7 May 2022

The art of losing graciously

The art of losing graciously has been inculcated in us since our childhood. Throwing our toys around the room, tearfully rushing to our mother for comfort, or howling blue murder are all enjoyable manifestations of childhood defeat.  However, we are soon taught this behaviour is not acceptable, that our feelings of grief and outrage must be vigorously suppressed, and we must behave with dignity and ‘good grace’.

Even though adult defeats may still leave us with a quivering bottom lip and a feeling of murderous rage and vituperation towards our rivals, we must ‘lose graciously’. This may well be one of the greatest acting challenges that we encounter regularly in our adult lives, as it involves entirely concealing our real feelings under a smooth veneer of ‘good sportsmanship’, elegant self-deprecation and civilised appreciation of our opponent’s victory.

Here are the five steps to losing graciously:

1.  Acknowledge that you have been defeated – no ‘ifs’ no ‘buts’. This means saying at the outset that your opponent’s victory is undisputed, and possibly even admitting that it was completely decisive or outstandingly impressive. You must, above all, convey respect.

2. Enthusiastically congratulate the winner. That means fully enunciating the nature of the win and trying to convey warmth and admiration towards your bête noire, even though you may be feeling murderously resentful. A vigorous handshake, or even an embrace, will help to convey warmth and will stop you looking stand-offish and bitter.

3. Don’t play the blame game, which is the universal indicator of a sore loser. So don’t temper your acknowledgement of defeat with remarks about ‘special circumstances’ or ‘unique challenges’. Most important of all, never offer excuses for your defeat, blame anyone else, or even proffer the slightest hint of criticism. A very major part of losing graciously is taking it on the chin and acting like a responsible adult.

4.  Keep cool. Inside you may feel a volcanic geyser of emotion – rage, humiliation, resentment, fury. Your challenge is to present an absolutely calm, unruffled surface. Try to keep a warm smile on your face (cheesy rictus grins are to be avoided) and ensure that your body language is open and expansive – stand tall, with your shoulders back and your head held high. Stooping, looking at the floor, not engaging in eye contact (especially with interviewers or cameras) are all signs of dejection and defeat.

5.  Project optimism. It is certainly true that, in many cases, you will live to fight another day after a defeat, and some people will be energised and spurred on to do better. But even if you feel like you have hit a brick wall and will never be able to pick yourself up and start again, do not let anyone see how you feel. Maybe you can inject a bit of self-deprecating humour into your concession speech, and it will certainly do no harm to project the message that you’re more than ready to launch yourself back into the ring. You must never look crushed or despondent.

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