Do you ever find yourself repeating the same argument or frustrating pattern with someone, again and again, and wonder what the heck is going on and how you can, once and for all, get out of it?
Sportscasting is one of the most useful techniques to address and manage difficult and challenging dynamics and behaviour – for both adults and children! – that you’ve probably never heard of…
What Is Sportscasting?
My version of sportscasting is adapted and developed from Janet Lansbury’s technique to help describe the nonjudgmental, “just the facts” verbalization of events she advised parents to use to support infants and toddlers as they struggle to develop new skills.
Never mind the toddlers, sportscasting can, in fact, be used in a far wider range of circumstances and situations…
…In arguments and disagreements where it’s not always clear what the intentions, motivations and triggers are behind what someone’s saying and why e.g. When you spiral into the same old argument with a partner/parent, with each of you defending your corner and totally blind to the other person’s perspective.
…When challenging violent, aggressive and random behaviour that appears out of proportion to something that’s happened e.g. When your child lashes out at being told ‘no’ to the smallest of things which doesn’t seem like a massive deal to you, but results in out-of-control behaviour.
…When facing passive aggressive responses that don’t directly address what’s actually happening in an interaction or exchange e.g. A colleague who constantly makes snide, unhelpful or derogatory remarks designed to belittle or humiliate you in an indirect way.
Sportscasting is a valuable way to get underneath any unconscious, game-playing devices or indirect, passive aggressive ways of communicating because it brings out the pattern into the open, puts a name to it, and allows both parties to address what’s actually happening in the dynamic between them from a place of conscious awareness.
Being able to verbalise what might actually be going on under the surface, on behalf of someone who can’t yet express it themselves, is a powerful way to step out of that pattern, especially for children.
Why It Works
It’s hard, in the heat of a moment, to maintain a clear head, especially if you’ve been triggered. It’s also hard to hear and understand what’s actually being said when the words sometimes don’t appear to make sense or don’t match your sense of what’s actually going on.
Stepping into sportscasting mode allows you to instantly and immediately step out of the drama, get yourself into a more adult space, and observe what’s happening as a more passive onlooker, than get sucked into a back-and-forth, emotionally-charged exchange which does nobody any good.
It allows you to look beneath the surface of what’s being said, to understand what’s actually going on, and empowers you to see things from a different (their) perspective and why they’re behaving and responding as they are, because you begin to understand where it’s coming from.
How Do You Do It?
One of the easiest ways to begin sportscasting is NOT to actually listen to what’s being said but to observe what’s being done…
That is, observe HOW someone is saying something – and the emotion with which it’s being said – rather than WHAT they’re actually saying.
A few examples of to help…
“It sounds like you’re really angry your sister didn’t share her sweets with you and now you’re taking out that rejection on her by hitting her. Is that how you feel?”
“It sounds like you really wanted to have sex last night, but felt rejected when I fell asleep and now you’re needing to take that out on me. Is that what’s going on?”
“It sounds like you felt really left out on your son’s birthday party and now you’re taking that out on me by criticising what we chose to do. Is that why you’re saying that?”
“It sounds like you believe it’s your job to give me advice (even when I’m not asking for it), and you feel angry when I don’t take your advice. Do you experience that as a rejection?”
“It sounds like you’re really struggling to deal with that; do you know why you’re finding it so hard?”
There are a few key parts to each sentence structure that are specifically designed to take the heat out of a situation and effect a state change…that is, help jolt someone out of the overly emotional, possibly triggered space they’ve got themselves into, and move them forwards.
Let’s break it down…
“It sounds like you’re really angry [observe and reflect back what emotion seems to be driving the behaviour] your sister didn’t share her sweets with you [identify the triggering incident] and now you’re taking out that rejection on her by hitting her [mirror back the behaviour that’s currently occurring]. Is that how you feel?” [provide an opportunity and space for them to confirm or correct what’s going on for them; note the more you do this, especially with children, the more able they become to observe and express this for themselves].
“It sounds like you really wanted to have sex last night [identify the triggering incident], but felt rejected when I fell asleep [observe and reflect back the emotion you suspect was triggered] and now you’re needing to take that out on me [mirror back the behaviour that’s occurring]. Is that what’s going on?” [provide an opportunity and space for them to confirm or correct what’s going on for them, or explore it with you from a less emotional, less triggered space, if they choose to].
“It sounds like you felt really left out [observe and reflect back the emotion that may have been triggered] on your son’s birthday party [identify the triggering incident] and now you’re taking that out on me by criticising what we chose to do [mirror back the behaviour that’s occurring]. Is that why you’re saying that?” [provide an opportunity and space for them to confirm or correct what’s going on for them, or explore it with you from a less emotional, less triggered space, if they choose to].
“It sounds like you believe it’s your job to give me advice, even when I’m not asking for it, [identify the underlying belief that may have driven the behaviour], and you feel angry [observe and reflect back the emotion that was triggered] when I don’t take your advice [identify the triggering incident]. Do you experience that as a rejection?” [provide an opportunity and space for them to confirm or correct what’s going on for them, or explore it with you from a less emotional, less triggered space, if they choose to].
How To Make Sportscasting Work For You
The art of sportscasting takes practice; it can be even more powerful when you know what someone’s core narrative is and what their default patterns are because this allows you to understand their behaviour and reflect it back to them.
For example, one of my daughter’s core narratives is that we had her younger brother because she wasn’t a ‘good enough’ child so we had to have another one (😱). Knowing this means that when she’s triggered and decides to be absolutely beastly to him for a minor infraction, we can sportscast her extreme reaction…
“Even though you think your brother’s the favourite and we had him because you weren’t good enough, that’s your story. It’s not our truth. And it doesn’t mean it’s ok to kick him hard in the stomach just because he accidentally knocked your drink over“.
If you don’t know someone’s narrative(s), you can still use sportscasting to good effect.
The key here is to simply sportscast the behaviour you’re experiencing and then ask a direct question to be answered, which creates space for constructive and open dialogue instead of mudslinging or further game playing…
“It sounds like you’re really angry at me for changing this filing system; what could I have done differently to make it work better for you too?“
“It sounds like you’re frustrated by the lack of progress; is there something that’d help you to feel more ok with the process?“
“It feels like you’re really upset by something I’ve done; can you tell me what that is?“
“It feels like you really want to control what I do; can we talk about why that is and how that feels to me?”
One of the fundamental benefits of using sportscasting is that it empowers you to step out of a drama-fuelled, emotional state and back into a more adult, observing state giving the dynamic some of its balance back.
Give it a whirl and see how it works for you (it takes practice, so keep at it)…