Is Your Communication An Illusion

Posted by Tim Nash on Aug 23, 2018 11:26:21 AM

George Bernard Shaw was right.

And not just because he said, “Democracy is a device that insures we shall be governed no better than we deserve.” The quote I really like is this one: “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

With that in mind, every now and then I ask players I coach a simple question: What do I do that you like and don’t like?

Initially, the players don’t quite know what to do with the question, mostly because they have never been asked it by a coach. It hasn’t dawned on them that a coach would want their feedback.

The more outspoken players on the team are quick to recite a few things. The introspective players will come up with one of each. And in general, all the comments are helpful.

The most popular is “Don’t yell (or get mad) at me without telling me what I did wrong.” At first, that was interesting to me. The players don’t mind getting yelled at. They just want to fully understand why. If they don’t, they go home frustrated and play tentatively the next time.

Often in these cases, I have found that I was using a word or phrase they were confused about. Other times, I had assumed they understood something they didn’t. The communication I thought had taken place was just an illusion.

To help ensure that quality communication actually does occur, Psychology Campus published a list of 12 ingredients in effective communication between players and coaches. They are:

  • Be direct.
  • Be complete and specific.
  • Be clear and consistent.
  • State your needs and feelings clearly.
  • Separate fact from opinion.
  • Focus on one thing at a time.
  • Deliver messages immediately.
  • Avoid hidden agendas.
  • Be consistent with nonverbal messages (expressions, body language, gestures).
  • Reinforce with repetition.
  • Make the messages appropriate to the receiver's level of understanding.
  • Look for feedback that your message was received accurately.


Topics: Athletic Performance, Effective Communication, Coaching