Pickleball Problems – 5 Productive Ways to Manage a Conflict or Difficult Person in Pickleball

Written by Adam (HV)

January 13, 2022

pickleball problems

Pickleball has exploded in the last few years and as the fastest growing sport in the United States, it will continue to grow. 

Because the sport is growing, any time you join a pickup game of pickleball, there is a good chance you will meet someone new you would have never met otherwise. The social interaction, the community, and the relationships can be one of the most rewarding byproducts of the sport.

Pickleball Problems

However, in any community, group, or family, you are guaranteed to encounter a conflict, a difficult moment, or even a difficult person. If this is your current experience, don’t worry, you’re not alone.

If you scroll any pickleball forum or visit a pickleball club anywhere in the United States, you will find this happening every single day

Any time you combine a group of humans, you will get conflict, complexity, and difficult moments. However, how we manage these moments is of importance and it will affect the future of the sport.

Thankfully, it doesn’t always have to be complex or difficult, and there are productive ways to move forward based on research and a tool called the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI). 

2 Critical Questions

Before you decide on a correct path, you first must answer two critical questions:

  1. How important is the issue? 
  2. How important is the relationship?

By answering those questions, you will draw about 5 conclusions to your situation. 

1. If the issue is not important and the relationship is not important, then practice avoidance.

why pickleball is the fastest growing sport in the united states

Avoidance is a skill and you need to know how to use it. The quicker you can apply this skill to your life, the better off you will be. 

Here are some characteristics of avoidance:

  • It’s neither assertive nor cooperative. 
  • You do not pursue your own concerns or those of the other person. 
  • You do not address the conflict. 
  • You diplomatically sidestep an issue, postpone an issue until a better time, or simply withdraw.

If the issue isn’t important and the relationship isn’t important, why respond? 

2. If the relationship is more important than the issue, you must accommodate.

why pickleball is the fastest growing sport in the united states

There are things we all must accommodate in life. For example, my spouse loves cooking shows and I love my spouse, but don’t care what we watch. Therefore, I accommodate.

Here are a few characteristics of accommodation:

  • Accommodating is unassertive and cooperative.
  • When accommodating, an individual neglects his or her own concerns to satisfy the concerns of the other person. 
  • There is an element of self-sacrifice 
  • Accommodating might take the form of selfless generosity or charity, obeying another person’s order when you would prefer not to.

When we accommodate, we yield to another person’s point of view.

For example, if your partner overrides a call you made on the court because they had a better point of view, it’s better to accommodate.

3. If the issue is highly important and the relationship is not, you must compete.

why pickleball is the fastest growing sport in the united states

Competing is assertive and uncooperative, this means you take the person head on.

When competing, you pursue your own concerns at the other person’s expense, using whatever power seems appropriate to win. Competing might mean standing up for your rights, defending a position you believe is correct, or simply trying to win.

4. If the issue and the relationship are of equal importance, it’s best to compromise.

why pickleball is the fastest growing sport in the united states

When we compromise, the goal is to find a mutually acceptable solution that partially satisfies you and the other person.

Compromising falls on a middle ground between competing and accommodating, giving up more than competing but less than accommodating. 

It might mean splitting the difference, exchanging concessions, or seeking a quick middle-ground position.

Compromising also addresses an issue more directly than avoiding but doesn’t explore it in as much depth as collaborating. 

If you’re seeking a compromise, consider having the conversation in a new, neutral environment like a coffee shop. This can be helpful.

A few things to note, though: 

  • If the person is not ethically or emotionally attached, a compromise is easier.
  • If the person feels strongly about the issue, it will be harder to compromise.

5. When the issue is really important and the relationship is really important, you must collaborate.

why pickleball is the fastest growing sport in the united states

When we collaborate, we work with the other person to find a solution that fully satisfies the concerns of everyone. It involves digging into an issue to identify the underlying concerns and to find an alternative that fully meets both sets of concerns. 

A few characteristics of collaboration are:

  • Exploring a disagreement to learn from each other’s insights
  • Resolving some condition that would otherwise have them competing for resources
  • Confronting and trying to find a creative solution to an interpersonal problem

Collaboration is probably the most popular, but it’s the hardest to do because you must pull people together, have a direct conversation, and involve a community.

A few things to note about collaboration:

  • It’s very time consuming. You have to make decisions and it takes time.
  • People can hijack the process and slow down progress if they don’t agree.
  • You CAN’T collaborate on a timeline. If you try to, it will force people into the other quadrants. 

It’s Not What You Do, But How You Do It

If you’re going to confront someone in your pickleball community there are a few things to remember:

  • Misunderstandings happen and not everyone is out to get you
  • We’re all human and we all make mistakes, but that means we can grow and change
  • You catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Begin with a kind gesture and that may be all you need to do to get someone to see your side
  • If you’re going to have a direct conversation, it’s best to pick a neutral environment, instead of the pickleball court. Meet at a coffee shop and offer to buy him or her coffee. 

What do you think?

What conflicts or difficulties are you experiencing in your pickleball community?

Does this tool help?

Let me know in the comments.


path to better pickleball

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