Healthy Competitive Communication

Hello all loyal readers. It has come to my attention that I have not spoken with you in quite a while. The business of the summertime and beginning of the fall has both the energizing quality of refreshmenst and the start of school, along with  the holiday season. And throughout it all, I must confess, that I missed a key ingredient to keeping our ongoing relationship as a bloggist and therapist to my readers – continual posting. In this unique format, posting is our dominant form of communication, and without it, we all remain isolated and bereft of the most primitive aspect of human connection.

Which of course got me thinking – how is communicating related to our competitive drives and instincts? This can mean traditional competitive banter as it appears in most sporting events, or “Smack Talk” as it is called by the players. This is a unique type of communication which is both expected on the field of play, and also a way for competitors to “psyche out” their opponents and psychologically manipulate them into performing poorly. We, of course, do the same thing in families and in our other relationships. We lay down seeds in our relational process to try to gain the upper-hand in dysfunctional relationships, in an effort to perhaps not win in that moment but rather set ourselves up for an advantageous position later on.

Why on earth do we do this? Do we really want our loved ones to fail? Can we succeed only by them failing in their aims or missing out on their own successes? If so, isn’t that just as isolating as a lack of communication in the first place, and perhaps moreso? We co-create with our loved ones a relationship that is more defined by ‘smack talk’ than by cooperative discussion.

Have you ever seen teammates smack talk with each other? If so, note their successes and failures as a team. How do each of the roles crucial on a team handle this type of intra-communication? I find that leaders on teams step in and re-direct negative talk on teams. Coaches limit this talk as well, but not to the extent that it is so forbidden that a reprimand is in order. On the contrary, it indicates a passion, energy, and motivation that is helpful. But only when it is directed outwards, away from teammates, to an opposition.

I think of recent events where in Newtown, CT, an individual went on a shooting spree in a elementary school. By all accounts, this is one of the most atrocious crimes imaginable. There is limited explanation available to make sense of senselessness, but I think that it is a wonderful example of how competitive communication might have been applied earlier. The killer was reported to be suffering from depression, isolation, and anger. All of the similar types of emotive responses listed above. However, by repressing these emotions so that only an extreme violent response was an outlet, continued the typically dysfunctional response. We hurt those we love and ought to care for. Instead of developing a way discuss these issues openly and competitively. We need to join as a human race as a unit, in order for our society to be perceived as winners.


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