Do You Coach Using Negative or Positive Language? It Could be the Difference Between Failure and Success.
Do You Coach Using Negative or Positive Language?
What's that supposed to mean you might ask. I’ll begin with an example…
When coaching 4th grade house league baseball kids do things that make you go “Huh”? One example is when a player is up to bat and they swing at a ball over their head, like way over their head.
There are two ways to address this and coach the player through learning the strike zone and swinging at pitches they can hit well. One way is to say something like, “Don’t swing at the high ones. Let them go if they’re over your head!” That would be the negative example. Kids don’t hear negatives. All they hear is “swing at the high ones!” They don’t process or know how to not do something. In fact, driving players to not do something tends to encourage them to do it more. There is no solution in a negative message, only criticism.
Now, let’s flip that upside down and use positive coaching in the same situation. Instead of “Don’t swing at the high ones.” we might say “Look for a pitch in a very specific spot… One that you can hit hard somewhere.” In the positive example we’ve implied that the pitch the player swung at was probably not a good one to swing at. To think they don’t already know that is somewhat silly in itself. Kids are smarter than we give them credit for. And instead of relaying a negative message with no solution we give our players something to replace the mistake with. We ask them to swing at pitches that they can hit hard somewhere.
For every player this might be different. Some players might like the pitch higher and some players might hit a lower pitch better. If we give the power to the player to pick one out that they like, they’ll swing at pitches they know they can hit well.
This coaching message transcends the baseball diamond. It moves into all sport and certainly applies in leadership. When we constantly hear about things that we shouldn’t be doing, it creates resentment and some of us gravitate to that behavior. When we present a message that includes a solution that helps us and those around us see success everybody wins and people have a much more positive experience.