It happens to every coach. You give instructions to your team and half the players get what you mean and the other half don’t.
Misunderstandings are some of the biggest stumbling blocks to good communication.
Today, many misunderstandings occur because our increased use of technology eliminates our ability to hear a person’s tone or see their body language, the two largest components of communication.
But we experience communication misfires in face-to-face interactions too.
When you consider the many ways to minimize misunderstandings, they boil down to one thing: developing stronger relationships.
Two ideas to help you and your team:
Each of us bring a lifetime of experiences, both positive and negative, when we show up each day.
Yet, we tend to make judgments about others based on outward appearances or responses without much knowledge about the path they’ve walked.
Getting to know the person behind the face helps tear down those assumptions.
In one of my workshops, I met an athlete known among her teammates for losing her cool on the field after she made a mistake. They never understood her over-the-top reactions and why she couldn’t just let the mistakes go and move on.
During the workshop she courageously shared (through tears) that when she made mistakes in high school games, her dad would hit her when she got home.
Wow. Talk about changing a team dynamic.
Her teammates went from being annoyed with her behavior to responding with tremendous care and compassion.
They stopped making judgments and started supporting her desire to learn how to work through her mistakes.
Misunderstandings often happen because of what we think we know.—Tweet That!
Combatting the assumptions we make requires proactivity. Since the tendency in today’s world is toward headphones and isolation, you’ll need to provide some prompting to help your players connect in a deeper way.
Use time on the road and at team meals as opportunities to learn more about the people behind the facade. A few ideas:
- Arrange tables in one big square for team meals (so everyone faces each other)
- Ask a question of the day or share fun trivia at a team meal
- Pair players up for five minutes on the bus/plane and give them 1-2 questions to answer; do three rounds, then debrief as a group about interesting things they learned
- Create “no tech times” during meals or travel to encourage talking, playing games, etc.
As you probably know, we prefer that others communicate with us in the same manner that we communicate.
If I tend to give lots of specific details when I speak, for instance, that’s how I would like others to share information with me.
Problem is, when we are all communicating in our own way, our ideas don’t land well because they aren’t necessarily in the best format for the receiver to hear them.
For example, one aspect of our communication style is how we process information.
As an internal processor, the words I speak usually represent my final conclusions.
External processors, on the other hand, mull over ideas verbally. So the words they speak don’t reflect their final thoughts.
For years I thought the external processors in my life just never did what they said they would!
Now I understand that they think through different options out loud in order to come to a conclusion. This has been super helpful in reducing my tendency to make judgments.
There are a bazillion tools out there to help you learn about communication styles—the one I found most helpful for teams is Real Colors.
It’s based on solid theory and identifies the four temperaments common to mankind with the colors blue, gold, green and orange.
Real Colors has significantly helped my relationships by increasing my understanding of people who are wired differently than me. And it’s helped dozens of teams to do the same (see what some of them said right here.)
Whether you use Real Colors or another tool, it will debunk a lot of common assumptions your team members make about one another.
Learning more about one another and understanding communication styles won’t completely eliminate misunderstandings on your team, but the insights you gain will definitely help minimize them.
What ideas, tools or events have helped you and your team minimize misunderstandings? Please help our community grow by sharing in a comment below.