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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.
Safety, fun and learning is a phrase I’m sure we’re all familiar with, as it is the mantra of the snowsport instructor; a phrase listed in order of importance as well.
Safety: Obviously keeping our students safe is of the utmost importance and should be our number one concern. Understanding that snowboarding and skiing is an inherently dangerous sport, instructors try to create a safe learning environment so the next two components are achievable.
Fun: The reason most people come to the mountain is to try something they know or believe will be fun and exciting. As long as students are having fun during their lesson there is a good chance they will learn.
Learning: Guests show up to lessons with the intent of learning something new. As instructors we spend a lot of time, effort, and money in the pursuit of knowledge of the sport we teach. Our goal is to present accurate information to the students in ways that are easily understood.
I have noticed recently that of these three important ingredients, fun seems to be the most often forgotten, and fun is the word I want to focus on. It seems sometimes we don’t teach with the same enthusiasm we would have on a day of free-riding. As important as safety and learning are for a good lesson we must not forget why we enjoy snowsports. Because it’s fun!
I cannot speak for everyone but no one forces me to teach snowboarding. I snowboard for the pure joy that sliding sideways down a hill gives me and I teach with the hope I might be able to show and share that same feeling with others. I know I am not unique in this persuasion and realize most instructors feel the same way. What we need to strive for in each and every lesson is making sure this love for the sport we teach is conveyed to our students.
This information is not intended to give you games to play with your students, nor is it meant to inform you of new techniques to captivate your audience. It is merely a reminder as to why we started snowboarding or skiing in the first place.
You remember, that time before you got paid to slide on snow? How you would sacrifice money, food, better judgement and for some, even a place to live, just so you could afford a season pass to the local hill? All in the name of fun!
We all continue to make sacrifices in order to teach and be on the mountain, but the most important thing we can give of ourselves is the enthusiastic, good, old-fashioned fun lesson! Focus on keeping lessons moving and up-beat, with “less talk and more rock.”
This fun approach does not only apply to our interaction with students. We should be sharing our enthusiasm with every one we come in contact with. Every second we are on-and-off the hill. We need to present ourselves as approachable and inviting.
Keep your eyes open for guests with questions and approach them before they even have to ask you. Go out of your way to ask people how their day is going. Offer directions to runs that will be better suited to their abilities. Exude your love for your sport and job, and it will be contagious.
Sometimes even coworkers will have off-days, it’s up to us to help them turn it around. Take some time to talk to them or invite them to take a run with you or something similar.
The point is to remember how much fun snowboarding and skiing was, is and will always be and then pass it on![connections_list id=51 template_name=”div_staff_bio”]
by David Beckwith
In these troubling economic times people are becoming increasingly thrifty and are very selective as to where they are spending their disposable income. Expectations are rising. Whether it is money or time, people are seeking a higher return on their investment. Needless to say this will impact our sport, but the snow will fall and people will continue to look to escape to the mountains. Will you be ready to heed the call?
Whether you’ve identified it in the past or not, instructors can be a very influential force, effecting not only the guest experience but the bottom line of a resort. When you step onto the snow you’re not just selling a lesson you are selling a sport, a passion, and a lifestyle. Here are a few tips to help guide your selling success on the slopes:
The time spent with a guest on the snow is only a portion of the potential impact they can have on our sport. Understanding the total guest value can help broaden our scope and depth of understanding the impact our participants have on our industry as a whole. When you consider the impact of multiple visits, positive word of mouth referrals, and peripheral purchases (retail, rentals, food & beverage, travel planning, etc.) the ski school student has a value that reaches far past the ski school.
Know your products and amenities. This way you can speak from the heart when iterating on all your mountain has to offer. Carry your mountain brochures so you have info to reference. If you don’t know the answer to a guests’ question- find out. Speak confidently and competently on your sport. Be the consummate snow sports professional.
Whether you’re outgoing and energetic or laid back and reserve we all share a common passion for sliding on snow and connecting with people. Share your enthusiasm for what you do in a genuine manner and your guests will be sure to gravitate to you.
Positive words build opportunities; negative words can leave a trail of destruction. Commit yourself to operating with the highest degree of integrity each time you step on the snow. Respect your profession.
By continually expanding your outlook you’ll be able to connect with individuals on different levels. Whatever your interest maybe, you’ll be best served by continually expanding your knowledge. People want to relate to people. By being a student of the world you’ll have more opportunities to connect with guests no matter how diverse they may be.
Guests want to talk. Listen. Get a feel for their communication style and what inspired them to take a lesson. Ask them what they want out of the lesson. Ask open ended questions, put your ego and agenda on the back burner, and you’re sure to get to the root of what a guest is looking for in their lesson in no time.
Using personal judgment skills means trusting yourself to say the right thing in the right way. These skills come from doing an accurate assessment of your guest, knowing your stuff (programs, products, teaching skills) and then answering directly how your product can link the two. With guest focused selling you have to let go of the need for manipulation and trust the process of working with your guest.
When you step onto the snow you’re not just selling a lesson you,re selling a sport, a passion, and a lifestyle.
No, I’m not talking about a horticulture adventure into arms dealing. Plant “triggers” or reasons why people should take a lesson with you. Leaving footprints consists of favorable impressions. Make yourself easy to work with. Use the methods that are most appealing to your personality and style, whether it be phone calls, emails, social networking sites, etc.
How often have we exchanged tales of our escapades on the slopes at the end of the day? Consider the power and the impact that some of these stories may have had on your snow sports experiences. Referrals and word of mouth can be very powerful. We’ll often recommend a good mechanic, restaurant, or movie, or we’ll advise our friends to steer clear if we’ve had negative experiences. Consider the impact a good story tied to a positive referral has had on you in the past. Take your guest beyond an experience and help them create a memorable story.
Always summarize the status of your guest at the end of a lesson and create a statement of what your guest will do the next time you are together. By creating an “aspirational” value guests will be intrinsically driven to return and it creates a pathway of opportunity and success for their snow sport experiences.
This just scratches the surface. For more info check out Streetwise – Customer Focused Selling by Nancy J. Stephens with Bob Adams. What’s the driver behind all of this you may wonder? It’s not to create a snow sports sales force with the tenacity of a door to door salesperson. The bean counters at our respective resorts would appreciate this, but it runs much deeper than the seasonal bottom line. These efforts will create memorable connections with our participants that reach beyond the slopes.
By creating these types of experiences we keep people engaged. Most importantly, this perpetuates our sport keeping us on the snow doing what we love to do. I encourage you all to employ some of these tactics when teaching this winter. Help sustain your industry; I’m sure you’ll create some new stories of your own along the way.
Dave Beckwith was the Snowsports Director for the Summit at Snoqualmie and past Alpine DCL for PSIA-NW. A former Tech Team member and examiner for PSIA-W, Dave got his start teaching skiing and snowboarding with PSIA-E over 20 years ago. David has recently returned to the east as the Snowsports School Director at Killington, VT.