Language learning, Neurolanguage Coaching and Ice-skating

Language learning, Neurolanguage Coaching and Ice-skating

7th December 2015, by Rachel Paling

This morning my new business partner in Poland, Katarzyna Hylinska, took me ice-skating in the National Stadium of Warsaw. It must be at least seven years since I last went skating and even though I was a fairly good skater when I was a child, I would not say that I ever reached a level of mastery in ice skating! Indeed, one of my major frustrations in life is that I never cracked how to skate backwards.

The experience this morning was interesting, especially as I observed my brain and tried to observe when I was in my “thinking brain” and when I settled back quietly into my ”performing brain”. (The Inner Game of Tennis, Timothy Gallwey). At first my ankles and whole body had absolutely no idea what to do as I hit the ice, but somehow somewhere in the memory banks of my mind, my body started adapting and remembering the movements I used to do, as well as the position of the body and slowly started to lose the fear of letting go of Kate´s hand.

At the same time symbolically as Kate held me steady with her supporting hand through the first half a dozen rounds of the rink, I reflected on how somehow this hand supporting me, was exactly how we will work in our new business partnership: metaphorically holding onto each other and supporting and guiding each other through the ups and downs of business, with the confidence and trust that business partners must have – and at the same time I reflected that this is exactly what coaching and neurolanguage coaching is about – supporting our learner through the ups and downs of the learning process with invisible supporting hands, bringing the coachee from thinking about everything and translating everything in the brain, to actually performing without thinking, to unconscious competence and fluency of speech.

And the brain is fascinating. After a few rounds of the rink, I was able to remember and my body positioned better and my feet and ankles started to become accustomed to the movement again. Even after so many years the muscles started to remember, the brain to react, from time to time I started to just fall into my performing brain, just gliding across the ice with no problem, but if someone crossed in front of me suddenly or if my brain alerted to danger (mainly children pushing penguin sledges on the ice!), then, I lost the flow and the thinking brain started to kick in again. It was quite interesting to observe this to and fro-ing from thinking brain to performing brain.

After 40 minutes, at last, I was going alone. Kate had let go, but kept coming back to check on me and was always somewhere watching if I was OK. Exactly as a coach should do and does. In parallel, at some point our language learner has to go alone; the brain needs this responsibility and ownership of learning to really digest and perform on its own and that is exactly what a neurolanguage coach does: we know exactly when to let go and exactly when to support and guide, striking a perfect balance between support and encouragement. The more a coachee feels they are achieving something, the more motivated they are to achieve more and the more I was able to glide and slide round the ice rink alone, the more I wanted to be able to try to advance to the next stages and go faster and even had the thought of trying to crack my backward skating challenge.

And isn´t it fascinating how the brain remembers? I have a lot of clients who have learnt a language at school and then not spoken that language for years and years. Surprisingly after a short while together, it is fascinating to observe how the brain starts to retrieve those memories and make connections back to things learnt in the past and the more that we, as neurolanguage coaches, provoke those brain connections, because that is what we are trained to do, the more the coachee´s hippocampus starts to retrieve data and push it into working memory. Gradually at first and then more rapidly, the coachee´s brain remembers and connects more and more neural networks and starts to speak more and you see how the brain then starts to glide from thinking to performing brain. It is amazing to hear how, when sufficiently fired and triggered, the brain does start to remember.

I recommend all of you, go and do something today that you have not done for years (if it is something sporty, take care not to hurt or injure yourself!!) and really take the moment to observe the brain and how it is reacting and retrieving from the past. I would be curious to hear from anyone who tries this and gives some feedback of what they actually observed happening in their thought processes and brain.

© 2024 Rachel Marie Paling

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