Communication Isn’t Just an Interpersonal Skill; It’s a Societal Issue

As a society, we try to redefine assertive communication so that communication is more equitable and diverse populations are less marginalized and more respected. 


In 2018, Serena Williams vehemently challenged a call of the umpire at the U.S. Open. The supposed infraction was getting “coached” from the sidelines (which historically gets called more often on women than men). Williams argued with the umpire, was penalized a game, and lost the match.


The sports world watched this challenge unfold. There were many opinions on the matter, but the one I’d like to cite comes from Adam Grant. A professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and New York Times Best Selling Author. Grant stated: 


“When a man argues with an umpire, it’s passion. When a woman does it, it’s a meltdown. When a black woman does it, it’s a penalty. It’s been a robust finding in psychology experiments for years: male anger is a status symbol, white female anger is emotional, and black female anger is out of control. It’s embarrassing and unacceptable to see this bias in the U.S. Open final.” 

I admire Grant for this because he had the confidence to take a bold stance in defense of fairness and equality. I believe Grant’s words will fall on the right side of history, but I also believe that there is still much work to be done. 


For further learning, is a really great article on the subject:

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