Stealing a Win from a Loss

Hillary Clinton maintained the long tradition of peaceful transition of power in Anerica with a gracious, unifying and hopeful concession speech. 

Hillary Clinton maintained the long tradition of peaceful transition of power in Anerica with a gracious, unifying and hopeful concession speech. 

A major-party presidential candidate will have to manage a high-profile loss on Tuesday. How well he or she handles their loss could  define their political personas and shape their political futures going forward. 

Nobody likes to lose, but it happens. It is measure of a person's maturity, self-confidence and savvy to recognize that a gracious concession to a loss earns the chance to win another day.

The path to success starts with a sincere, polite and gracious acknowledgment of defeat. The part of “gracious loser” people tend to remember the longest is “gracious.” The gracious admission of defeat is the cathartic first step toward a new winning venture.

Losing carries the stigma of failure. Legendary Green Bay Packers Coach Vince Lombardi famously said, “Show me a good loser, and I’ll show you a loser.” Knute Rockne was harsher and said good losers were failures. No question that a loss is not a victory, but that doesn't mean it is a failure. Some of the greatest successes in life come on the heels - and often as a result - of losing. As Carl Sandburg advised: “To be a good loser is to learn how to win.” 

The key to turning a loss into a success is learning. Introspection is instructive. What caused the loss and how could it have been avoided? What could you have done differently or better? Was this the right opportunity or should you look for another path?

Ego and pride can get in the way of introspection. It is too tempting to blame something – or someone – for a loss than it is to look deep inside yourself to seek the roots of the loss. That’s where maturity and self-confidence play a role. You can be assured that a genuine post-loss congratulations comes from someone who has their stuff together. They handle an unpleasant, spirit-crushing defeat with grace, with an eye to a future time when they can win.

A gracious congratulations doesn’t wipe out a loss, but it alters how others view the “loser.” It may be the only way to steal a win from a loss. A petulant response to a defeat is a prescription to turn a loss into a real loser.

Gary Conkling is president and co-founder of CFM Strategic Communications, and he leads the firm's PR practice, specializing in crisis communications. He is a former journalist, who later worked on Capitol Hill and represented a major Oregon company. But most importantly, he’s a die-hard Ducks fan. You can reach Gary at garyc@cfmpdx.com and you can follow him on Twitter at@GaryConkling.