Kati Tillema here. If you are a sports fan, and specifically follow NBA basketball, you probably have heard of an incident that escalated among the New York Knicks owner, a former player, and event security. There are two sides (or more) to every story and it is impossible to ever know exactly what transpired. However, I was reading an article about the situation and one thing did stand out to me: the former player, Charles Oakley, was quoted as having responded to the security guards informing him that he had to leave with the question “why?”

If you have been through a Verbal Defense & Influence class, you know that there was probably a missed opportunity by the security guards who escorted Mr. Oakley out of the stands. They may have been able to prevent the situation from escalating by approaching him with a Universal Greeting and immediately making the reason for their contact transparent. One of the Five Maxims for treating people with dignity by showing respect is to explain why – set context.

Maybe Mr. Oakley already knew the answer to the question. But at least he would have heard it, which may have reduced his sense of disrespect and could have prevented him from escalating quickly. Everyone wants to know why they are being asked (or told) to do something, so if you anticipate the question and address it immediately during an initial interaction, you can greatly increase the likelihood of a positive outcome; or in this case, avoid getting your picture on ESPN for something other than your athletic abilities.

If you read the full reports, the “why” question is just one of the many missed opportunites by everyone involved to non-escalate and de-escalate what happened. Read the full article here.