Sunday, October 11, 2015

Do You Suck at Communicating?

Ah Dell! Photo by A Bot Named Tsunami
The longer I've been in derby, the more I am convinced that every problem a league has comes down to a problem in communications. Teammates not getting along? Communication issues. Committees not being productive? I'm going to bet that someone isn't communicating to the other members. Someone is butthurt? It's probably a communication issue.

Communication is tough under perfect circumstances, and when you add physical interactions, endurance issues, and just sheer fatigue, communication is one of those skills that just takes a veritable beating. It's hard to remind ourselves that we all want the same things; we want our leagues to be strong, healthy and a great place to be. Too bad our mouths get in the way sometimes!

Want to get better at communicating in your league? Follow these suggestions, and if you follow them in real life you might see improvements all across your daily interactions.

1. Know that people come in one of four flavors when it comes to communicating in groups. Nobody is just one of these types by themselves, but when we interact in groups we tend to shake out as one of these four types of people.
  • "Why?" people want all the reasons for doing something. "Why are we doing this drill?" "Why are we doing this particular strategy?" "Why aren't we taking a water break now?" Why? Why? If you aren't a why person, dealing with the constant questions can seem like they're questioning your authority, but really, that's just how their minds work. Know that one in four of your teammates might be a why person, so be ready for the barrage of why questions when you introduce something new to the league. Don't get miffed with the why people; their questions can make you reexamine why you're making the decisions that you are.

  • "What?" people want all the facts about it. What people aren't as in your face as why people, but they do want to know all about the new thing you've introduced. What people tend to like minutiae too, so if you can come up with some interesting facts about the new strategy, like it was invented by the Texas Rollergirls to combat something Gotham was doing, they might take to the strategy faster. When What people are engaged and interested in something, they want to know all the things!

  • "How?" people want only the information they need to get it done. How people are pretty no nonsense and just want enough info to get the task completed. They're very task oriented and tend not to care about the trivia or the why your league is doing something. How people are excellent to have on a committee because they are doers! How people tend not to want to think about the consequences; they just want to get shit done. They also may find the what if, why and what people to be super annoying. Get. Shit. Done.

  • "What if?" people are more interested in the consequences of doing it. Rare as they are, what if people are excellent to have around in a league because they are long term planners and worriers about the future. When you have what if people on your committee, you can trust that they will be considering the future issues with what your league is attempting to do.  They can also totally derail a committee from making a decision because they have their thoughts too far into the future.

2. Know what you're good at and what your weaknesses are. Some people are natural face to face communicators, while others are much better at the written word and need to think out what they're going. Some people despise email, but if your team uses emails or some kind of forum to communicate, you have to check your emails! Some people believe that checking emails once a day is sufficient; I don't agree with this at all because sometimes things come up that are time sensitive! You might be missing an important announcement if you're only checking your league email once a day. If you suck at checking emails, know that this is a weakness, and force yourself to try to be more diligent. If you are terrible at face to face communication, then you need to attempt to engage the face to face communicators in person. It won't be easy, but if everyone is aware of their weaknesses and is working on them, communication is bound to improve.

3. Don't talk when someone else is talking. It's so basic, and yet we all are guilty of it at some point in a meeting or a practice. We get snarky, or tired, or we develop fatigue based ADHD. Derby definitely doesn't bring out the patience in everyone, and it takes patience to listen to people.  Even harder is not ignoring what the person who is talking is saying because you're concentrating on what you're going to say next. Nobody said derby was easy, so should you be surprised that communicating in derby can be difficult? Nope.

4. Don't blurt out the first thing that comes to your head. Think about what your statement adds to the discussion. When you're hanging out with your friends, sometimes blurting out the funny thought is amusing and refreshing, but when you're on a task, such as practice, committee meetings, or BOD meetings, blurting out and unformed statement will most likely derail the meeting. People will listen to you better if they think you're putting thought into what you say. 

5. Don't withdraw from the discussion. People who withdraw are very obviously displaying their distaste for the subject, or the group or the opinion of the group. Being withdrawn is a huge red flag that you are not happy, but you don't want to communicate and try to resolve the issue that is making you unhappy! Withdrawing is a very passive aggressive step people take when they are basically throwing a quiet tantrum. Please don't withdraw from a discussion; it has consequences for your team's ability to trust you and rely on you. Crossing your arms, leaning away from the person talking, or putting your hands on your hips can all be non verbal signs that you're checking out of the flow of conversation.

This list is not comprehensive, but it may help you and your league think about the communication issues you have; I'm betting you have at least a few, since most groups of humans do. No league is going to be perfectly in synch at all times, but if we can work at communication, we might cut back on the issues leagues face.

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