I hate listening to my voice on answering machines; I would never guess that I sound like I do. But as coach, we need to listen to ourselves more. Why? Because just like most situations in life, it's not what you say but how you say it. The type of tone that I couldn't handle as an athlete was the "do it because I said so", or a tone that made me feel like I was below my coach. I don't know what I sound like to my athletes, but I do have one goal, and that is to present myself in front of 60 athletes the same way I would in front of one in my office. If an athlete has a question, I want them to feel completely comfortable approaching and asking me. That's pretty basic, but it's the only way I can explain it.
There SHOULD be a distinction between the coach and athlete, but that does not give us a right to speak to our athletes in any other way than how we would like to be spoken to. A coach is a team leader, just like a captain. The more we act like captains or even just teammates, the better our athletes will respond. But what kind of teammate are you? Are you the one on the bus that throws a fit after a loss and calls out other teammates? Or are you someone who'll grab another teammate who's struggling and make them believe 1)they can do better and 2)that you will lead by example (or would lead by example, in the case of a coach).
This is a difficult topic to explain because it's something that needs to be heard and not read about. Sometimes we have to watch what we say even when we're not coaching. How do you ask your athletes to clean up the weight room? Do you make it seem like you're entitled not to, and they are just supposed to? Or do you make it clear that you appreciate their help? "Please" is allowed in the weight room. When we're supposed to believe in our athletes, it may be something so simple that keeps our athletes believing in us.