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An Introduction to NLP and Communication by Heather Roberts
As teachers and coaches we all know how essential effective communication is for a student centered interaction. Did you know that only 5%-7% of communication is through words? 22%-25% is tone and the rest is physiology? Last year I participated in an Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NL P) Practitioner Training Seminar (22 days over 7 months, and one long weekend a month) that helped me change how I communicate and connect. The first weekend we learned about rapport – I thought, “Hey, I know about rapport from teaching skiing.” While I knew some key elements, and some comes naturally, there was so much about rapport that I wasn’t even aware of!
Think of an interaction with someone who understood something you were telling them. How did you know they understood? Since what is being said (words) counts for less than ten percent of the communication, what cues let you know they understood? Have you ever had someone tell you they understand but you can see by their physiology they don’t have a clue what you’re saying? What is it in their physiology and their body language that lets you know? What are you unconsciously communicating? The answers to these questions help you to calibrate (read physiology) to know whether or not you are “in rapport.”
To be in rapport means to be able to step into, and experience the other person’s model of the world. In class, we learned various techniques matching tone of voice, body language, posture, and gait. We did exercises in matching and were given feedback until we matched the other person more closely. It is amazing what you can learn about someone by matching them; you truly can see how they perceive the world, and even get into their beliefs. This happens because when you do things the way they do, you start to get the same results. This in itself is very useful information in helping your student, athlete, or client affect the change necessary for their desired outcomes. For example when you ski like someone else you can learn their beliefs about skiing because you begin to get the same results they do. It gives you credibility and the ability to relate on a deeper level. Test it: start with at least 3 people. Person 1 does something (ski, snowboard, walk, or talk) while Person 2 matches Person 1, and Person 3 gives feedback to Person 2 until Person 2 adequately matches Person 1. Person 2 can test what was learned about Person 1 by discussing the results with Person 1.
Did you know that only 5%-7% of communication is through words? 22%- 25% is tone and the rest is physiology?
Exercises in rapport can be very rewarding. If you take a moment to really get into someone else’s world you can learn so much just because everybody believes a little differently than you do. Think about how much more effectively you will be able to reach a desired outcome when your physiology and body language communicate you truly understand who the other person is and what they want. This is truly a deeper level of student centered teaching.
Most of us unconsciously get into rapport and find a connection. When you are not in rapport the communication is awkward or cumbersome the connection is lost and with regard to teaching – chances are there isn’t very much learning occurring because there isn’t very much direct information- transfer between you and your student. If you can connect simply by matching, once there is a connection you will be able to get more information, then you can get in rapport.
There was a full weekend alone devoted to ways to be in, break, and regain rapport. I now know how to adjust subtly for a deeper more effective communication. There is so much information; lots of books, seminars, trainings and if you want to learn more check out nlpchoices.com. NL P is a great way to expand rapport skills, making it possible to teach and communicate more effectively on many levels.
Heather Roberts is a former PSIA-NW Alpine DCL, and current Stevens Pass Ski & Snowboard School Instructor and Team Lyon coach both at Stevens Pass, as well as a Personal Trainer & Owner of F/X Training. firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Andy Collin
Think, for a minute, about all the sports you’ve played throughout your life. Parents, coaches and teammates all were telling you to, “Keep your eye on the ball” or “Look the ball into your glove.” Socially, we’ve been told to keep our eyes on the prize or, more simply still, someone on the street might yell, “Hey blockhead, why don’t you look where you’re going”. Pay attention to what you’re doing; pay attention to the goal and the task at hand and all will work out just fine. But what does that all really mean relative to snowsports?
As snow pros, there are all kinds of things we must attend to while our senses are bombarded with feedback. The pitch, the surface of the snow, the weather, our oversized boots and de-tuned skis can all conspire against us if we are not vigilant. As all the data is picked up, processed and sent through our brains, it is our vision that truly commands our attention and it is our vision that can mislead us into making inappropriate choices. While we may choose to think of our turn from apex to apex, top to bottom or never-ending arcs, we must also consider the fluid nature of a turn and learn to move our eyes in continuous arcs down the hill in order to better direct the rest of our body. We must learn to manage our vision the way we learn to manage our gear and skills. If we neglect the potential of our vision, we will certainly become bogged down in mediocrity and be banished to the purgatory of an endless ability plateau.
The best of us use our vision to great advantage, while the more challenged among us allow our vision to distract them from our desired outcome. We look at the trees rather than the spaces between the trees, at the ruts rather than our chosen line through the bumps or at the tips of our skis rather than focusing on the next turn. We must use our vision to help navigate the tree line, avoid the misstep in the bumps and to better identify our choices in terms of where we’d like to go.
