Why can’t I Change your Mind?
‘As a teacher, the effectiveness of your knowledge is only as useful as your ability to competently deliver it.’
Phillip Liao, Co-Founder @ The M3 Initiative
We live in an age where information is all around us. There is SO much information in fact, that it has now become a problem. Anyone can create a blog page and write an opinion piece. But this doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily correct. To the untrained eye, one look at a ‘fitness influencer’ might warrant enough proof that their information is more valuable than someone who does not have a large following. This is only true in SOME cases. There are very successful influencers who spread up to date, worthy-of-noting information that help thousands of people. But, as with any field – there are plenty of those who don’t.
As a coach, I suspect that before you became acquainted in your craft, you would’ve read an abundance of resources – some from credible sources and some from not. It takes time and effort to develop two things to protect ourselves from buying into influencer traps. One, it takes a foundation level of knowledge and two, the ability to critically analyse the level of evidence presented in front of us.
What is the level of evidence? Without using an overtly scientific explanation, ‘levels of evidence’ are ways to categorise how trustworthy the data is. At the highest level, trustworthiness requires ruthless criticism and repeated experimentation.
As relevant to us, the coaches, this is how evidence is classed, with the highest being Level 1, and lowest being Level 7.
Level 1 Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses
Level 2 Randomised Controlled Trials
Level 3 Cohort Studies
Level 4 Case-Control Studies
Level 5 Case Reports / Case Series
Level 6 Expert Opinion / Letters
Level 7 Animal Research / In Vitro Studies
Where this is relevant to our practice is this: most clients we will come across (unless they themselves are scientifically trained), will rely on ‘expert’ opinion, their own anecdotes, as well as the stories of the people around them. Without an appreciation for the rigours of the scientific method, most cannot comprehend the highest levels of research.
Why is this a problem for us coaches? Because it means they do not hold scientific research to the same esteem as we do. This is not their fault. Scientific thinking is a trained skill. So what does this mean for the delivery of scientific information?
Information must be packaged in a way that conforms to their method of validating information. If a client decides to use a social media influencer with 10k followers as their reason for adopting a ‘detox diet,’ it might be a good idea to show them someone with equal or more followers who’ve adopted more scientific methods. The utility of a principle or concept is only as useful the foundation of knowledge an individual has to comprehend it. For example, as much as we may have all the evidence that supports the CICO equation, this is irrelevant in the context of someone who doesn’t understand the laws of thermodynamics.
Always remember that some clients will respond very well to you because of your credentials and will take your word as authority (so make sure the information you provide is as accurate as it can be!). But most people like to feel agency in their decisions. They like to feel in control. Telling someone what they have been following (perhaps even successfully) is wrong tends to bruise the ego. When done poorly, this can even make the client feel stupid, and you as the coach, seem arrogant.
It is up to us to be competent in the delivery of accurate information. But that in itself, is an art.