Tone makes all the difference

Sometimes life lessons show up in the most interesting places.

Each summer for the past five years, a group of friends and I have attended a Kansas City Royals game together. It’s become a tradition, and last week we went to our annual game at Kauffman Stadium.

I won’t get into the specifics of the game. Suffice it to say, the struggling Royals came up on the short end of a 2-1 loss that put Kansas City under .500 for the first time this season.

But I digress.

In my baseball travels, I’ve decided to collect a baseball cap and a commemorative cup from each ballpark I visit. Last week, I realized I didn’t have a Royals cup, despite having visited The K multiple times.

Upon perusing concessions at the stadium, I was excited to see that the advertised cup sported the 2015 and 1985 World Series trophies with the words “Forever Royal” written in between. It was the perfect cup to add to my growing collection.

After paying an exorbitant amount for my Pepsi, however, I noticed the cup I received was different from the one in the display. It wasn’t the one I expected.

I had seen multiple people that afternoon with World Series trophy cups and decided to ask the woman behind the counter about the discrepancy between what was advertised and what I received.

Perhaps it’s worth noting here that I typically avoid direct conflict, sometimes using indirect tactics to manipulate situations. I’m not proud of that. So this was out of my comfort zone.

When I asked about it, the woman told me this particular concession stand had sold out of the cups I wanted. What luck. I really didn’t want to shell out the money for a drink in a cup I didn’t want. I calmly asked for a refund to buy a different cup elsewhere.

Instead, she asked if I would like the cup in the display. When I agreed, she took it out, did a quick rinse and poured my drink into my new cup. I thanked her for her generous offer.

A friend was watching this situation unfold, and at that point in the conversation, she jumped in and expressed affirmation for the sweet lady who helped me. My friend was so kind and full of grace, saying we understood that this lady was simply doing her job, and we appreciated her effort to please her customers. What an inspiration.

I learned a few things from that simple interaction. First, it’s OK to ask for what you want and not shy away from conflict. That’s certainly better than trying to manipulate things indirectly. However, the manner in which conflict is approached makes all the difference.

What’s important is to start the conversation without wielding a hammer, becoming angry or demanding rights. Instead, set the tone with an affirming comment.

Most people are not seeking to hurt us directly. Let’s be careful not to assume the worst of others. It’s also possible the problem is completely out of the other person’s hands. We need to extend grace.

We should not shy away from talking about things that are upsetting or challenging. Start a conversation. Voice desires. But do it in a way that recognizes the other person’s value as a human being.

That allows for good, honest conversation to take place.

Who knew going to a baseball game would teach me that?

Janae Rempel is the Free Press sport editor. You can reach her at janae@hillsborofreepress.com.