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How to be Gracious in Defeat

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The conclusion of the Australian Open is upon us once again. The champions of the game have been crowned and awarded with their just rewards.

However, there is one touching story permeating much of the coverage of the event: Serena Williams’ gracious response to her surprise defeat by Angelique Kerber in the Women’s Final.

In the face of previous such defeats, Williams had often been less than gracious. Tantrums, belligerent comments and buck passing have all been a feature of her past defeats. However, at the close of the match the mature Williams embraced her rival warmly and displayed what could only be described as genuine pleasure on behalf of the victor.

A veteran in the sporting world, Williams has demonstrated the virtues of a true champion, including perhaps the most important one: being gracious in defeat.

Although most of us won’t ever experience the extreme highs and lows of competitive sport wins and losses, however there are some parallels to be taken away from such occurrences.

Particularly in a sales opportunity, it is inevitable that sometimes, even if you have ticked all the boxes and prepared everything correctly, you will still lose. Whether this loss comes in the form of a sale lost to a competitor or to a colleague, just as you need to be humble in your victory, you also need to be gracious in the face of defeat.

There are a few things you can remember and skills you can employ to get you through what can potentially be a trying experience.

Be grateful for the opportunity to participate         

Any great sportsperson will remember this truism with every victory and each defeat. Even if you did lose in the end, you must be grateful for the opportunity to compete. Each loss you experience will teach you something about yourself and something about the game you are in.

Acknowledge the winner

Being gracious means standing up at the end of the contest and looking your competition in the face, professionally and with purpose. This may be the most difficult test of all, especially if you feel the game was not played fairly.

In those moments it’s time to swallow your pride and show what you are made of. Disappearing, saying nothing at all, ignoring or obfuscating the issue will likely have the opposite effect to your intentions. People will notice your negative and upset attitude and will remember it in times to come when a team effort is required for the big win.

Handle the loss well by addressing it head on, thank all those around you who got you to the point of being a true competitor and maintain your professionalism.

Evaluate your own performance

Be prepared to ask yourself some difficult questions regarding your own approach to the opportunity. Did you do all you could to prepare? What could you have done better? Are you proud of the way you have competed and the way you have handled the loss?

Just as you want to know the winning formula for when you are victorious, it is equally as important to ascertain what didn’t work this time around. Give yourself the opportunity to be better the next time by being honest with yourself at this point.

Get back in the game as soon as possible

You may be the runner up this time, but there is no reason that you will be when the next opportunity comes by. After eating your fair share of humble pie in the face of defeat, make sure you begin preparing for the next round and the next challenge. It will also remind those around you that you are a true competitor and are not going anywhere anytime soon.

Foster your cheer squad

Your positive attitude and quick turnaround will have additional benefits for your working relationships with those around you. By being magnanimous in defeat you will be surprised by how much people are rooting for you to win. Continue to make sales calls up and down within your organisation and ensure you maintain and improve your relationships in every sector relevant to your success.

Your continued efforts and sourced people power will ensure you recover quickly from a battering and that you have the support to go into your next match stronger and more confident than before.

In her defeat Williams demonstrated how to be a true player of the game. An extremely eloquent participant, Williams signed off her interviews with a heartening statement, ‘I was actually really happy for her…If I couldn’t win, I’m happy she did.’