In 2023 most common question asked of the
Provincial Safe Sport Officer of Bowls Alberta was
“How do I deal with someone that I find most
annoying or disruptive or just plain hard to get along
with? In response the following reminders and
suggestions for communicating with others has been

Conflict is a normal occurrence for all individuals in
all sports. When handled well it can be beneficial. It
doesn’t matter how long people have been members
of a club or how long a particular team’s been
together, difficulties are bound to come up. By
normalizing and addressing conflict in a healthy way,
you can build trust and better relationships together.
The following is a list of gathered tools to help
navigate interpersonal challenges and conflicts.

Consider How You Are Communicating: Verbal & Non-Verbal Communication

Verbal Communication
Verbal communication includes words that are spoken, as well as written words-including emails, texts,
social media posts and written letters. Examples as follows:
Face-to-Face Communication
Verbal communication is not generally problematic, as we can see non-verbal cues and consider
them, which helps with avoiding or working through disagreement.
Phone communication
Phone communication is also verbal, but possibly problematic because body language is not seen.
One’s tone of voice and opportunity to ask questions can help communications be clearer.
Written Verbal Communication
Written verbal communication for individuals trying to resolve conflict, especially within emails or
text messages can be the most problematic and is the least preferred method of trying to resolve

Non-verbal Communication
Non-verbal communication is any communication that does not involve words. What we know is that most
communication is done through body language and only a small part of communication involves the words
that we say or write. Eye-rolling, tone of voice, and posture are all non-verbal communicators. They say
more to us than the words that we are using or writing when we are trying to figure out how somebody

An important non-verbal communication or rather I suppose a reaction, could also be considered what one
reads between the lines within an email or text message when the body language is absent and when issues
are festering.

Steps to help Manage Conflict

1. Leave the Tech Behind
Sending an email provides a shield that protects us when we are feeling vulnerable and emotional about an
issue and potential responses, but does it solve anything? Almost never. Sending emails is quite possibly
the number one factor in the escalation and prolonging of a conflict or dispute.

Six essential questions to ask yourself before sending an email or text:
1. Is it important?
2. Do you need to apologize?
3. Have you waited too long to respond?
4. Do you anticipate questions?
5. Is it complicated?
6. Is it personal?

If you answered yes to any of these questions above, it is wise to consider face-to-face or at least phone
communication. Remember that most often the best and most respectful way to manage your conflict with
another individual is face-to-face!

2. Consider Your Assumptions

No one has the power to read minds, however when we are having an interpersonal dispute we need to try
to understand what others are thinking. We do this so we can determine our own actions. Often, we make
assumptions which lead us to misinterpret others’ motivations. Assumptions are what we believe to be true
but are not based on fact and are made using the selected facts we take from a situation. Assumptions
inform our decisions – we analyse information and draw conclusions about reality based on them.

There are two ways that help with managing assumptions.
1. Be curious, not judgemental. Slowing things down and getting curious about what is motivating the
other person’s actions.
2. Assume positive intent. Believing the best in those around you gives you and them the confidence
that you will be able to resolve the issues together.

3. Conversation Starter Script

The following script, modelled after Marshall Rosenberg’s nonviolent communication process, takes you
through five steps to raise your conversation for success while creating a dialogue that is free of blame or

1. Acknowledge: Thank the other person for being willing to talk.
2. Describe: “I heard…” “I saw…” Describe that problem starting with “I”.
3. Feeling: “I feel…” Describe how the problem is making you feel.
4. Need: Explain what you need to feel better about the problem. “I really want to get to the bottom of
this. I am hoping we can figure it out together.”
5. Request: “Would you be willing to share your thoughts?” Invite a bigger conversation.

As you prepare for the face-to-face conversation using the above points, pay particular attention to the third
point- FEELING. At this point you need to really stop and think about how the behavior that you describe
in Point 2 made you feel. It can be disappointing, sad, hurt, left out. Saying, “I feel that when you” or “It is
not fair” is not describing what you’re feeling but immediately placing blame. Many people get tripped up
on this point, but it is crucial to the whole conversation.

4. Prepare for a Tricky Conversation Exercise

When preparing for a tricky conversation you need to have answered the following questions and
developed a script / have them thought out beforehand:
1. What are my fears and apprehensions about this conversation?
2. Why is this conversation important to me?
3. Why might this conversation be important to other people?
4. What are the key issues?
5. Assuming positive tenants- what is their intention behind their behaviors?
6. What is important in this dispute to me?
7. What might be important to the other person? Why do I think this?
8. What assumptions am I making?
9. What are some possible negatives coming out of the conversation?
10. How can I set the stage for success? Where and when will we meet?
11. How will I invite the other person to the conversation? Email, face-to-face, text or phone?

5. Conversation Key Points

1. Be descriptive and avoid ambiguous language. i.e “I saw you roll your eyes” rather than “You were
2. Ask clarifying questions. There is no shame in bringing a piece of paper with some examples of
great open-ended questions (that can’t be answered with yes or no) to have at your fingertips during
the conversation. Bringing notes shows that you care about making things right. Example of Open-Ended Questions “I really want to get to the bottom of this. Help me understand?” or “What does
that look like?” “What’s on your mind?” or “What does that mean to you?” “What am I missing?”
or “Tell me more.”
3. Show empathy. Empathy is being able to relate to another person by reflecting on a time when you
have had similar feelings.
4. Avoid shame or blame. Finger pointing would only promote negative feelings and inhibit problem

Acknowledgement: the above summary was taken from various websites found online and compiled for the
summary on dealing with conflict.

In conclusion, difficult conversations are never easy. Having frank discussions that feel confrontational can
be intimidating and emotionally taxing for anyone at any age, but fortunately, there are ways to improve
one’s ability to handle difficult conversations with others in the sport be it teammates, coaches, and/or
parents. It is a skill that many have learned outside of sport and one that all individuals should gain to help
them navigate life. Speak to your club’s SSO if you need any encouragement or advice as alternate dispute
resolution is always preferred before using the Complaints and Discipline Policy.

Extra resource for coaches and parents of youth:

How to Help Athletes Have Difficult Conversations