The headline Word Of Words blared from the newspaper article and immediately drew my attention. The account described a blow-up between NBA all-star LeBron James and über-coach Phil Jackson. When people are emotionally charged about a situation they will often react in ways that create conflict, discord, and damaged relationships. That’s what happened here, and it’s also what happens to you and everyone else.
The Drama Story In A Nutshell
Phil Jackson said in an interview about an incident involving LeBron James: “You can’t hold up the whole team because you and your mom and your posse want to spend an extra night in Cleveland.”
LeBron seemed to have heard: “Blah blah blah blah blah blah POSSE blah blah blah.”
James quickly retaliated, lashing out at Jackson regarding the reference to James’ business associates as a posse. James declared he had lost all respect for Coach Jackson: “I got nothing for him.”
He felt that Jackson’s comments demonstrated a lack of respect for African Americans trying to succeed in business:
“We see the success that we have, but then there is always someone that lets you know how far we still have to go as African-Americans. I don’t believe that Phil Jackson would have used that term if he was doing business with someone else and working with another team or if he was working with anybody in sports that was owning a team that wasn’t African – American and had a group of guys around them that didn’t agree with what they did.” – LeBron James
Phil Jackson’s Mistake
I googled the definition of posse and it includes these synonyms: gang, band, group, crowd, pack, horde, herd, throng, mob, swarm, troop, cluster. There’s plenty in that list that can be viewed as offensive and derogatory, and one of those is “posse.” But other words in this list aren’t a problem.
Jackson could have used many other terms that would have been emotionally neutral: e.g., group, friends, crowd, entourage. But he didn’t, he said posse. What caused him to choose that word?
Here’s my theory, and it explains why Jackson’s behavior is relevant to you and me.
The article quoted Jackson saying “James always demanded preferential treatment.” He went on to say that James’ departure from Miami as a free agent was a “slap in the face” to the Miami Heat organization. According to the article, that’s when Jackson led into the example of LeBron asking the whole team to stay over in Cleveland while on a road trip. James and his colleagues wanted it for personal reasons even though it would inconvenience others on the team.
It’s safe to say Phil Jackson had developed a story about James as selfish and self-centered, and that those behaviors violated Jackson’s values or ethics.
I believe that perceiving James as selfish must have fostered in Jackson a lingering resentment. It’s possible he also resented the presence of James’ colleagues and was stewing over it. That’s what led to Jackson’s unconscious choice of a derogatory term.
How This Situation Relates To Everyone
Jackson and James were both harboring simmering resentments and each found an opportunity to vent their spleen in this exchange. In the language of a drama story, Phil perceived LeBron as the villain who was persecuting others, and Jackson was a combination of victim and rescuer.
James had his own drama story which is explicitly stated in his quote above. Can you see how he viewed himself as a victim and Phil as the villain? LeBron’s deep-seated anger and resentment set him up to be sensitive to perceived slights such as this. When the match was presented, the tinder was ready and waiting to burst into flame.
When people are emotionally upset, they are much more likely to lash out in a harmful way.Click to tweet
The fallout from this drama includes:
- Damaged relationships
- Damaged reputations
- Increased bitterness and resentment
- Infecting thousands of other people who were drawn into the drama story as rescuers by choosing to side with one or the other parties.
Although the specifics of this interaction are unique, the nature of the conflict is the same for every drama story. This interplay of drama stories is being acted out everywhere in the world, everyday, countless millions of times. And the consequences on well-being and relationships is devastating. Are you carrying any lingering hurts or resentments? Can you think of times when you have lashed out when someone hurt you? I certainly can.
4 Steps To Increase Your Emotional Intelligence
Here’s 4 steps you can take to extract yourself from your personal drama stories and enhance your emotional intelligence:
- Pay attention to your inner dialogue. Notice any time you are telling yourself a story and there is a villain or a victim in it. If so, you are in a drama story. The villain can be anything: a person, the weather, traffic, an illness, the government, your credit card company… anyone or anything you perceive is harming you.
- Stop your thought process — pull out of the drama story. Tell yourself to “stop it!” to break the chain of your thought process. Breathe deeply and slowly into your belly several times until you feel yourself calming down.
- Focus on what you need in this situation, not what you want. Our wants are outwardly directed: I want them to start, stop, change what they are doing so I’ll feel better. Our needs are an inner condition: e.g., safety, respect, love, to belong… Focusing on the need creates flexibility for creative solutions that makes it possible to balance both party’s interests.
- Seek a mutually beneficial outcome. Open a dialogue about getting your needs met. Be willing to help the other party get their needs met as well. Be willing to understand and respect their point of view. Be creative in finding a way to get both of your needs met.
Source: War of Words, Sarasota Herald Tribune, 16 November 2016, Page C1.
Try this 4 step process on an upset you are currently experiencing. Start with a minor issue to make it easier to succeed as you are starting out. Then you can build up to bigger ones. Please tell me about your successes in the comments below. You might also leave a comment to celebrate the successes of others while you’re at it.