I had an interesting conversation this week in one of my group coaching sessions. We were discussing the topic of sensitive young people and effective ways of avoiding conflict when dealing with them. Talking to the group about my experience of teenagers with problems made me realise how similar the effective methods are when working with horses.
When talking to my teenage students in recent months I have encountered eating disorders, bullying, anger management and especially lack of stability and boundaries at home. I also have personal experience of owning a difficult horse and I know what it takes to improve their quality of life, build a relationship and communicate effectively with them in order to obtain results and stay safe.
Both horses and sensitive teenagers display the characteristics of the fight/flight instinct. These can manifest themselves in a variety of different behaviours but all need to be dealt with in a calm and low key way.
If information is to be digested, processed and acted upon, a number of common approaches can help effective and successful communication:
- The avoidance of raised adrenalin levels is very important
- Listen actively to what your subject has to say and do not interrupt (this is also relevant in the equine world!)
- Open and confident body language, gentle gestures and the correct pitch and tonality creates an environment of trust
- Setting your student up to win and not to fail will encourage and motivate them to increase their learning and confidence.
For example, raised adrenalin levels can prevent your nervous and stressed horse from loading effectively into a horsebox – and also prevent an anxious teenager from controlling their anger or responding to advice.
A very effective refinement is to be aware of your subject’s sensitivity in these areas and to adapt your own approach accordingly. If you are working with teenagers or horses, these simple approaches will surely increase your chance of positive results and a successful outcome.
You could now also apply my techniques on choices and control from a solid starting point.