the face (and body) your team needs to see. A scowl on your face with your shoulders back and your hands clenched will convey a very different meaning than a smile while seated. Whatever you are trying to convey, recognize that your facial expression and your body language play a huge role in how your words are interpreted.
Children learn many things in a variety of manners from the teachers and coaches in their lives. We need to constantly be considering our words, our tone, and our body language when we are communicating with the young people in our lives. We are not only giving them a message for the moment in which we are speaking to them; we are also instilling in them the ways that they will communicate with others as they make their way through life. Never forget that there is great power in your words.
For more great info on the concept of the power of our words, check out the DVD “The Power of Your Words by Bruce Brown of Proactive Coaching. Bruce gives a powerful presentation that will resonate with coaches, teachers, and parents. You can find “The Power of Your Words“ at Proactive Coaching’s website – www.proactivecoaching.info.
About the Author of this Article
Scott Rosberg has been a coach (basketball, soccer, & football) at the high school level for 30 years, an English teacher for 18 years, and an athletic director for 12 years. He has published seven booklets on coaching and youth/school athletics, two books of inspirational messages and quotes for graduates, and a newsletter for athletic directors and coaches. He also speaks to schools, teams, and businesses on a variety of team-building, leadership, and coaching topics. Scott has a blog and a variety of other materials about coaching and athletic topics on his website – www.coachwithcharacter.com. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Scott is also a member of the Proactive Coaching speaking team. Proactive Coaching is dedicated to helping organizations create character and education-based team cultures, while providing a blueprint for team leadership. They help develop confident, tough-minded, fearless competitors and train coaches and leaders for excellence and significance. Proactive Coaching can be found on the web at www.proactivecoaching.info. Also, you can join the 200,000+ people who have “Liked” Proactive Coaching’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/proactivecoach. Scott can also be reached through Proactive Coaching at email@example.com.