Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Communication Breakdown

Here's a little secret to life that took me a long time to figure out; almost all hurt feelings stem from miscommunication.  How many times have you had a severe case of butthurt because you and your friend, or captain, or teammate had a miscommunication?  I'm going to guess it's happened more than once in your derby career.  So many people act like they forget the basics of communication in roller derby just because it's a team  I often wonder if people think everyone can read their minds; guess what, we can't.  It's time to learn how to communicate better.

Image found here
1.  Force yourself to listen to what the other person is saying.  The WORST thing you can do in a situation is talk over someone, or walk away from them while they are trying to explain how they are feeling.  Sometimes all it takes is to have someone HEAR what they are saying!  I know that you have a lot of things going on in your head at that moment, like "I know exactly what I'm going to say next!  I'm going to tell her how wrong she was about that last jam!!!!"  Just quiet that thought and really hear what the other person is trying to tell you.  This is not the time to practice your distraction skills, or your debate skills! 

2.  Be honest but don't be cruel.  Being honest is tough for people; we're trained to be polite and to tell little white lies.  Unfortunately, little lies turn into ginormus lies over time, and if you feared the initial hurt feelings, just wait until the lie is discovered and then you'll see some drama.  If someone asks you for feedback about their skills, you need to be honest and constructive.  The following is not constructive advice.  "You suck because you're sloppy.  Stop hitting me in the face all of the time, I'm sick of it!"  Also not constructive "Everything you do is just wonderful!  Never change!"  Tell them the truth, but give them feedback on how to fix it; also tell them what they're doing well!

3.  Watch your non verbal cues.  Sometimes we send out nonverbal cues and aren't even aware of them. Now, don't get all "human lie detector" on people; sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, as they say, and sometimes crossed arms don't mean anything other than someone is cold or feels awkward about their arms hanging by their sides.  On the other hand, there are some signs that are just plain hostile.  Rolling your eyes, walking away, and raising the tone of your voice are just a few ways we show that we are not open to communication.  Just think about how the typical teenaged girl reacts in sitcoms and you have a template of how NOT to behave when you're trying to communicate with a teammate. 

4.  Try to keep emotion out of it.  Easier said than done, but it has to be done if you don't want to turn it from a discussion to drama.  Try not to say things like "I'm mad as hell!"  "You hate me!"    You can use phrases like "I feel hurt when you bench me for a game and don't tell me why."  That's a good way to express your feelings without getting hysterical. If you feel emotions taking over, take a deep breath and try to bring it back to the facts.

5.  Don't bring up settled arguments from the past.  This is a big problem with couples, but it can be just as deadly to a team's sanity. "Two years ago you made me feel stupid for using my toe stops.  Now everyone uses toe stops!  HA!  You NEVER LISTEN TO ME!"  This isn't helping.  I know you remember feeling frustrated, but this is the present.  Concentrate on the issue at hand.  Women and elephants have long memories, but it's not making it easier to communicate with your team if you keep reliving every single injustice you've been put through.

6.  Think about what you're going to post electronically before you post it.  Nothing annoys people more than passive aggressive posting.  Also, even if you don't mean to, sometimes your posts can be read as passive aggressive because "tone" doesn't come across well on FB, texts and emails.  Think about what you write before you hit send.  Unfortunately, some people are just LOOKING for something to be butthurt over, especially on Facebook.  You can't control their reaction to anything you post, but consider the tone before you post it.

7.  Don't assume that "everyone knows how things run" in your league.  You have newbies to incorporate, transfer skaters, volunteers, and things change.  "That's how we always do things" is not a means of communication.   Captains and coaches, be clear of the expectations you have of each skater.  If your league has specific requirements for volunteer hours, or community outreach, you need to spell them out in a timely manner.  Remind people!  Sometimes derby skaters have the attention span of the dogs in "Up" and they need someone to give them a gentle kick in the butt to get their work done.  I know we don't want to babysit each other, but let's face it.  If you don't give people nudges, they will forget about it....and then the butthurt sets in when they are punished, or benched.

These tips aren't the only ones that can help you communicate better in your league, but it's a start.  I personally am on a campaign to eradicate butthurt in derby, and if you communicate better with your leaguemates, you are well on your way to helping me make derby a butthurt free zone. 


  1. Good tips!
    When the planet Mercury slows to move into apparent retrograde motion (about every 3 months) and then 3 weeks later slows to move back to direct, the 3 days before and after are the worst for communications, travel, business, and networks. Hold onto your keys! Next Direct day will be March 17th.

  2. I am TERRIBLE at email and trying hard to get better at it. My tone doesn't read well at all. As much as I despise "lol" I actually throw it in from time to time to be clear that I am not crankypantsy.

    My advice: remember that Facebook is an interactive medium and NOT your diary. Getting a diary (or an electronic version like a private livejournal) is not a terrible idea.

  3. I swear your last three posts arose from you being able to actually read my thoughts. How do you even do that?!
    Great advice.

  4. Ugh! Such a fantastic and "on-point" post. ESPECIALLY Point 7 "Don't assume that "everyone knows how things run" in your league". You need to be open and transparent with explaining how things are run to the new members and setting the expectation of league involvement without demanding and sounding forceful.