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It’s not uncommon to see articles promising simple advice to help improve our lives, particularly with relationships. They provide specific strategies, or hacks, that can be used to quickly enhance interpersonal relationships and interactions.

5 Ways to Be a Better Listener!

5 Ways to Show Much You Care!

5 Ways to Create Trust!

While these articles can provide some useful strategies for specific contexts, I feel that the point is largely missed. The focus is on the expected behaviors, as opposed to creating the appropriate mindset to actually become what you are trying to demonstrate. Instead of actually becoming a better listener, the focus is on how to appear to be a better listener.

The best way to become a great listener is to actually care what other people have to say. If you care what someone else has to say, you’ll behave in way that demonstrates your desire to listen. You’ll also behave in a way that facilitates listening and acquiring information. The appropriate intention dictates the appropriate behaviors. The opposite is not necessarily true.

The best way to create trust in others is to consistently behave in a manner that inspires trust. Further, extend trust to others in good faith, believe it will be returned, and act accordingly. If you believe trust can be created, trust will be facilitated sooner than later.

If you care about the swimmers you’re coaching, you’ll interact with them in ways that naturally demonstrate that you care about them. If you care about someone, you’ll probably demonstrate that through your actions, whether it’s as simple as saying hello or asking how their day has been going. If you act in a manner consistent with someone who cares, it doesn’t necessarily that you do care, and swimmers (and all people) can almost always tell the difference.

If you have the correct intention and the correct mindset, the necessary behaviors directly follow.

The people you interact with can ALWAYS tell the difference between well-intentioned interaction and contrived behaviors strictly designed to accomplish a self-serving goal. Your swimmers will sense something is off when you try to make ‘deep eye contact’ while listening to a story you couldn’t care less about. They might not know exactly what the discrepancy is, but they will pick up on it and it will just make the situation worse.

Fortunately, it’s way easier to focus on the mindset and intention as opposed to the specific behaviors. We tend to get hung up on specific behaviors whereas we should be focused on how we frame situations. As opposed to memorizing a list of ‘appropriate behaviors’, the behaviors become obvious by simply focusing on the appropriate mind frame. With the correct framework, all of the ‘right’ behaviors will emerge naturally and organically.

A Caveat

Now, there is a time where focusing on behaviors can be useful. There are times when you don’t trust someone else, or don’t particularly want to listen to them, but you’re aware that doing so will be beneficial to the relationship.

You may not trust someone, but understand that everyone will benefit from moving toward a position of trust. It can be useful to create a mindset of trust. How would I behave if I trusted this person? With appropriate answers to that question in mind, we can then behave with the correct intention and the associated behaviors congruent with that intention. With the correct intention, you KNOW how to behave. No memorization is required nor appropriate.

It’s still about the intention. The behaviors are an extension of the perspective, not simply behaviors in isolation. They are harmonious and not part of an arbitrary list.

However, this requires an honest awareness of your current mind frame, and an attempt to work towards moving to where you want to be. This is very different from just behaving ‘according to the experts’. The point is still to return to the appropriate mindset, and let the behaviors follow.

Moving Forward

As coaches are agents of change, we are always looking to promote change in others. This tendency also applies to our own lives and our desire to improve. However, our own change efforts will be most effective when we focus on being the type of who acts in a specific manner, as opposed to simply acting in a specific manner.

It is more organic, and simply, it works best. Beyond the efficacy of starting with intention as opposed to behavior, it is simply a more honest approach. As opposed to pretending to be something, you are something. Swimmers will always be able to tell the difference.

Intention and mindset drive behavior; with the correct mindset, all of the appropriate behaviors will follow.


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