If you watched the US Open ladies’ semifinals match between Kim Clijsters and Serena Williams, you’d have witnessed a stark contrast in mindsets. At some points, it was a close match. But what won in the end was emotional intelligence.
After blogging earlier about Daniel Goleman’s book, Working with Emotional Intelligence, I re-read the chapter on Self-Control and watched a replay of the match, which Serena lost due to unsportsmanlike conduct. It was “unfortunate”, as Kim put it, but she herself stayed focused and didn’t lose her cool.
According to Daniel Goleman, self-regulation is one of the personal competencies of emotional intelligence. Self-regulation is defined as ‘managing impulse as well as distressing feelings’. These form the core of five emotional competencies, one of which is self-control - ‘managing disruptive emotions and impulses effectively’.
People with this competence:
- Manage their impulsive feelings and distressing emotions well
- Stay composed, positive, and unflappable even in trying moments
- Think clearly and stay focused under pressure
Kim was amazingly calm, whether or not she won or lost a point. Serena on the other hand lost her cool, broke a racquet and confronted a linesman who had called her out on a foot-fault. This resulted in her being penalised and losing the match.
Worse, this emotional fallout occurred in a very public setting. Serena’s angry words were reported (albeit with some variations) by news media. Her aggressive stance was captured and replayed repeatedly on TV and discussed on forums and Twitter, making the incident stand out even more. Hopefully she will cool off, reflect on this and come out mentally stronger. IMHO she should apologise for her behaviour too.
Let’s see this as a good lesson given by both players on how, and how not, to react under pressure.
And before we all forget the quality of the match itself - Kim, you did play a great game.
[Update: Kim wins the US Open!]