In an earlier article, I described some situations, related to athletics and physical exertion, when, I argued, it would be all right and even appropriate to cry. But that got me thinking about the other side of the coin, when it might not be all right and might even be inappropriate to do so. Displays of intense “negative” emotion can be disruptive to a group of athletes who have different priorities on their mind. And while there may be times when it is unavoidable, if you find yourself or a teammate watering about the eyeballs for any of the following reasons, consider checking your behavior or taking him/her aside and getting everyone to pull it together:
Crying to Get Attention
They say there’s no such thing as bad publicity. But if you are not really hurt, if you haven’t really been frightened, and if there’s nothing really wrong, keep your tears to yourself. We like to think that everyone we sweat and exert ourselves with is in it for the same reasons we are, in general and at any given moment. But some people might have different motivations, and our motivations might fluctuate depending on how we are feeling about ourselves. Particularly if we are feeling a little bad, there are worse things than having the attention of a bunch of hard-working, generally fit, likely charismatic people, even if the attention is being paid to your tantrum. But there are better ways to stop traffic and to gain attention of the positive variety. Even if you don’t get a banquet for it, rest assured that when you work hard and consistently, make sure you are being as coachable as possible, and bring a positive attitude, the right people are noticing.
Crying to Distract
I’m the queen of this one. Interestingly, sometimes when I cry, even though I’m theoretically crying about something that’s upsetting me, it turns out the actual act of crying can keep me from working toward a solution or a way forward. In other words, I focus on the crying and the negative feeling instead of moving past it to the learning parts. There’s something almost decadent about wallowing in a bad feeling or indulging in a pity party, if I’m completely honest. So snap out of it and deal with the issue at hand, even if you decide later to collapse in a funkified, teary heap behind closed doors. For now, here’s a Kleenex and a pat on the back. Take a deep breath, and deal with whatever’s ailing you, calmly and with an air of can-do-it-iveness.
Crying to Manipulate
This one is kind of an extension of the other two. This is when you use your tears to try to get someone to do something for you that they wouldn’t do otherwise, or that it’s probably actually your own responsibility to do. But since the people who are witnessing your breakdown are likely to be feeling bad for you, they might be more susceptible to the suggestion they should help you – or they might actually want to try to make it better. It could be anything – asking a teammate to run an errand, help you during his/her own workout time, etc. Regardless, if you are trying to milk the situation, dial it back and do it yourself instead.
Notice I have kept my comments gender-neutral. It may be more common for women to actually cry, but in my experience, the behaviors I mention above are equal opportunity. In other words, even if you don’t actually cry but you do try in disruptive ways to get attention, to distract, or to manipulate, the intentions themselves are still less than ideal – and are still common to all kinds of male and female humans. (Maybe even zombies, though further research is warranted.)
Try to police yourself as well as others, and be honest about your motivations, dry-eyed or otherwise. And then own your stuff. Your teammates and your coaches will thank you, and you’ll probably find yourself feeling better about things too.
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