“Selectively” Ignored: How to deal with negative players!

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If there is ever a moment I wish I opted to be a competitive Starcraft player, instead of a team-based eSport athlete, it is when I'm dealing with a "tilted" teammate in solo queue.  So I've decided to figure out a way to deal with it so I can get passed the tilt, and get my focus back on the game.

When playing team based eSports, you can get thrown into some pretty emotionally charged conversations with teammates or opponents.  Unfortunately, these negative interactions can cost you games, even when you are not the target or instigator of the original problem  For example: 

  • Trolling, Blaming and Raging galore. Sometimes, you might get caught in the trap of harmfully engaging with unruly teammates or irritating opponents and end up extremely frustrated or otherwise demoralized.

  • Failure to "un-tilt". Other times, as well-intentioned as you are, you attempt to bring your teammate out of their funk, but just end up making the situation worse.

So how can you keep playing at your best, even when one or more of your teammates have completely lost focus and are playing emotionally?   Better yet, how can you get your teammates to refocus and play their best?

In the rest of this article, I'm going to explain to you how to deal with negativity in games both from tilted teammates and hostile opponents.  The simplest solution is to learn how to "selectively ignore" the people that are causing the issue and to focus on the right information in the team chat.  The more difficult, yet beneficial alternative is to learn to refocus your tilted teammate on what they need to win the game.  To do either of these, there is one essential skill that you must master:  Fact Filtering. So, let's start there.

Running negativity through the Fact Filter

Most people will tell you that the best way to deal with a negative player is to mute them immediately.  There are even some people that will tell you to just mute everyone in the match as soon as you get in.  While this approach might be the easiest

When it comes to the enemy, there is almost never anything to be gained by participating in a dialogue with them, so my advice would be to turn off all chat entirely.  If you can’t or won’t do this for some reason, then you will have to focus on regulating how their negativity affects you personally.  I’ll go in to more detail on how to do that a little later on, but generally, your best bet is to select “ignore” for the enemy, both mentally and literally.

With team chat, some recommend muting people that you aren't communicating well with, but I like to leave this as an absolute last resort.  The reason for this is that it is important to strategize based on as much information as possible in a game.  If you mute a player, you are cutting off an avenue for receiving information that is necessary to win the game.  So if you choose to mute your teammate, be sure you cannot salvage that source of information first. Even the fact that your teammate is acting in an emotional or erratic manner is information you can use.  

I recently had a teammate that had given up, and would not stop making aggressive plays. Once I convinced my team to account for them repeatedly diving into the enemy, the problem teammate engaged team fights in such a distracting way for the enemy that we won the game. So in the end, even though they were playing emotionally and in a way that I found sub-optimal, I was still able to make use of it.

Filtering Communication versus Blocking Communication



When a teammate is speaking and behaving in a negative manner, it can be tempting not to cooperate with them any longer.  You might think, "Well, if they are going to act like that then they don't deserve my help or cooperation."  But, if you seek to punish players that do not play or behave in a way you like by withholding your help or cooperation, the only person you truly punish is yourself. So, fight that urge, and remember why you are bothering to communicate with them in the first place.

The whole point of communicating with your teammates at all, instead of just doing your own thing, is that you can achieve better game results when you know what’s going on with the people on your team and vice versa.  This is the essence of TEAMWORK.  

You don’t have to agree with what they are saying.  You don’t even have to like it.  Just knowing their state of mind and what they want out of the situation will leave you better off.  All you have to do is filter out the negativity in the game to get the facts you need to make effective strategic decisions.

So when you are trying to deal with a teammate that is in a negative mindset, remember to do three things:  

Get the facts, Check the facts, and Give (you guessed it) THE FACTS!

A Negative Opponent



A Negative Teammate


Get the Facts.  

Instead of ignoring them immediately, try to notice what kind of language they are using that makes you feel like they are being negative.  Often your teammates will mask useful facts with a negative statement.  For instance, if they say "Ugh, GG!  My lane opponent is fed," then you can take something useful from that.  You know that one of the enemy players currently has a power advantage, and now you can plan accordingly.  The key is to remove the opinions and judgments from your teammate’s speech and extract the facts.  

Check the Facts.  

Another example is when your teammates rage at you for something you did.  Remember your main aim is to find out what you do well, and what you can improve every single game.  So when someone is blaming you for something, check the facts!  Sometimes they have good reason to be upset, but they blow it out of proportion.  Quickly review the facts of the situation they are upset about.  If their assessment has some merit and you made an error, figure out what you can do better next time and move on.  Take any criticism—however extreme—as an opportunity to reflect on your own performance, and possibly a chance to improve.  

