Nobody likes a sore loser. Just because you lost a board game, video game, or even a game of HORSE, it doesn't mean you have to take it out on other people. Here are some tips for keeping your cool when things don't go your way.
Illustration by Tina Mailhot-Roberge
Even though you're an adult, it's natural to get caught up in the heat of competition. When that happens, even the most mature of us can slip into back into acting like child, pouting and throwing a tantrum. There's nothing wrong with wanting to win, but losses are guaranteed to come your way eventually, so keep these things in mind for the next time it happens to you.
Congratulate The Winner Right Away
Even if you're clenching your teeth when you say it, congratulating the winner is a great way to take the focus off of yourself and to look like a graceful loser right off the bat. A simple handshake or "well done" completely shifts the spotlight to them. That way, if you need to sulk, you can go do it on your own without drawing unwanted attention.
If you blame the game, your opponent or your teammates, you're guaranteed to get all of the attention in the worst way. Train yourself to make your congratulations the first thing that comes out of your mouth, even if it doesn't sound as sincere as it could at first. Practice it whenever a loss comes your way and you'll see how much easier it makes things for yourself. Who knows? Depending on the circumstances, you might even start to take pleasure in other people's victories. If you can't bring yourself to congratulate them for whatever reason (maybe you're playing an online game or something), just don't say anything.
Think About The Real World Consequences (Or Lack Thereof)
Sometimes you just need to pull your mind out of the game. When you're a competitive person, however, nothing in the world matters except the game that's happening right in front of you. You want to prove that you're the best, and that you deserve respect. This kind of thinking is hard to shake because it's ingrained in your personality, but it can really get the best of you when things go south.
To pull yourself out of that do-or-die mentality, GeekInsight at Giant Fire Breathing Robot recommends you start thinking about what winning or losing would mean outside of the game:
..after playing numerous games, and losing at least as often (or more) than I won, I realised something: A win literally means nothing. I didn't get a bigger paycheque, more respect from my friends, greater admiration from my girlfriend, or a fancy vacation prize. It was utterly inconsequential. And, perhaps more important, a loss is also meaningless. I used to see a loss as some personal defeat. As though it meant I wasn't smart or capable, but it doesn't mean that at all.
So when you sense yourself start to get too intense, stop for a moment and take a deep breath. Ask yourself what winning or losing would mean to you tomorrow, or even just a few hours from now. As Eileen Kennedy-Moore at Psychology Today explains, the key to coping with either winning or losing is understanding that both are only temporary states. Unless you're in the middle of a championship bout or something, your win or loss will probably mean very little to you in a very short amount of time. Give yourself a minute to accept things and move on.
Remove Yourself From The Situation If It's Too Much
Saying nothing is always better than saying — or doing — something you'll regret later. If your anger is raging inside, leave the table, put down your controller, stand up from your desk, or take a seat on the bench. It won't always look good to others, but it will look better than swinging your arms and screaming. In fact, as Izzy Kalman at Bullies2Buddies explains, really sore losers actually lose twice:
You lose once when you lose the game. When you get angry, you have lost a second time because then you look and feel like a loser to everyone who sees you. What's better: a single loss or a double loss? So if you lose a game, cut your losses. Don't get angry.
It can be embarrassing to throw a tantrum in front of people, especially when you cool off and have a chance to look back at it. Count to 10, take a few deep breaths, and imagine how it would look to others if you got angry before you react to your loss.
Practise Being a Graceful Winner
Being a graceful winner can help you avoid being a sore loser too. If you can avoid gloating or talking trash when you happen to be victorious, the people you play against will probably return the same respect. If you act like a jerk when you win, though, you're setting yourself up for an extra-painful loss. The next time you lose, not only do have to deal with the loss itself, but you have to deal with the sweet payback your opponent will likely want to rub in your face.
It may sound a little silly, but positive sportsmanship rubs off on people really easily. If you can set a good example by winning and losing gracefully, other people tend to take notice and do the same. You'll always run into jerks and trolls that want nothing more than to upset you (especially online), but if you can get past them, you have an opportunity show how much more fun games are when everyone keeps it together.
Remember Why You're Playing to Begin With
Remember, the whole point of playing games and sports is because you enjoy them. It's OK to be competitive, and nobody ever said you had to enjoy losing, but it's important to keep things in perspective. Winning and losing are just very small parts of the whole experience. Just because you lose doesn't mean that the whole game was bad. Think of all the good things that happened and how much you enjoyed up until that point.
What's most important is that you learn how to lose. It's the same thing as learning how to be ok with failure. Losing is an opportunity to learn, to get better, and prove to others that a loss doesn't shake you. Losing hurts because we fear that others will lose respect for us and our abilities, but if you can take your loss in stride, you'll always gain respect no matter what.