The Etiquette of Defeat

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The etiquette of defeat is one so vital but also one that pains to learn. It’s what you can describe as a true test of character because most times, it’s easier to be the sore loser than to be anything else. Every contest must come away with a winner and a loser. Yet, you find that in preparing for those final moments, no one is prepared to be the loser.

If the 2020 election is anything to go by, we saw it all clearly when a defeated United States President, Donald Trump tweeted the words, “I concede nothing”

History shows us that Donald Trump won’t be the first sore loser to cry foul.

For example, upon losing the election in 1800, John Adams responded with, “You have put me out!”

How bad is losing

You’ve been there a few times, so how bad was it? We have all been familiar with that bitter disappointment, the regret of ever starting in the first place, and the battle between being the gracious loser or a sore one. No matter how small the contest, losing is almost inevitably part of life.

However, in some situations, you can’t just get up, dust yourself, cry foul/be gracious, and move on easily. Nope.

When you are a political candidate, the aftermath of losing hits differently. Most defeated politicians lose their relevance in most things politics. Some struggle with finding employment, reconnecting their free time with their spouse, and the lack of acknowledgment from their former political party. Depression hits quickly and some skip out of town to escape it all.

Still, it remains possible to lose graciously and go on to win at many more things in life.

The right way to do it

What is that etiquette of defeat? Regardless of if a contest was covered by the media or not, history has shown us that you can walk away, an unscathed and respected loser/reimagined ‘winner’.

First, a gracious concession speech must be prepared and delivered before supporters. The speech needs to be short – as no one cares anymore – contain appreciation to supporters and everyone involved, and extend your willingness to serve in your best capacity.

Of course, there will be interviews and questions from the media and parties concerned. It’s better to do as other gracious losers have before you – use humor and remain humble.

Some examples of losing with calm and poise include that of Shakespeare’s Cleopatra. In her fatal defeat and face of death, she said, “Give me my robe. Put on my crown. I have immortal longings in me”

Following her defeat in the race for the White House in 2016, Hillary Clinton said in her concession speech, “This loss hurts. But please, never stop believing, that fighting for what’s right is worth it.” And she added, “Finally, I am so grateful for our country and for all it has given to me. I count my blessings every single day that I am an American. And I still believe as deeply as I ever have that if we stand together and work together with respect for our differences, strength in our convictions, and love for this nation, our best days are still ahead of us.”


NEW YORK, NY – NOVEMBER 09: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, accompanied by her husband former President Bill Clinton, concedes the presidential election at the New Yorker Hotel on November 9, 2016, in New York City. Republican candidate Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election in the early hours of the morning in a widely unforeseen upset. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Undeniably true, whichever candidate got your vote.

Let’s not forget the inspiration examples like John Quincy Adams can bring. After losing the presidential election, John Quincy Adams ran for Congress, won, and held a seat for 20 years.

No one should perfect the art of losing or the etiquette of defeat, but going out graciously is far nobler.

Read more from I On The Scene: HERE.

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