I was recently in a game where my team lost a team fight because I mistimed one of my abilities.  As a result, one of my teammates had a couple of choice words for me.  However, after reflecting on the essence of what they were saying to me, I did pick up on how I could execute the play better.  A similar team fight broke out later in that game, where I was able to correctly time and execute my abilities.  This allowed us to then take key objectives and eventually win the game.

NOTE:  Sometimes, you may not be able to figure out what went wrong right away.  In that case, review the replay of the game when it is done to see what you can learn.  I like to use Plays.tv to record my games because I can easily bookmark these moments with a quick button press.

Give the Facts.  

Other times, a teammate may be looking for someone to blame because they are so emotional that they are no longer having rational reactions to the things happening in the game.  This emotional imbalance is what people commonly refer to as "tilt."  The most efficient way to deal with this is to give that teammate only facts to work with:  Game Timers, enemy positions, etc.  

More often than not, intense reactions happen because the individual disagrees with your interpretation of the facts at hand, rather than the facts themselves.  So, just supply them with the right information in the simplest and clear form possible, and allow them to draw their own conclusions.

How do I "Selectively Ignore" people?

The key to "selectively ignoring" people is to find the sweet spot where you can maximize the amount of productive information they can give you while minimizing the associated aggravation your receive with it.  You should try to filter out any thoughts, feelings, or opinions, leaving nothing but facts.

If you think about it, you probably should be selectively ignoring other players in most of your games, even if they aren’t being negative.  After all, if you are serious about playing competitively, the goal at the end of the day isn't to get along with everyone or to analyze every word they speak.  It isn't even (directly) to win the game.  The REAL GOAL is to leave each game knowing what you did well, and where you can improve for the next match.  As long as you do that, you will keep growing your skills, and as a side effect will win more games overall.  In most cases, engaging in any dialogue will only serve as a distraction.

But how can I get them to stop being negative?

Realistically, it’s impossible to control what you receive from chat in a given match.  Because of this, it is important to minimize the amount of aggravation you experience by lessening your emotional vulnerability.  

To explain a bit further, everyone has a tipping point where they just can’t keep focused on the game anymore due to heightened emotion.  This loss of concentration can be caused by a series of misplays, a heckling opponent, or even a rude teammate.  On some days it's easier to push you past the tipping point than others.  Your emotional vulnerability is how easily you are pushed past the point where you can no longer perform well.

To help keep you on track in over several games, it is important to build up an emotional buffer by using techniques that boost your mood.  This will allow you to make it through most games completely unscathed, and to get through the especially tough ones without too much distress.

So, by approaching chat solely as a source of strategic information and filtering out anything else, you will better serve your own performance and attitude in the long run.




How to Refocus a tilted teammate.

As stated above, when you have a teammate that is on tilt, the best course of action is to redirect their attention to the facts relevant to the game.  People are much less emotionally reactive to simple facts than the way we typically speak.  

We naturally speak so that we elicit an emotional response in the person we are talking to because our emotions are what drives our behavior.  In essence, if we want a teammate to do something, we attempt to make them feel like doing what we want.  This speech pattern is called innate communication and includes both our choice of words, and even our selection of emoticons.

So if someone wants to give up, and wants their team to give up as well, they will say something to elicit sadness or shame.  Sadness and shame are emotions that make people want to withdraw or give up.  So when a teammate blames others or says something extremely negative, it’s likely their innate communication kicking in.  People do this all the time, without ever thinking about it.  When we are deep in an emotional state, all of our communication and behavior is colored by what we are feeling.  So the next time you see it happening, recognize it is their emotions talking and be proactive. 

The best way to effectively communicate with someone in that state of mind is to offer nothing for them to react to.  Stick to describing what's going on in the game as nothing but who, what, when, and where, and expressing what you want from them in as neutral terms as possible.  Whether the facts are—in your opinion—“good” or “bad” in their effect on the game is irrelevant in this case.  Leave your opinion out.

You should make an effort to filter your own speech to your teammates the same way I’ve suggested filtering theirs.  I talk about this a bit in my article on the Comeback Mindset in the "Separate your interpretations and opinions from the facts" section.  So feel free to check that out for some more tips and practice strategies.

So now that you have a good handle on what you can do to deal directly with negative players let's look at how you can deal with things on your end, and lessen the effect their behavior has on you.

Continue to:

Drowning out the Debbie Downer: Maintaining Mental Toughness with negative teammates.

Have any questions or comments?  Leave them below, or shoot me a message at summer@mindovergamer.com.