How to Talk to a Loser

"Going back to the last All-Star game, I don't want that moment to define me, but the truth is I’m scared of it."  

-Lisa Pitcaithley

Failure is kind of like tequila. It can give you a hangover you swear is never going to end.  Despite your best intentions, all the water you drink, greasy foods you eat and ibuprofen you pop, it hurts like hell.

The morning after the All-Stars vs. Brute Squad game was particularly rough for the All-Star women. After two and a half weeks playing some of the top women in ultimate, their incredible journey was over, and with the final game a loss, I can only imagine the gut-churning "hangover" those women felt.  

My sincere respect and appreciation goes out to all of the All-Stars, and to losers from all over the world who have laid their hearts on whatever field they play on, whether in the name of a sport, career, or personal ambition.  

You rock.

Now to the rest of you: the family and friends, colleagues, roommates, partners, boyfriends, girlfriends, acquaintances, random-passersby, what is your role here? How are you supposed to react when tears flow, frustration flares up, or general dissatisfaction emanates from your loser friends?

 

How do you talk to a loser? Here are some ideas for supporters of losers of all kinds:

 

1) Listen.

They may be the first to bring up the loss/failure, they may keep it to themselves.  Either way, express your condolences and offer to listen if they want to chat it out.  Keeping in pent up emotions can lead to blowups or un-assessed self-devaluation.  Giving your loser the space to open up about it will go a long way, whether or not they take advantage of it.

2) Compliment, acknowledge, compliment.

Give positive feedback. Talk about what they did well, the pieces of their project or game you were impressed with. Be specific, be generous, be sincere. ONLY AFTER THIS should you acknowledge flaws or mistakes.  Frame them positively and don’t accuse or belittle them. This gives your friend space to talk about what they think they did poorly.  Follow it up with thoughtful responses of what you thought went well in those situations despite the mistakes.

3) Forgive a little at first, but don’t let things get out of hand.

Understand that your loser has some negative feelings bouncing around in their cranium right now.  Don’t expect them to be over it the next day.  Try not to get too mad if that manifests itself in some misplaced reactions or feelings. That being said, if this lasts longer than a week (or however long you can stand), verbally acknowledge that you know they are upset about their failed pet psychic business and remind them that you weren’t responsible for the loss.  Tell them you’d be happy to talk about it to help them move on.

4) Don’t ask them to make important decisions right away

On that note, if your loser is in a funk, don’t ask them to make important decisions right away. In particular, don’t ask them to make decisions related to the loss.  Don’t ask them if they think they will play next season, quit their job, or move to a deserted island.  See what Tiina says are the Do’s and Don’ts of Post Season Blues. In fact share this with your loser.

5) Don’t dwell on uncontrollables, and don’t let them.

Try to avoid beating the dead Can-you-believe-that-technical-the-Observer-gave-Jimmy-Mickle horse. Unless you plan to get out there and actually fix underlying systemic problems, focus on things within your control.  Not only are those moments passed and gone, they were never in your control in the first place.

6) Don’t let them make a mountain out of a molehill.

And don’t allow them to make this part of their identity.  They aren’t losers (except for the purposes of this post). They only lost.  

7) Ask positive questions about the event

It couldn’t have been all so bad. At the risk of sounding like my mother: ask them what their favorite part of the tournament was, which game they enjoyed most, or how the after party was. Try to reinforce the good memories they have of the experience.  Don’t let their take away be only negative.

 

In the case of all losses and hangovers, time heals all headaches (or um, wounds).  Be patient. You are their support system! Losing is hard. It also happens to almost everyone before they are successful. Which brings me to my last suggestion:

 

8) Don't let failure rule you. Aspire to be like Abe, with or without the top hat.  

-TUPO Guru