Assertive Communication:Stay Safer & Out of the Penalty Box of Life-Part 1

by Kathy Marlor

There I was, minding my own business at a ice skating rink, enjoying my time on the ice, when I noticed a “situation” brewing on the ice between two men.

One of the men was a hockey instructor who was teaching two small children on part of the ice during an open session. It was pretty obvious, I admit, that he was in a lesson and you’d have to have been blindfolded and deaf to not to see him or hear him barking out instructions.

The other man was there to practice his hockey skating and was going around the rink very close to the outer boards that surround the rink and that beginners typically hold on to for dear life.

Rather than skating going around the class that started, as the other skaters including myself were doing, the man decided to skate behind the hockey coach and close to the children as he was doing before the lesson started.   It’s possible that since it was an open public session that he felt entitled to continue what he was doing and wasn’t in a “sharing” mood.

Either way, this miffed the hockey coach and he said loud enough for me to hear on the opposite side of the rink: “Sir, do you not see that I’m teaching a class?”

My ears immediately perked up the second I heard what he had said to the other man and I said a silent “Ut oh” to myself. It wasn’t entirely because of what he said… it was because of how he said it. I knew a conflict could potentially brew and I was right.

The reason my ears perked up is that the majority of person-to-person communication is not the words  we speak, it’s the tone of voice and body language we use.

The tone of voice used here was accusatory and a bit condescending in my professional opinion. He might as well have added a “What are you stupid?” to the question as well as that’s how the delivery came across.

The question didn’t give the other party an honorable exit or a way out that allowed him to save face.  The man in turn, decided to react defiantly by continuing to skate close by the lesson and had a few choice words for the hockey coach as well.

The situation almost escalated into a physical fight which would have taken place right in front of two small children. Where’s the pepper spray when you need it? I’m kidding. But seriously, the conflict could have been avoided and didn’t have to happen in the first place if assertive, tactful communication was used.

Would you like to know how assertive communication could have helped this situation and other daily conflicts to be avoided?  Then be sure to read my Part 2 of this blog post.

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