Mental Toughness Digest for Sport & Performance.
“The Next C is for Communication“
By Gareth J. Mole (PSY0001372747)
"Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something." - Plato "Any problem, big or small,always seems to start with bad communication. Someone isn't listening." - Emma Thompson "To listen well is as powerful a means of communication and influence as to talk well." — John Marshall "That which we are capable of feeling, we are capable of saying." — Cervantes "We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak." — Epictetus
Note: This edition of the Mental Toughness Digest is the second in a 6 part series focusing on the six main components of Mental Toughness. The first part focussed on Commitment and can be read here.
Warning: If you’re not part of a traditional team sport and therefore think that an article about communication doesn’t apply to you in the same way it might apply to a rugby or soccer player for instance then think again. “Team” by our definition basically means group which basically means more than one person (typically with a common goal). So if you’re an individual sport athlete then your team is probably your family, your coach(es), your sport and performance psychologist (hopefully one of us) and anyone and everyone in your life with whom you have a relationship and therefore could help or hinder you with your goals. Of course for athletes of traditional team sports all these “support” people also apply but the overall number of personnel in your “team” is probably larger as you would include all the people you compete with.
Let’s start with a question. Is communication really a mental skill or is it more of a life skill? Well to be honest most psychological skills are life skills (some obvious whilst other are in disguise with a fake moustache and a wig) if you think about it. Let’s take commitment as an example. Yes, commitment (motivation, drive) is a mental nugget that is hugely valuable in sport and performance but really it’s useful for everyone in every situation. The kind of commitment that high performing athletes have to get up at 5am and train is not that different than the commitment shown by plumbers who get up at a similar time in order to earn an honest income.
Simply put, as human beings (no offence to any animals reading this we just don’t know enough about what makes you tick yet) our mental strengths and weaknesses spill into everything we do. Although at Condor Performance we tend to assist athletes, coaches and performers improve mental areas such as communication mainly for performance enhancement in most cases it benefits them well beyond their chosen sport and performance area (a nice side effect to working with someone trained in both general psychology as well as sport and performance psychology).
First we’ll clarify exactly what communication is and break it down and then afterwards we’ll provide insight into a couple of simple mental methods for improving it.
Although some people / professionals like to regard communication to include “communicating” with oneself our system of mental toughness training (Metuf) doesn’t as we feel there are better words for concepts like self-talk (e.g. thinking). Anyway, the word itself in English derives from the Latin communicare meaning “to share” and it’s technically not possible to share with yourself.
So how do we share (communicate) with others then? Basically, in either a non verbal (body language and facial expressions) way or a verbal way (words and all the things associated with the spoken word such as tone, volume, pitch etc). Then of course there is both the production of these (e.g. talking, grunting, throwing our racket etc) and the receiving of them too (e.g. listening, sensing distress just by the look on someones face).
As both sporting and non sporting clients of ours know one of the greatest strengths of the Metuf approach is the “breaking down of complex concepts into smaller, clearer more manageable parts” and we feel the best way to start improving communication is through a combination of exactly this and our Controlling It mental method.
Rather than rate yourself in terms of the 2 x 2 matrix formed by Non Verbal and Verbal along the side and Productive and Receptive along the top just assume all four facets of communication are important (by the way reading and writing are also technically part of the communication picture but have been left out of this article for the sake of simplicity). Try to spend 5 minutes a week on trying to improve each cell of the Matrix (20 minutes in total). For example, for Non Verbal x Productive you might practice doing something more conspicuous when angry such as squeezing the grip of your racket / bat / whatever you have nearby. For the Verbal / Productive cell it might be worth seeing if you can navigate the content of what you’re saying towards more Controllable / Highly Influenceable topics such as effort and away from less influenceable ones such as other people and uninfluenceable distractions such as your genetics.
As well as experimenting with how different WORDS can impact on your relationships why not also try seeing how difference ways of saying things can impact on the message too. For example try whispering “please send me more information about your services” and then say exactly the same eight words again in your normal voice.