“You blankety blank,” screamed the veteran baseball coach as he burst out of the dugout running full speed to get to the umpire during a Major League baseball game this season. “You blew the call, you blankety blank,” he bellowed in the umpire’s face in front of 40,000 people in the stadium and a vast TV audience.
The coach’s eyes were like big white bulging disks, his face was red and his fists were clenched in rage. As he lunged at the umpire, it was all his manager and players could do to pull him away.
The umpire threw the coach out of the game, and as the players literally dragged the coach into the club house, his voice could still be heard echoing expletives at the umpire.
The next day, the manager had to justify to the general manager why he employs this coach who had disgraced himself and his team. The coach was fortunate to keep his job.
But from your standpoint and mine, there is a valuable lesson here, aside from one of self-control.
Consider for a moment, in all the sports confrontations, have you ever heard of an official saying to an irate manager or coach, “Thank you for so loudly pointing out a mistake I might have made and embarrassing me in front of everybody including my family.
“Thank you as well for threatening me. You were so persuasive between the blankety blanks and threats; I must agree with you and reverse my decision. How could I have been so wrong?”
In all the years I’ve followed sports worldwide, not once have I seen this happen. Not once. And sports are a mini-form of life. Temper tantrums happen every day in life and do nothing but create an ugly spectacle and sew the seeds of fear and hate. They persuade no-one.
Is there a smarter way? There is and it is our valuable lesson. If you want to persuade someone else to your point of view, praise them, don’t attack them, and don’t embarrass them.
Whatever their opinion, however wrong you think they are, if you confront them with it or belittle it, you’re attacking their self-esteem and they will defend their opinion and themselves to an extreme degree if necessary. And they’ll resent you for “causing” it.
Instead, take the person aside in a relaxed setting. Encourage them to express themselves and listen carefully with an open mind as they explain their position further. This may surprise you but it could be they who persuade you, for we all have plenty to learn.
But in any case now that they’ve expressed themselves, if you don’t agree with them, respectfully acknowledge what they have said because in doing so you’re recognizing their right to an opinion other than yours. And you’re showing them respect, something everyone appreciates.
“Thank you for explaining your position to me Jim,” you could say. “Now I understand why you feel as you do and you’ve made some very good points. May I raise an idea for you to consider?”
Now this person can comfortably bring his guard down. You’re not attacking him, you’re sharing an idea he may benefit from, and in a relaxed cordial mood, he’ll consider it and can change his mind without losing face.
With the baseball coach for example, over dinner after the game, he could have quietly asked the umpire how he came to his decision by saying “That was a difficult decision you made, especially in front a big home crowd. It took a lot of courage on your part. May I ask you how you concluded what you did?”
Then the umpire could have explained himself and the coach might have learned something he didn’t know. And by being friendly and respectful, he could have expressed a different opinion the umpire would have listened to and considered.
As for that game, that umpire was not going to reverse his decision under any circumstance but in the future he might have thought more sympathetically of the coach and of his team the next time there is a close call.
He also might have learned from that coach’s many years of experience. And perhaps the two of them could have developed a friendly relationship, one that could transcend any baseball game.