by Betsy Butterick, The Coaches' Coach & Communication Specialist
"Raise your words, not your voice. It's rain that grows flowers, not thunder". - Rumi
As a coach I was never a yeller. It’s not in my nature, not something I ever practiced or had much experience with growing up. Family friends once suggested that my parent’s become golf announcers because “the Buttericks are a quiet people”.
But just because I wasn’t a yeller doesn’t mean I never yelled. On the contrary - it meant that when I did yell, it was memorable.
Even today, years after they’ve graduated, I still have former players who can repeat exactly what I said, “that one time Butter yelled”.
For some folks, yelling is a way of life. I’ve played for, worked with, dated, and called friend people for whom yelling is a natural form of communication. Growing up I only experienced yelling in negative contexts, which as a child lead me to believe that yelling was inherently bad. Experience, however, has taught me is that yelling isn’t necessarily bad – but it is a choice, and it’s also a tool.
I’ve witnessed enough no-hold-barred-shake-the-walls screaming matches to observe a few things about yelling...
1. People most often yell because of a need to feel heard. This is just as true whether you’re calling a play across an arena or screaming your truth in somebody’s face. In that moment you need someone to hear you what you’re saying.
2. As the yelling increases, the listening decreases. When someone yells at us our natural reaction is to defend ourselves. Whether or not we decide to yell back, our attention is diverted away from what they’re saying and towards fight, flight, or freeze. If someone yells all the time, we get stuck in this fear state and focus mainly on riding it out instead of hearing them out. (This is a vicious cycle because people yell in order to feel heard, and when they don’t feel they’re being heard they then feel the need to... yell. Usually, louder! And thus the cycle continues).
3. Nobody truly wins in a yelling match, not even the one who yells the loudest. The match only ends when someone gets tired of yelling or being yelled at.
4. With few exceptions, words said at volume are rarely thoughtful, loving words.
So if you want to be heard, if you want people to listen, if you want to “win” and do so with a little class then consider the following:
It’s slow going to try and hammer a nail with a screwdriver. If you want to drive your point home, use the right tool.
Yelling can be that tool – in the right circumstance, at the right time, for the right duration it can be powerful and effective and exactly what’s needed. But if you’re yelling and not getting what you want out of the conversation then perhaps do as Desmond Tutu suggests...
"Don't raise your voice. Improve your argument".