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What We Share - Words (1/3)

What a great job. We get paid to share the very things that make us happy. People come to us asking for us to explain the things we love to talk about, to show them how to do the things we love to do, and to be excited about the things we enjoy doing. We choose how we will share those things. In some cases, we may opt to share new vocabulary words. Other times we may share physical sensations associated with skiing. If we don't pay attention, we may only share the things that make sense to us, the movements that work for us, and the experiences we've had with skiing. No wonder that some of our guests leave unsatisfied.

What is sharing?

If you've ever had the opportunity to watch children play, you will recognize that children endorse a revolving hierarchy of sharing. Sometimes the cops win, sometimes young boys are the mothers, and sometimes students teach the teacher. Monsters, however, are generally defeated. Children may or may not learn the convention of sharing their toys. It is ironic that some children want to play with others but insist on keeping the toys for themselves. In this scenario, there is no real play, only quarreling about who has the right to the toys.

Learning to ski shares some metaphors with learning to play. In this case, however, the issue centers more on what to share, and how to share, than whether or not to share. If instructors are the only ones who share, there is no real play. Learning to ski can digress to performing learning tasks, criticisms about the quality of improvement, descriptions of performance levels, waiting for breakthroughs, and comparisons with a few final forms. On the other hand, if guests are the only ones who share, accomplishment, discovery, exploration, improvement, and the value of the lesson may be compromised.

The balanced sharing of words, meanings, excitement, and experiences may hold an essential key to unlock successful interactions with guests.

Sharing Words

Imagine teaching a class of advanced skiers comprised of an elementary school teacher, an orthopedic surgeon, a 14-year-old basketball player, and a telemarketer. Since each of them have skis, a lesson voucher, and a lift ticket, you can probably assume that they want to learn and they want to ski. Maybe you would agree, however, that there is a potential for confusion because of the different vocabularies of each of your guests.

For example, the simple command to "flex your knees" could be clear to the elementary school teacher and the orthopede. Maybe they have recently used the word "flex" in their professions. To the 14-year-old and the telemarketer, however, "flex" may mean everything from diversified funds to strutting your stuff.

In another part of your experience, you may invite everyone to "point your skis across the hill". Everyone seems to do fine except the surgeon. Immediately upon pointing her skis across the hill, she stood almost completely on the downhill ski, tipped the ski uphill and rode the railed ski in 180 degrees of a circle until her skis were pointing uphill and she fell down backwards. The moderate advice to "point" may have described directional information for the other three, for the surgeon however, it meant direction, transition, transfer, rotation, and ultimately falling down.

Finally, toward the end of the lesson you demonstrate upper and lower body separation on behalf of the telemarketer who seems to swing his shoulders across the hill with every turn. As part of your explanation you might even let out the words "counter-rotation". Is it conceivable that the next thing that happened in your lesson was a decrease in everyone's performance? The surgeon may become so rigid that she can't really allow her skis to glide across the hill. The basketball player may look down the hill but everything else faces across the hill; the schoolteacher may still be focused on the idea of flexing knees. And the poor telemarketer may overtly twist his shoulders one way while pointing his skis the other way.

Sharing words may be described on this scale:

If I allow the scale to tip too far toward their words, I may sacrifice the accuracy of the communication; if I tip the scale too far toward my words, I may compromise the guests' understanding of the communication.

Here are some possible ways to promote sharing words.

1. Have the group create new words to represent the movements, equipment, forces involved in skiing.
2. When it is appropriate to use jargon, take a moment to clearly define the jargon so everyone can use it appropriately.
3. Use words that are common to individuals' experiences.
4. Allow individuals to choose the words that describe concepts most clearly for them.

Our hypothetical group lesson might have been more successful if you demonstrated flexed knees and asked the telemarketer to describe to the group what you were doing. Maybe he would have said that you were bending your legs. You could continue by explaining that when you point your skis across the hill, you ought to be careful not to twist your hips and shoulders or to allow your ski to make an abrupt edge angle. Finally, you might ask the basketball player to describe separately what his feet, hands, neck, and head do when he tries to guard a player on the opposite team. Subsequently, you could relate his description to the movements he is making in skiing. At the end of the lesson, you might invite the schoolteacher to summarize in one sentence what she wants to remember about skiing when she comes next time. Sharing words can lay the foundation for sharing experiences.