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Communication and working relationships in sport and fitness
Communication and working relationships in sport and fitness

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3 More than words

Speech and phatic talk is enhanced through features such as the pace, volume, rhythm and intonation of speech (known as paralinguistic features). These, in turn, can shape meaning.

Activity 3 Phatic talk in action: Lauren’s tennis coaching

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

Watch this video of Lauren greeting a young tennis player.

As you watch the video, look out for how much mutual collaboration (contributions from both parties) and reciprocation (returning or mirroring the contribution) there is in the phatic talk.

Download this video clip.Video player: e119_2018j_vid015-640x360.mp4
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The young tennis player instigates the interaction by smiling and asking ‘how are you?’ and this is mirrored by Lauren. Lauren gestures to the seat as a friendly invitation to sit down, hinting at her authority over him. Their conversation is up and running and Lauren asks him about how his week has been, his day at school and if he has been watching Wimbledon. The comment on the hot weather is safe ground they can easily agree on. Young people soon learn the ritual of these phatic openings even if they don’t appreciate the purpose. The dialogue established, Lauren marks that the exchange is moving to a more instructional stage with ‘brilliant … good … so’, before explaining the focus of the training session.

You probably already appreciate some aspects of what we term non-verbal communication, but the next section will give you insight into its significance in building relationships and/or sustaining others’ motivation.