I saw the results of the use and non use of two specific communication tools this weekend.
The first was the non use of the tool known as the bystander effect.
After game six of the NBA Eastern Conference finals, the Pacers 7’2″ center Roy Hibbert was being interviewed after his team’s big win. When he was asked about a tough play he had made he ended his comments with the words “no homo.” When the term is used in this context, “no homo” means “I’m tough.” He was fined $75k for the comment by an NBA that just had a big breakthrough with a different player announcing he was openly gay last month. He has also taken away from his team’s momentum in the series and put a lot of the attention on the aftermath of his comments.
Then he issued the obligatory apology that makes no sense: “They were disrespectful and offensive and not a reflection of my personal views,” he said in the statement. “I used a slang term that is not appropriate in any setting, private or public, and the language I used definitely has no place in a public forum, especially over live television.”
Lets play NBA analyst for a second and break this down.
‘They were not a refection of my personal views”… Um. You said it.
Then, “it has no place and it is not appropriate in any setting”… Um. it rolled right off your tongue. Seemed completely natural for you to say. Yes, it is not appropriate to say in the locker room, but is it commonplace? And maybe it’s commonplace to not respond when hearing comments like this.
Imagine a locker room (or corporate boardroom, or golf course, or any place where men gather) where after every gay slur or womanizing comment, three or four peers spoke up with variations on “hey, that’s not cool” or “There’s no place for that here” or “why do you need to talk like that, what are you scared of?”
How long would a person keep up the comments if it lost him status? This is the bystander effect. It is a way of changing behavior through speaking your displeasure with something to the person who said it, right then. Not complaining afterward, or telling him individually later to save face (there is a place for that, too). But to get the maximum bystander effect, a direct statement of you’re ‘not going along’ is called for.
The second high vibration communication tool is praise. Unlike the bystander effect, praise is under utilized. Men don’t give enough of it. As if it will diminish us if we lift someone else up.
I attended the Memorial for my former high school teacher and football coach this weekend. He was a gruff, demanding coach. Impeccable in character and consistent in his actions. All the former players there revered him. And of all the memories that flooded into my head and heart on a very emotional day, one stood out. It was after a random Wednesday practice in 1980. I had put it all together that day. Had the energy and healthy body and right attitude, the whole thing. And I had done all the little subtle things right…blocking technique, hustle, unselfishness. Not touchdowns, big hits, or obvious triumphs. But the little things.
And as I sat exhausted in the locker room, Coach Davison came over to my locker, put his arm around me and said softly, “Good practice Kel” and walked away.
The reverberations from that timely, accurate and heart felt praise can be felt in my bones over thirty years later.