The education of our vision is critical to our success as snow pros. We need to use our vision to facilitate the directional movement of our eyes and we must think about eyes as body parts, essential in aiding us in improving our application of the basic skiing and riding skills. When we think of our eyes as body parts, it makes perfect sense to direct our vision into the turn. Skiing and snowboarding are whole-body sports and body parts must move in concert to better achieve our desired outcome.
In tech talk, however, we often neglect our eyes and vision when discussing body parts. We tend to focus on the ankle or feet, tibia/ fibula, knees, femurs, or hips and so on up the chain. Elbows, femurs, navels and knee caps all require dynamic positioning through a turn but it is the eyes, our vision, that directs the power we use to initiate our turns, directs our movements and must be our first and foremost consideration once one’s desired outcome is established. Our vision must lead it all.
Ask people, “What moves first into the new turn?” Here are a variety of replies: Downhill ski tip, inside hand, feet and ankles. Each of these choices may lead to a respectable turn. When we move our eyes first and direct our vision toward the intended direction of travel, anticipation and targeting become a possibility. With a trajectory now established, the rest of our body parts have a clear understanding of the direction they need to travel.
We must not allow ourselves, as with any body part, to isolate our eye movement and, in staccato fashion, simply reposition our vision. The movement of the eyes must be as fluid as the movement of any other body part we move into and through a turn. Our vision must be constantly adjusting, assisting in choices we make. So where do we look? How can we educate ourselves and improve our vision to better serve our desired outcome? Identifying the desired outcome is always a good place to start. If the desired outcome is a carved and rounded medium radius turn, this is also how to choose to move the eyes. I want the tracing of my vision in the snow to lay down a track for my skis to follow. For me, I like to look a touch beneath the arc I have not yet laid down and about three to five ski lengths ahead of where I am at any given time. I find that when sighting carved and rounded medium radius turns, three to five ski lengths will, most often, give me enough time to respond to any inconsistency in my chosen path and still allow me time to anticipate the movements necessary to achieve my desired outcome. I like to actually see what I will be encountering and create a micro-movement plan for embracing or avoiding what is along my trajectory. Reacting in the moment and visualizing further into the future is, for me, another choice for a different desired outcome. As choices affect speed, turn shape, turn size, etc., change the distance to look into the future as well. What will not change is that all movements must be filtered through the desired outcome and no movements should get ahead of our vision.
Next time you’re on the slopes, make a few turns, then ask yourself a few vision questions like: Where are you looking? What do you see? Are you visually focused on avoiding obstacles or something else? Once you begin to understand your conventional use of vision you can then begin to make subtle changes. Consider creating a focus. Start simple with something you already know: Eyes up to assist balancing movements. This allows the body to move more freely with greater range of motion. Your vision can now be directed into the future and not confined in the present. Once you begin to understand the advantage of directing your sight, consider how best to move your eyes to aid your desired outcome. Think of steering your vision in keeping with the concept of a whole body sport. Direct your eyes to keep pace with all other bodily movements. Keep in mind this is an experimental process and there is no set plan for directing vision into and through a turn, but I am confident that once dialed-in, this directional movement will provide new found control and fluidity to every turn.
We can argue, until Mt. Hood becomes beach front property, about which body part immediately follows the eyes into a turn, and we could possibly all be correct. But unless the athlete has impaired vision, it is sight that first engages the turn. I might argue still, that the coach working with the vision-impaired student would do well to have that athlete steer his or her face in concert with turn shape to better achieve the desired outcome.
I want to emphasize that skiing with eyes open should not be new to any of us. Steering vision first into a turn and using this activity as a directional movement, while considering the eyes as moveable body parts, is a concept not to be ignored.
My friends say I need to talk less and ski more, so for them, I’ve created the short form: Look where you want to go!
Andy Collin is a Training Director for Timberline Lodge, is PSIA Alpine Level III certified and teaches at Timberline Lodge and Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Resort on Mt. Hood, Oregon. He is also involved in creating summer on-snow programs for alpine instructors who work for the five PSIA member snowsports schools on Mt Hood. [email href=”email@example.com”]Email Andy[/email]
by Marissa Nishimoto, photo by Matt Aimonetti
Sliding is fun! That’s why we do what we do right? Whether it’s alpine, telemark, snowboard, or Nordic, we are in the snowsports industry, one industry, to help others enjoy snow sports as much as we do. And perhaps, at the same time, for selfish reasons, to improve our own skills, which in turn will better serve our customers. That understood, the question begs to be answered: why should it matter whether we slide on two pieces of equipment or one? Why is it that some skiers and snowboarders seem to think that they are two different species? This is an age-old rivalry has been played out and determined officially dead by the end of the 1998 Winter Olympics. It’s our role as educators to dispel this animosity between skiers and snowboarders, and focus on teaching and modeling the attitudes and behavior of coexistence.
