Tennis, anyone? Keep the communication ball in play

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April 18, 2018

Tennis, anyone? Keep the communication ball in play

Watch this rally between Djokovic & Nadal in the Australian Open Final in 2012.

Well, what an exciting rally! A thrilling display of keeping the ball in play! Which feelings arose for you? What did you note? And what has this got to do with the repair, growth and sustaining of your relationship?

I’m not a sports enthusiast and don’t even play tennis, but I am deeply moved by exchanges like this.

First of all, why the deep emotion? Then I’ll explain how this rally relates to building a sizzling relationship.

It is just plain exciting when both players/partners give everything they’ve got to the game. At no point do either of these pros say, “That shot is too low/fast/unexpected.”

Neither says, “Send me a better shot next time!”

Or whines, “My feet aren’t in the right place to get that shot!”

Or, “I’m too tired to send this one back.”

Neither turns away when it looks too hard. Each is paying 100% attention to what the other is doing, and to the ball, as well as managing their own response – and their own play. This is like good communication.

Keeping the communication ball in play with a better shot and a good rally.


The aim of tennis is to keep the ball in play; an exciting rally like this only happens when both players keep the ball in play. So, it takes both players to create a good rally. Think of the ball as communication. It takes both you and your partner to keep communication going well.

Keep the communication ball in play in relationships.

The ball is the substance of the relationship, which must be kept in play by both parties, with both giving something. What if one player was really slack, Nadal for instance, (no, I can’t imagine that, either) and just dribbled the ball? No rally. As a result, Djokovic would not be able to show his brilliance!

So, how do you keep the communication ball in play in your relationships? How do you pay attention to the other and to your own play? How do you keep the energy of the relationship in motion?

The following scenario will give you an everyday example.

relationship insights

Your partner sends you a text message:

“Thinking of a walk after work – want to join me?” You text back, “Remember, I’m going to the supermarket on the way home! You are dreaming!”

Automatically, resentment rises and you feel put upon. You can’t fit one more thing into your day! Guess what, you dropped the ball, and you missed the opportunity for a rally. Your partner really gets the “remember” jab too, and makes sure the ball stays dropped.

“Your call”, is the message you get back. Ouch.


a good rally

Your partner sends you a text message “Thinking of a walk after work – want to join me?”

You text back, “Wonderful! Can you pick up the shopping on the way?” You keep the ball in play.

But the message you get back is, “That’s your job, if you forgot!” Your partner has dropped the communication ball, and thrown in a dose of contempt so that you really feel flat and despondent and very uncooperative.

But the ball does not have to stay dropped. You can get it back into play.

After about 10 minutes you remember that your partner was having a particularly stressful day at work, and the response you just received is uncharacteristic, so you ignore the jab, and text: “I just remembered that today was a big one for you. Let’s walk first, and debrief. Good for me too.  Can we shop together afterwards?”

Grateful message back: “Sure”.

This is a good rally.  You have built relationship substance. You’ve made small repairs to everyday disappointments.

Consequently, trust is accumulating. You are even finding a way to interpret your partner’s response benevolently, and not with defensiveness, passive/aggressiveness or blame.

Another possible scenario:

Your partner sends you a text message: “Thinking of a walk after work – want to join me? Were you going to pick some stuff up at the supermarket?  Can you send me a list and I’ll do it before I meet you?”

Guess what, your partner has set up a serve that is very easy to return. The ball is likely to be kept in play. As a result, you feel very cared for, your energy lifts, your heart opens and you are glad to have someone so thoughtful in your life.

Your response is an enthusiastic, “Wow, yes, thanks!” A good rally is set up. Good foreplay too!

In conclusion, have another look at Djokovic & Nadal  in the Australian Open Final in 2012 and imagine how you can use the tennis metaphor to become a pro in your relationships.

See also Managing Conflict.

Copyright © Kaye Gersch 2017

1 Comment

  1. says:

    Love that, some lovely scenarios.

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