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The etiquette for losing

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By Tony Samson

THOSE who enter contests are usually confident of winning, even if only by a stroke of luck. Getting ready with a victory speech (let’s take it one game at a time) may be considered bad luck. But do candidates even mull over the possibility (sometimes a big one) of losing and what to say in a concession speech?

Political contests like the recently held one make defeat a public spectacle, covered by media. And, anyway there are always more losers than winners. So, what is the right etiquette for losing?

A gracious concession speech, best made in front of supporters, is proper. It should contain the following: gracious thanks to the believers for the sacrifices made (including being with the defeated candidate on this occasion, rather than switching to the victor on the other side — that will come a day later), a remembrance of the public service already rendered, an expression of appreciation for the opportunity to offer one’s talent to the people (who unceremoniously rejected it) and the occasion to have met so many people from all walks of life and understood their needs.

A concession speech must be brief, no more than three minutes. People are rushing out to go elsewhere.

Meeting the media with humility and humor is admirable. If asked how losing feels at this time, it is good to paraphrase Adlai Stevenson, the epitome of the gracious loser (because he lost more than once) — Too pained to laugh, and too old to cry.




A public congratulation to the winner (He won’t have time to chat to a loser, anyway) and an offer, no matter how insincere, to help without asking for any concession or position in return is seen as a class act — I will be here to serve the people as a private citizen.

So seldom is such etiquette for losing followed.

More often, the loser is embittered at the process that put him in the dark side of the room away from the lights of the television cameras in another part of the building — with the winner. He will hint that he will find another way of getting the prize denied him — this is a fight for principles. He will sulk and avoid any function where he is likely to bump into imagined tormentors.

A protest march, a prayer rally, or nowadays just as effective as a platform for whining, filing a case or an invitation for a congressional investigation, or a combination of these are means to give vent to the frustrations of the loser.

We see the bad-loser behavior too often to even be surprised by it. Still, the media fascination with the loser, who has fewer microphones thrust on his face, requires some grace and the attempt to revive the lost art of losing.

Chasing the prize required so much energy and monetary, as well as emotional, investment. Scruples were thrown away, stated beliefs junked as inconvenient, those formerly held in contempt sought for alliances, loyalties and friendships abandoned — all for a chance to win.

All losers share the burden of humiliation. Seldom does the loser grant or even allude to the superior ability and execution of the winner — he deserved to win.

Still, it is refreshing to note so many more concession tweets and mini-speeches in this last contest. The defeated mayor of Manila even invoked the truism of “vox populi, vox dei”, rendered in the vernacular. Will wonders never cease?

Companies losing their market dominance seldom concede with the admission of having an inferior product. They are upbeat. Competition will continue to be robust. Marketing is about choice and letting the consumer decide on the service that works for him. Can the promise of a new product or technology be far behind?

The art of losing has seldom been perfected. Why should it be? The focus of attention on the winner makes the loser a sideshow undeserving of courtesy. After all, one does not want to be good at giving concession speeches.

All the effort and practice go into trying to compete fiercely, and winning, and then preparing a nice victory speech — I reach out my hand to all those who lost in this contest. Better luck next time.

Maybe, it’s best for the loser to just leave the stage and quietly fade into the sunset…until the next contest.

 

Tony Samson is Chairman and CEO, TOUCH xda

ar.samson@yahoo.com