A Little Less Trying: Notes on Language in Client Interaction

Recently on our JEMS Facebook page I uploaded a video of Yoda speaking to Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars swamp scene. On the task of raising his ship from the murky depths, Luke says “I’ll try”, and Yoda jumps straight on him, with “No! Do. Or do not. There is no try“.

Language is a source of constant fascination for me, and this video clip highlighted something that I frequently pick up from clients. Many of them “try” to do this, “try” not to do that, and generally”try” really hard. Some will use the word “try” or “trying”several times in one sentence without realising it as they explain their situation to me.

The same language emerges from therapists, sports trainers and coaches, without them even realising: the very same “Try to …” or “Try not to …”. It is so insiduous that it slips out before we can catch it.

What is this all about?

On the one hand, we have phrases like “he’s not a tryer” or “she didn’t even try”. Nobody wants to be that person! By “trying”, we feel that we demonstrate our worth, that we’ll have a go, make the effort, do our best. However, this often ramps up our muscle tension and suddenly we are getting in our own way. With success eluding us, we try harder. The harder we try, the more blocked we become.

For effective force production and fluent movement, we are aiming for effort-less. I have seen people fail to push, pull or lift loads which are well within their capabilities simply because they are trying so hard. When this self generated hand brake is removed with a change of focus, they suddenly find strength or speed that they didn’t know they had.

Of course, on hearing this, there are people who then “try to relax” or “try to be effortless”. How likely is success?

On the other hand, by saying to a client “Try to …”, we rob them of conviction. We’re communicating that we’re not sure that they can do it, so they aren’t sure either. A tiny seed of doubt is sown…

Nike wasn’t far wrong when they coined the phrase “just do it”. When communicating with a client, I’ll tend towards “this is what we are going to do”. If it doesn’t pan out perfectly, they may hear, “that was really interesting, what did you notice?” followed by “with that in mind, let’s do it again and see what we find out this time”, or  perhaps, “I wonder what would happen if..”. It’s amazing how often the nudge into self awareness elicits change without the person even realising it. The outcome changes without “trying”!

Approach the task with conviction. Remove the seed of doubt. Do.

This week, notice how much “trying”pops into the language of your interactions. Play with alternatives — it may make a big difference to some clients!


Originally posted: 30/6/2012

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