Teaching Tips #2: Words Change Worlds
by Theo Botha
"Words change worlds." The first time I heard these words was from my colleague, Tash Barnard and I thought that the truth of those words were really hard hitting and the absolute brutal truth. Words have the power to evoke incredible emotion. They can uplift, build, nurture, nourish, heal, love, inspire and change lives and worlds. Words can have an incredible, positive influence over people’s minds and emotions.
In a Pilates context we use WORDS all the time to instruct and guide our clients. I don’t think we, as instructors, often realize the power in our WORDS and the responsibility we hold in how we use our WORDS. We can instill greatness in our clients and people around us with the words we use. Speak your truth, but be mindful about what you say and how you say it. Your words can change everything.
I once asked a client which exercise she enjoyed the most during her session and she said, "I don’t really remember the exercises, but I know that today I did well as you told me so."
Wow, that was profound! It was not the exercises that made the difference, but the WORDS I used. It was not the cues I gave to make corrections; it was the kind WORDS I used. WORDS of praise and encouragement, THAT was the pinnacle of her class and what made my client leave the studio on Cloud Nine.
My husband who often speaks words of wisdom and admittedly doesn’t know much about Pilates once said to me that we don’t sell Pilates classes, but an EXPERIENCE, a feeling. It is how people feel when they leave your class that makes them come back for more. That, for me, translates directly to the tone and intention we set with the words or cues we use to create a feeling of motivation and encouragement.
Something interesting which we can relate to is the connotative meaning of words. It is the emotions and associations connected to a word. Depending on how a word has been used over time, it may have a positive, negative or neutral connotation.
Challenge vs. Difficult
Positive: Yesterday's workout was a challenge.
Negative: Yesterday's workout was very difficult.
For something to be a challenge, it's not necessarily bad, you may actually enjoy it. But, a difficulty is usually unpleasant.
Mature vs. Elderly
Positive:My new client is a mature woman.
Negative: My new client is an elderly woman.
Mature carries the connotation of dignified, while, elderly just sounds "old."
Here are a few common words and phrases that I’ve come across over the years and I hope we can change it to words that can unlock great potential and positivity.
"Don’t do it that way" vs. "Let’s do it again and this time try doing this…"
"You are supposed to do it this way" vs. "That was an interesting variation, now let’s..."
"You were taught wrong" vs. "There are many ways to do things and if you allow me I can show you another version."
"This is not how it is done" vs. "Let’s try a different way and see how it goes."
"This is only for advanced clients" vs "Not all exercises are for everyone."
I love the secondary descriptions (tongue in cheek) for Pilates instructors as "movement detectives" or "conductors that direct". Cueing, using words and language are the primary teaching tools we use in giving direction to a class and communicating with our clients. We’re also constantly on the lookout for movement faults that we need to correct, mostly verbally. Again it is the choice of WORDS we use to direct and correct. Choose your words mindfully to uplift and motivate your clients to move better and go further. Words matter.
"What you think, you become." Familiar words right? And as Pilates is a mind-body form of exercise, the words we choose to speak or mull around in our heads can have much more of an impact than we realize. It affects us on a physical and psychological level, which means people can move differently when words with a positive inclination are used. This puts us in a position where we have the power to use our words to inspire, motivate and encourage. This does not mean you need to praise and compliment your clients all the time, it means when earned give the gift of recognition and praise.
And mind your language. Choose to speak only words that are positive, loving, healing, inspiring, and uplifting. Positive words will transform the lives of your clients and you can create an environment of positive energy, which is priceless, really! Your words hold incredible power both positively and negatively. Everything that is expressed verbally has the power to influence and change the lives of all you share your world with.
“Words are free. It’s how you use them that may cost you” - Unknown
Use your words wisely.
Til next time,
Principal Faculty & BASI Pilates Licensee, South Africa