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There is plenty of discussion surrounding various training and nutritional methods, and the best supplements money can buy these days. But what isn’t nearly appreciated and discussed as often as it probably should be, is the high value of specific communication techniques to drive out even more effort and motivation from your clients, and subsequently results. The topic of communication is a novel in itself. And today I want to inform you of two simple but highly effective strategies I’ve learned and implemented on a routine basis over the years to help keep my clients and athletes in check. By incorporating these techniques you can help really stoke their fire on the days where they aren’t as motivated, so they are still benefiting maximally from each training session.

#1-Empathetic Assertion

#2-Escalating Assertion

The first technique involves practicing a high degree of assertiveness when you communicate, but in a much more softer and gentle fashion or tone. Keep in mind that you are attempting to connect and be patient, and understanding of the athlete or clients lack of motivation or unwillingness to get their ass in gear and train hard without going full throttle yet. For example, the trainer would say something along the lines of: “Hey Tommy, I can tell from the moment you came in that you were feeling a little bit pre-occupied and down from whatever is going on outside of the session, but I need you need to step up your effort right now, so that we can stay on track in accomplishing your goals you’ve set forth. Quite frankly, this first approach is just a warm-up communicative run for the next step, which is almost always essential at some point if the client is dragging in effort.

Escalating Assertion on the other hand, is the next vital step you will take in trying to motivate and reinforce ideal effort and training behavior. At the extreme end, this type of communication strategy would yield yelling at an athlete or client. I’m sure everyone knows what I mean here, and there isn’t a need to write any explicit language, and you get the point. So why is this effective?

Bill Parcells, two-time super bowl winning coach stated in a documentary that I was watching recently, that sometimes acting a little crazy, yelling, and even throwing objects can garner a lot more attention and compliance versus being mellow and empathetic. I strongly feel that this type of behavior can showcase a high level of care, even if the statements come across as condescending or arguably offensive. Another idea is that this is how we’re conditioned from our parents starting at an early age.

We’ve all experienced the wrath of our parents yelling at us to do our chores or finish our homework and it’s quite possible that effective behavior isn’t triggered until this type of emotional response is exhibited by some authority figure. Who is to know for sure, but the logic is definitely there when you look at the results. Also, witnessing this type of response almost always triggers our “fight or flight” response, so perhaps it’s an evolutionary strategy that is also hardwired in us to help us perform at our highest level. For example, a commander giving a motivational talk before battle.

Anecdotally, I almost always find myself arriving at this step with many of my clients at some point, away from the extreme end of the spectrum. Especially with younger athletes. By escalating the dialog and being even more assertive you are showing that you care about how things get done and that there is a standard of performance that has to be meant, which will ultimately earn the respect of your athletes when all is said and done. This type of approach to communication also delivers a strong message that you are a leader and stronger authority who won’t be walked all over, and last but certainly not least it helps prevent these types of episodes from occurring in the future.

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