Wednesday, 29 May 2024

When Disagreements Arise: Building Positive and Productive Communication


Communication is at the core of our connections with others. It is through effective communication that we can navigate conflicts and maintain harmonious relationships. In this article, we will explore strategies for fostering positive and productive communication, specifically in the context of team dynamics. Whether you’re a coach, athlete, or team member, these insights can help you navigate disagreements and build stronger bonds with your team.

Prioritizing Communication in Sports Teams

Ian Choi, head women’s volleyball coach at Fordham University, believes that miscommunication is often the root cause of conflicts. To combat this, Choi and his coaching staff prioritize establishing effective communication within their team. While this may be easier in collegiate teams, where players have more time to develop relationships, Choi emphasizes the importance of communication skills even when coaching juniors.

Choi acknowledges that juniors often prioritize playing time as they aim to be recruited for college teams. This can sometimes lead to tensions and conflicts within the team. To address this, Choi emphasizes the need for coaches to communicate their coaching philosophy comprehensively. By fostering an environment of respectful communication and openness, coaches can help their players succeed both individually and as teammates.

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Building Trust and Connection

Dr. Peter J. Economou, a certified mental performance consultant, highlights the significance of team-building exercises in facilitating respectful communication. These exercises create a safe space for teammates to engage in vulnerable yet healthy conversations. By promoting curiosity and a desire to understand one another, teammates can establish connections that transcend cultural differences.

Economou suggests incorporating cultural sensitivity training into team-building activities to improve communication across diverse backgrounds. This training encourages open-ended questions and fosters a spirit of curiosity rather than a desire to prove oneself right. With this approach, communication becomes an opportunity to learn about others rather than impose one’s beliefs.

Embracing Shared Goals and Celebrating Differences

Shared goals and accepting each other’s humanness are crucial in fostering positive team dynamics. Sports go beyond merely playing a game; they create a bond that runs deep. When tensions arise, Economou recommends taking three deep breaths to shift one’s mood and open the doors of communication.

Choi employs a team exercise called “rose, thorn, and soil” to encourage communication and empathy within his team. Participants share a positive experience of the day (rose), a challenge they faced (thorn), and something they are grateful for (soil). This exercise highlights the shared humanity of team members and fosters understanding and support.

Building Trust Through Teamwork

To establish trust among teammates, Choi suggests engaging in activities that require teamwork. While physical activities like escape rooms and scavenger hunts may not be viable options during times of social distancing, exploring virtual alternatives can provide similar benefits. Teamwork on and off the court leads to not only success in sports but also personal growth and acceptance of diverse perspectives.

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“Learning how to communicate with people who don’t share our same values or cultures is a skill that will translate over to life,” says Economou. In a world that needs more understanding and acceptance, the skills developed through sports can positively impact individuals and society as a whole.


  1. How can effective communication improve team dynamics?
    • Effective communication helps team members understand each other better, resolve conflicts, and build trust.
  2. What are some team-building exercises that promote communication?
    • Exercises like “rose, thorn, and soil” and cultural sensitivity training can facilitate respectful and open communication.
  3. How can virtual teams build trust and connection?
    • Virtual teams can explore virtual teamwork activities or engage in regular video calls to maintain and strengthen relationships.


Positive and productive communication is the key to successful team dynamics. By prioritizing effective communication, embracing diversity, and fostering understanding, teams can navigate disagreements and build stronger bonds. Through these efforts, athletes and coaches can create an environment that not only leads to success on the court but also nurtures personal growth and empathy. Remember, communication is the cornerstone of connection, both in sports and in life.