Sportscasting

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)…

Words Matter

The art of effective communication is to understand that very often the words you hear aren’t what’s really being said or meant!

It’s the kind of person who appears perfectly nice, friendly and even seems to go out of their way to help you, but then stabs you in the back at the first opportunity, WTH?

It’s the same old argument, on repeat, with your other half that never changes and always ends up unresolved.

It’s that old familiar feeling of being treated like a small child yet again when your mother/father expresses concern or an opinion about something you’ve done or a decision you’ve made which you were perfectly ok with until they opened their mouth.

If you frequently find yourself in a situation that feels familiar – the same old argument, the same feelings of resentment, the same feelings of humiliation and shame – it can help to take a step back and figure out what’s really being said. 

[And if you’re not sure, ask! “It sounds like you’re saying you think I’ve made a really stupid decision, is that what you mean? Or what do you mean?”]

We each get into default patterns of (not) addressing situations in our life as they happen and instead, we keep quiet and then quietly seethe away in the background!

There’s an easier way and it involves, direct, head-on communication; this doesn’t have to be confrontational, angry or unpleasant; in fact, it can be liberating, connecting and said with love and positive intentions. 

Though if the latter is still a step too far, let’s just start with DIRECT, shall we?! Here are a few examples – let’s call them scripts – of how to be more direct in your communication when it comes to key flashpoints in your life, that’d usually be the start of an argument or period of sulky silence and simmering resentment!

Difficult Colleague? Try this…

Want to address the uncomfortable friction between you and a difficult colleague, in a way that doesn’t start (and end!) with: “You’re so bloody difficult to work with, why can’t you just get over yourself and see I’m only trying to help?” – in which you frequently end up being seen as the bad guy/gal?

“Things feel really difficult between us. I’d love to find a way to work things out so we’re both happier, how could we do that?”

Difficult Child? Try this…

Want to understand what’s really going on for your child/teenager, underneath the angry, aggressive attitude you’re faced with over something that appeared fairly innocuous?

“It sounds like you’re really angry about something. Do you know what it is you’re angry about?”

Difficult Parent? Try this…

“I really appreciate your support; I’d love to be able to do this for myself going forwards, how could you help me do that?”

Want to step out from the shadows and symbiosis of a parent who insists on doing things for you even though you’re now an adult, but don’t want them to be offended at your desire for independence: Instead of “Just leave me alone and let me do it on my own for once ffs”

Difficult Co-Parent? Try this…

Struggling with a father who won’t pull his weight around the house/with parenting duties and/or perpetuates a misogynist approach to parenting and running a household together? 

“Is that the kind of model you want to provide for your own kids? For them to have a role model of a man who refuses to parent equally or contribute more than financially to the successful and happy running of a household? Would you want your daughters to choose a man who expects that from them, and nothing more?”