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Be Gracious – Especially When Things Don’t Work Out as You Hoped


It’s a week after the election and Mitt Romney continues to put his foot in his mouth.

In a call with big donors to his campaign the other day he said, “The president’s campaign, if you will, focused on giving targeted groups a big gift. He made a big effort on small things.”

As soon as this comment was made public, the reaction was overwhelmingly negative.  The media jumped all over it, NBC News said that Mr. Romney was a sore loser.  Fox News reported that Bobby Jindal, conservative Governor of Louisiana reported that Mr. Romney’s statement was “absolutely wrong.”  Twitter comments made fun of Mr. Romney.

All of this brings up an important point about life and career success – BE GRACIOUS.

It’s hard to be gracious when you suffer a huge disappointment.

Mr. Romney really believed he was going to be elected president.  One of his aides described him as being “shell shocked” by the election results.  This is understandable.  He’s spent the last six years running for president.  He worked hard.  In another post, I commented positively on his “leaving it all on the field” statement in his concession speech.

But now, Mr. Romney is being seen as a sore loser and ungracious – not a good brand or legacy.

Here’s another story about a losing presidential candidate.  There is a passage in The President’s Club that is a diary entry George H W Bush made the night he lost the presidency to Bill Clinton.  I think it demonstrates remarkable strength of character.

“Now to bed, prepared to face tomorrow.  Be strong, be kind, be generous of spirit, be understanding and let people know how grateful you are.  Don’t get even.  Comfort the ones I’ve hurt and let down.  Say your prayers and ask for God’s understanding and strength.  Finish with a smile and some gusto.  Do what’s right and finish strong.”

Losing a presidential election has to be tough – especially when you’re the incumbent.  But the passage in President Bush the elder’s diary demonstrates just how gracious he is.

Being civil and gracious is not always easy.  Here’s a personal story – and one of which I’m ashamed…

Way back in 1978, I was one of two finalists for a job.  I had the right experience. I wanted the job.  I interviewed well.  I was sure I was going to get the job.  I didn’t.  They hired the other person.

As luck would have it, I bumped into her a couple days after she received the offer.  She smiled, held out her hand, and said something like, “Sorry you didn’t win this one.”  She was being very gracious, not gloating.

I, on the other hand, was not so gracious.  I snapped back something like, “They obviously made the wrong decision.  We both know I’m the better candidate.”

The smile disappeared from her face.  She turned on her heel and stomped away.  I never saw her again.  So Virginia if you’re reading this please accept my apology, 40 some years too late.

I was wrong to be a sore loser.  But at least my little outburst occurred in private.  Mitt Romney’s was public and went viral.  It did nothing to help his image.

Here’s another personal example.  This one shows that I do learn from my mistakes.

A while back I sent an email to a group of people who are career coaches asking if they would like to join me as a joint venture partner.  Several said “yes.”  But I received a response from one person that was an email with a subject line that said REMOVE.  There was no body in the text.  I sent this person a very nice email in which I apologized for bothering her, assured her that I would not contact her again and attached one of my eBooks as a sign of good will.  I received a rather condescending response to the second email – offering me coaching on email etiquette.

I figured out that this person had a strong need to have the last word in this correspondence so I chose to terminate the conversation – and let her have the last word.  By letting her have the last word, I was following the career advice in Tweet 136 in my book Success Tweets: 140 Bits of Common Sense Career Advice, All in 140 Characters or Less.  “Choose to act in a civil, gracious and constructive manner in tense situations.”

Looking back it still seems to me that if there was an aggrieved party in this situation it was me not her.  But in the long run it doesn’t matter.  I took responsibility for not extending a conflict situation that was of little or no importance by letting her have the last word.  I was gracious.

The life and career success point here is simple.  Be gracious, especially when it’s tough to do so.  Don’t get branded as a sore loser.  Remember George H W Bush’s thoughts on the night he lost his reelection bid to Bill Clinton.  “Be strong, be kind, be generous of spirit, be understanding and let people know how grateful you are.  Don’t get even.”

 

Bud Bilanich, Ed.D., is a contributing blogger for JenningsWire.

 


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