Toxicity in League is nothing new, and the fact that it has been so prevalent for so long merits attention. Today I’d like to examine what you can do to counteract toxicity on your team beyond using the mute button. As I do, keep in mind that the hyper-condensed communication typical of league matches often leads to misinterpretation- others will think you are being more hostile than you are, and vice versa. It’s on you take to the extra step in clarifying what you mean, as well as be optimistic about their intentions. When in doubt, add an emoticon.
Being an active, positive force for good on your team is the best way to fight toxicity. The more “gj”s there are, the more relaxing the environment is, and people being less tense means more gaming and less flaming. Similarly, when you recognize you made a mistake, throw in a “mb.” If you correct yourself, others will be less likely to, and the few that do you can just politely remind that you already know you messed up. When your team does make mistakes, don’t bring it up unless they’ve done it several times and just aren’t catching what it is they’re doing wrong (and remember, be deliberately nice about it). If they say something about their mistake, give them a “np,” so that they know they don’t need to think about defending themselves from your judgement, and can focus on their next step instead.
You don’t like to be called out on your mistakes, and neither do they- it’s like being kicked when you’re already down- and “being right” is probably the biggest fight starter there is. Yes, Nocturne shouldn’t have 1v3’d, but a stranger (who is often pre-conceived to be an angry kid… or one of a variety of other uncomplimentary stereotypes) telling him that when he’s already staring at a grey screen isn’t going to help him move on, it’s going to keep him arguing about it. Be forgiving, be understanding, and you will avoid unnecessary conflict that sours the experience and costs wins.
Being passive-aggressive (saying something that is technically passive, but means something aggressive, e.g. “we lost Baron and 4 kills but at least Lee got wraiths”) is even worse than calling someone out. They know what you mean, and the fact that you acted like they wouldn’t insults their intelligence. If you want to spend a game typing, passive-aggressive comments are probably your best ticket. So what can you do to help others with their mistakes and vent frustration?
Let’s be real, sometimes you’re going to get frustrated, and holding it inside is only going to delay frustration, and it will likely be bigger and badder when it comes out. When you get frustrated, DO something to release that energy, have some action that you take, such as repeating a phrase to yourself, taking deep breaths, etc. If you need to, take a second away from the game to use a stress ball or some other physical action that takes away some of that energy. While you’re doing this, remind yourself that some things are out of your control, but the gains and losses more or less even out in the end, even when it doesn’t feel like it. What you can control is your own play, and if you take the time to review your own mistakes when a frustrating game is winding down, it is guaranteed to be more productive (and make everyone including you happier) than if you discuss others’ failings.
Don’t hesitate to take time between games to actively de-tox yourself, listen to calming music, find something funny to enjoy for a few minutes, get some food, use a stress ball, watch a stream, whatever it is you need to not let the toxicity from one game snowball into the next. If you don’t, you’ll just keep spreading the infection into more and more of your games.
Win or lose, your entire team shares the same fate. It doesn’t matter who outplayed who, it doesn’t matter who’s fault it is, it doesn’t matter why anyone did what they did, you share equally in the fate of everyone else on your team. However, sometimes we forget this, and separate people into groups with our speech, for example “How to carry this team?!?” where you’re separating yourself from your team. Or maybe “this Akali too heavy” where you’re creating a 4/1 split the other way. Both comments divide the team into groups, which only destroys teamwork efforts. You can’t ask someone to work as a part of the team’s plan when you’re socially marking them as an outsider. It doesn’t matter if you’re factually right, saying it makes you wrong because it prevents cooperation and creates a negative atmosphere, which makes you more likely to lose and guarantees more misery for everyone.
Instead of saying “Caitlyn keeps getting caught out,” say “WE need to get caught out less.” Instead of saying “Ahri stop starting fights you don’t do it right,” say “WE need to stop having Ahri start the fights.” You may not be the one getting caught out, or the Ahri in these scenarios, but including yourself (and everyone else) as part of the group makes you sound less like a bossy know-it-all that people will argue with or ignore, and more like a team captain that they will listen to. It doesn’t try to assign blame, shame someone for a mistake, or divide the team – in fact it does the exact opposite by removing the spotlight from an individual, and uniting everyone around an idea/plan.
But it’s not enough to identify the problem, such as getting caught out or setting up fights properly. Diffusing responsibility is good, but when you condemn one course of action, you need to present a new plan in it’s place. People don’t get caught out because it’s fun, they get caught because they’re trying to control vision, make their own picks, get farm, etc. If you’re going to ask people to get caught out less, you need to give them a suggestion for what to do instead, such as grouping for an objective. So instead of just saying “we need to get caught out less,” and “we need to stop having Ahri start the fights,” say “they’re better at making picks than we are, group and push mid,” and “we need to wait for a hook to land before committing.” As you can see, one tells people something they often already know, which aggravates, and one presents a solution that gives the team a common goal. One focuses on problems and perpetuates negativity, and one focuses on solutions, which gives hope.
The place where a lot of people go wrong here is when multiple calls come out they stick obstinately to theirs, tearing the team apart in the process. Maybe to avoid getting stragglers caught one person calls for a mid push, while another calls for Baron, what should be done? Unless you’re confident the call someone else made will lead to disaster, going along with it will prevent unnecessary inner conflict. It’s not enough to follow the directives of these suggestions, you have to embrace an attitude of cooperation, which sometimes means doing things a way you don’t like.
Its easy to let bad experiences with other summoners make you cynical, causing you to have poor expectations and give up on your team quickly, but fighting against this tendency by recognizing good, moving past bad, venting frustration appropriately, and focusing on solutions over problems will lead to a better experience for everyone, along with more wins for you. To do this, you really must forgive those who do you wrong. It’s not enough to ignore someone, you need to follow up on their initiations, peel for them, etc. exactly as you would for a teammate you like. It’s not easy, and it’s not 100% successful, but it is worth.
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