How to Emotionally Connect With Your Dancers In Record Time
Dr. Gary Chapman wrote a wonderful book in 2007 called the Five Love Languages. It’s widely popular and there are many different versions, specific to romantic relationships, kids, teenagers, and more. And I’d like to suggest that it has a powerful application to coaches and will help us emotionally connect to each of our dancers.
As the core idea behind the 5 love languages, Dr. Chapman proposes that each of us has one primary love language. One way that we prefer to feel appreciated and supported. There are some great free quizzes online to find out your love language, but just reading about the 5 will probably help you understand what matters to you.
This book made such a difference for me personally, in both my marriage and my relationship with my children. So I couldn’t help but consider how it influences our lives as coaches. For example, when my husband and I took the quiz, my #1 love language is acts of service, and that is his #5 (not very relevant to him). That means the way that I want to receive affection is the one thing on the bottom of his list, so he is less likely to think about it. And to make it even harder, his #1 is also at the bottom of my list so while I’m over here doing all these acts of service and feeling like he should see how much I care (cooking, laundry, organizing all the things) all he really wants is for me to hold is hand while we talk on the couch (physical touch and quality time). And all I want is for him to take something off my to-do list for me!
Here-in lies the challenge…
We tend to offer affection and appreciate for others in the love language we would like to receive. Which means we only really connect with people who have similar love languages, and others may feel left out.
As I mentioned before, Love languages are not just about romantic relationships. They apply to our kids, our friends, and yes, our athletes. So today I challenge you to consider your own love language and how you usually express affection and appreciation for others. Then consider how you can touch each of your athletes in the way that connects with them. None of the 5 love languages are complicated or take a lot of time, they just require that we be aware of our athletes’ different needs.
The 5 Love Languages
The five love languages are physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, and acts of service. You can read lots more from Dr. Chapman and take a quiz if you’d like, at https://www.5lovelanguages.com/
As a coach, some of these will come naturally to you because it’s your love language. So, that act is what comes to mind when you want to support someone you care about. The challenge here is to consider the things that would be #4 and #5 on your personal list and how you can incorporate those more into your coaching style. You can take it even a step further and really consider each and every dancer and what they would likely connect with most.
Again, this isn’t about adding a lot of things to your busy schedule, or over complicating your life by trying to be everything to everyone. You probably do many of these things naturally and regularly, so keep it up! The opportunity for growth here is to consider the dancers who you may not have a strong relationship with. For that dancer, one simple gesture this week could completely transform your connection.
Is there a dancer on your team that you don’t “click with?”
I bet there is, I always had a few every year. We got along fine but were never very close. I think some of that was that the way I expressed appreciation and recognition for their dedication didn’t resonate with that dancer. They may have felt like I understood and cared more if I was able to communicate in their love language.
Here are a few suggestions about how coaches can utilize the 5 love languages to express appreciation, affection, and encouragement for our dancers in a way that genuinely connects with each one.
If your dancer likes physical touch, then hugs and fits bumps and high-fives can go a long way. Even helping them stretch and making contact when correcting their technique is effective. (Obviously, in today’s world, keep this one in the bounds of professionalism.)
Words of affirmation
If your dancer likes to hear words of affirmations, praise praise and more praise. And especially praise them for hard work rather than outcome. You will show that dancer you see them, you care, and simultaneously encourage a growth mindset making hard work and perseverance more likely. Pour on the encouraging words when you notice improvement. No fluff, but heartfelt words of affirmation.
These dancers may need a few minutes to talk to you alone and check in. They want to know you hear them, so give them a few minutes after practice, invite them to have lunch in your room or sit with them on the bus. Now I know, if this one is hard for you (your #5) it can feel difficult. But it doesn’t have to be a lot of time. Just check in personally 5 minutes before practice starts. They will notice you care, but there’s a clock ticking because practice is about it start. That 5 minutes could make a world of difference.
Some people feel appreciated and cared for when they receive gifts. In the world of sport, this should stay small and can even be no-cost gestures. If tangible gifts are not in the cards for you and your team, consider their #2 language and try to combine. Consider the gift of time (if quality time is #2) or putting a sticky notes on their bag (if words of affirmation are #2). Or if appropriate hand down something of yours that would be very meaningful to that dancer in a real time of need.
Acts of service
As coaches, we pretty much do this every day, our entire job is one big act of service! But I think the challenge here is that your dancers may not know how much you’re doing. Let them know you thought about how there wouldn’t be much time for lunch at the parade and organized the parents into making a snack bag for everyone. Tell them that you really wanted to make their costumes extra sparkly and spent time rhinetoning all weekend. You’re doing it anyway, so this one will take care of itself, but it’s ok for them to know what’s going on in the background. Especially if it’s relevant to one person in particular and you’ve done a small act of service that will connect with one individual.
Do you think you could identify your dancer’s love languages? I hope you consider it, it would be a wonderful way to make stronger more meaningful emotional connections with your dancers.