What Richard Sherman Can Remind Us About Communication
By: Scott Murray at 12:00 AM
The Seattle Seahawks are going to their second Super Bowl in franchise history.  They’ve done it with a loud fanbase, a phenom quarterback, a punishing running back and a stout defense loaded with passionate, hard-hitting players.  However, due to a few words from cornerback Richard Sherman in a postgame interview, all of the focus is on him and not the accomplishments of his team.

There’s been plenty of reaction to the intense way that Sherman called out and mocked San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree at the end of the game.  Since then, Sherman has gone onto explain his actions and after talking with head coach Pete Carroll, he’s gone on to apologize for causing a distraction from the team’s accomplishment.

Now, I’m not going to get into all of the opinions and analysis of what he said and why he said it.  At the end of the day, I understand some of the arguments on both sides – those who defend him and those who scold him for this.  I’m also not really in a position to discuss what it’s like to make a game-clinching play in a championship game against a hated rival and then have a mic shoved in my face.  I’d rather focus on what we can all take from this.

Sherman is no dummy.  He’s a guy who’s worked very hard to get to where he is and his accomplishments speak for themselves.  It’s also important to point out that among those accolades is a communications degree from Stanford University.  Some of what he knew about communication didn’t have time to remind him of a few things with his adrenaline and emotions running high. 

One of those reminders is:

Never lose sight of who you’re talking to (or your audience).

After his intense post-game interview, Sherman took the time to write about it for Sports Illustrated.  This was probably written with less adrenaline and a cooler head.  So much so, you could argue that if S.I. is willing to publish him, he could’ve said all he needed to say online and it might have lead to a lot less ridicule.

Instead, he said it to a live TV audience in an loud tone that even seemed to throw interviewer Erin Andrews off a bit.  Saying things the way he did, right then and right there, created an understandable stir among fans, viewers and commentators.  It looked unprofessional, unsportsmanlike and wreckless.  As a result, people are still talking about it two days after the fact.  Again, losing sight of when and where you say something has consequences.

Sherman knows this.  Now others can remember it.

Think about it.  There’s probably been a time or two when you’ve had an argument with your spouse and you chose to let your heat-of-the-moment emotions cause you to impulsively say some sharp words.  And, you’ve probably dealt with the consequences.  Whereas, if your communication skills training kicks-in beforehand and you remember who you’re talking to…you might re-route what you say.

Who knows…there might be times where you wanted to say something pointed to your boss…but you chose to hold back.  Why?  The potential consequences…like getting fired.

Now Sherman didn’t shout at a family member or his coach.  However, he did unleash this anti-Crabtree fury in an environment where he was not just representing himself…but also his organization.  He won’t get fired for something like that, but in other industries, making this mistake could cost you a job and an organization could take a serious reputation hit.  The fact is that there is often risk in how and when you choose to say something.

So, that’s really what all of the debate and discussion is about (amongst those who are being civil about it).   Nobody faults Sherman for his intensity.  That’s a big part of what makes him the player he is.  Fans want that in a pro athlete. 

It’s about when you say something, how you say it and who you say it to.  It’s about not allowing emotions to get in the way of our common sense.  There’s no doubt that sometimes that’s easier said than done and when we misstep, we learn from it. 

I’m sure Sherman will remember the fiasco his comments caused and it may allow him to have some better control the next time a mic is in his face after he makes a big play.  When that happens, the only responses will be cheers from teammates, frustration from opponents and postgame reactions from fans that he’s come to expect.

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