As snowsports educators our job is to teach and inspire our students. We also share our enthusiasm and passion for whatever we are teaching. We slide, we glide, some carve, some float, others fly, but the medium is the same: snow. On the tool of our choice, no matter what that is, we are just people – not “snowboarders” or “skiers” – just people enjoying the mountain together. However, that seems to get lost in the shuffle at times, when people get caught up in the “scene” of whatever that may be. I know this first-hand, because as a multi-discipline snowsports instructor, I’ve experienced it many times. Among various ski schools or ski areas, where “snowboarders” and “free skiers”, typically known as the younger crowd, are treated as second class citizens. Yep, I’m sensitive to this because I snowboard, and ski, and I am 17 years old. We all need to remember that there is a person behind all that gear, complete with their own background, attributes and values that are not fully known by looking at their gear or their face. Sure, how a person carries themselves says a lot, but please don’t “judge a book by its cover.”
Depending on what I am carrying, sometimes you “see” a snowboarder, and other times they “see” a skier, but it’s always the same person inside.
When people look at me they “see” a girl, admittedly rather short, who looks obviously quite young. Depending on what I am carrying, sometimes they “see” a snowboarder, and other times they “see” a skier, but it’s always the same person inside. On one particular weekend last July, I was a “skier” attending a 3-day clinic on Mt. Hood. During a casual conversation one of my fellow clinic participants suggested that snowboarders need their own mountain because they are a “danger.” OK, well at this point, I look like a “skier” but the “snowboarder” part of me was a little offended. This is not an issue of snowboarding or skiing or telemarking or those even radical Nordic trail users. Granted, at Timberline in the summer, where all different user groups are concentrated in one area, tensions mount, but this is when tolerance and “good behavior” matters the most.
Resorts across the nation have addressed user conflict by providing designated areas for certain activities like Nordic skiing trails, terrain parks and slow areas for beginners or families. This helps define user activities and mitigate user conflict. This is not a discipline conflict. Don’t confuse the two.
Let’s contemplate skiing vs. snowboarding technique for a moment. Is the technique so vastly different? Negative. Many fundamental movements are very similar and cross training in another discipline can help your primary one. Could it be that our overall goals are completely different? Negative again. We tend to have similar goals: to get down the mountain, get the most from our equipment and have fun doing it. When snowboarding – I want to be relaxed and confident, but not look like I’m being lazy. When skiing I might choose to say I want to look “effortless” or “efficient.” So what’s better? Given that we are all different with our own personal styles, there are various styles within snowsports. I cannot throw a double back flip, but I can carve on my board like a champ. Is one really more respectable than the other? I guess it depends on what you like.
It is ridiculous to me that a fellow snow pro would consider a specific discipline a danger. It’s not the discipline that is the danger, it’s the person’s behavior that can be questionable. This brings us squarely back to our job as snowsports educators; to teach safety, technique and “the rules” of the hill. We also should continually improve our skills in our primary discipline, and try out those “rocker skis” or venture into the trees or half-pipe to learn what the mountain experience is like for other users. It’s even a good idea to try an alternative tool to experience the sensations of being a beginner again! But whatever you slide on, a good “attitude is everything.”
Sometimes I wish we all had some signs hanging around our necks that said something like “Hello my name is (blank). I do (blank) in my spare time. My favorite sport is (blank) .” Then we might begin to realize that the person in your lesson, next to you on the chair or in the same clinic is more than just a “skier” or a “snowboarder.”
The bottom line: we, as snow pros, must teach all our classes, not only good technique but also about the Responsibility Code, and some of the subtle nuances of other disciplines, so new and seasoned mountain users can know what to expect when sliding down the hill.
Just remember, being on skis or a snowboard does not make a person more or less reckless. And above all, the Smart Style quote “Respect gets respect,” is always true no matter what you choose to slide on.
Marissa Nishimoto is a Level III Snowboard and Level I Alpine instructor at Stevens Pass Ski and Snowboard School at Stevens Pass, Washington. She is also a senior at Holy Names Academy in Seattle at the time this was published.