Be Gracious — Whether You Win or Lose

Being gracious in victory and defeat is a key to building strong relationships.  Strong relationships with the important people in your life are a key to interpersonal competence.   Tuesday evening, we all go to see an example of a highly interpersonally competent person in action. 

On Tuesday June 3, Senator Barack Obama garnered enough delegates to secure the Democratic Party nomination for President of the US.  He was incredibly gracious in his speech in Saint Paul, MN.  He went out of his way to compliment Senator Hillary Clinton, his main opponent in the primary elections.

Here is what he had to say…

“At this defining moment for our nation, we should be proud that our party put forth one of the most talented, qualified field of individuals ever to run for this office. I have not just competed with them as rivals, I have learned from them as friends, as public servants, and as patriots who love America and are willing to work tirelessly to make this country better. They are leaders of this party, and leaders that America will turn to for years to come.

“That is particularly true for the candidate who has traveled further on this journey than anyone else. Senator Hillary Clinton has made history in this campaign not just because she’s a woman who has done what no woman has done before, but because she’s a leader who inspires millions of Americans with her strength, her courage, and her commitment to the causes that brought us here tonight.

“We’ve certainly had our differences over the last sixteen months. But as someone who’s shared a stage with her many times, I can tell you that what gets Hillary Clinton up in the morning—even in the face of tough odds—is exactly what sent her and Bill Clinton to sign up for their first campaign in Texas all those years ago; what sent her to work at the Children’s Defense Fund and made her fight for health care as first lady; what led her to the United States Senate and fueled her barrier-breaking campaign for the presidency—an unyielding desire to improve the lives of ordinary Americans, no matter how difficult the fight may be. And you can rest assured that when we finally win the battle for universal health care in this country, she will be central to that victory. When we transform our energy policy and lift our children out of poverty, it will be because she worked to help make it happen. Our party and our country are better off because of her, and I am a better candidate for having had the honor to compete with Hillary Rodham Clinton.”

Cynics may say that Senator Obama needs Senator Clinton’s support if he is to win the presidency.  While they are may be correct, I think they miss the point of just how gracious he was in his speech the other night.  What do you think? 

Winners often fail to acknowledge the people with whom they have competed.  Senator Obama not only acknowledged Senator Clinton, he praised he when he said “I am a better candidate for having had the honor to compete with Hillary Rodham Clinton.”  In my opinion, those are strong words that go way beyond what needed to be said on Tuesday.  I’m interested to know what you think about this.

That’s what interpersonally competent people do, and what you need to do, if you want to become interpersonally competent.  Go beyond what is necessary to build and maintain strong relationships with the important people in your lives.  Be gracious when you win your point and when you lose it.

The common sense point here is simple and was illustrated perfectly on Tuesday evening in Saint Paul.  Interpersonally competent people build strong relationships with the important people in their lives.  They are gracious – in victory and defeat.  They know that it’s important to reach out to others with whom they have had their differences.

This post is part of my continuing series on interpersonal competence.  As always, I welcome your thoughts and comments. Thanks for reading.  If you like what you’ve read here, you go to to purchase a copy of “Straight Talk for Success,” the book on which this blog is built. Log on to my website for more common sense and to subscribe to my weekly newsletter “Common Sense.” 


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  1. How true! I relate to Nadal’s speech in the French open yesterday night – “Today it was tough for Roger, I had to show respect. I have a good relationship with him.”
    Guess, we need to learn to fight on principles rather than on personal front. I am learning that and thank you for bringing it to notice.

  2. Joseph:
    Thank you for your comment.
    I am a tennis fan, but did not get a chance to see the match yesterday. I saw that Nadal won quite handlily. I will have to look for his comments.
    And yes, personalizing an issue is never the best way to resolve conflict.
    Have a great week.

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