10 Traits of Great Competitors

Posted by Todd Smith

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Competition is all around us. It arises whenever two or more parties strive for a goal that cannot be shared. We experience it in our personal and professional lives. It’s part of the fabric of our society.

How we compete is a reflection of our character and influences the way others perceive us in other areas of our lives.

Today’s lesson introduces ten traits of great competitors. Applicable in any competitive situation, adopting these traits will help you become a more respected rival.

Before you review the traits below, think of the last competition you were involved in. Maybe it was a heated game of family Monopoly, a high-stakes sales competition, or an intense tennis match. Whatever the circumstance, reflect on your behavior as you read through this list. What areas are most important to you? In which areas do you need to improve?

Ten Competitive Traits to Master

1. Congratulate your opponents when they win or experience success. This is the first rule of good sportsmanship and is equally applicable in the workplace.  Extending congratulations demonstrates that you are not a poor sport and lets others know that you are not harboring ill feelings that will linger after the competition has ended.

2. Be a gracious winner. Never rub a loss in your opponent’s face. No one cares to be around people who gloat over their wins.

3. Celebrate respectfully. It’s normal to feel good after a win of any kind and to want to celebrate, but be conscious of those around you who may not share in your jubilation. Excessive celebration will be a turnoff to most people.

4. Maintain a sense of decorum. Always be mindful not to say derogatory things about your competitor, their team, or their candidate. Remember (unless you are a prizefighter) when you speak poorly of your competitors it damages your credibility and reputation in the process.

5. Keep a consistent attitude whether you win or lose. Michael Jordan, one of the best basketball players of all time, was also one of the most respected competitors for the way he handled himself both on the court and off the court. Virtually all of the teams and players he competed against over the course of his basketball career speak equally about his gifted abilities and his humble demeanor.

6. Use restraint. Take care not to be overly competitive in individual or group activities. If you’re on a team, play your part or your position; don’t try to cover for anyone else. If it’s an individual contest, do your best, but also use your opponent’s level of ability as a guide for how intense your participation should be.

7. Keep a lid on your frustration. If you must rely on others to win a competition and find yourself frustrated, try not to let it show. This only discourages your teammates and makes you appear self-righteous. Instead be the voice of encouragement.

8. Play fair. You lose all credibility as a worthy competitor when you cheat. Even worse, you will lose people’s respect.

9. Give the advantage to your opponent. When a play or other measure of performance is questionable, give your opponent the benefit of the doubt.  Rarely will this cost you the competition, and it will always reflect well on your character.  After all, how do you feel about people who give you the benefit of doubt?

10. Avoid complaining.  No matter how you disguise it, when you complain about any aspect of a competition, it is perceived as whining, and nobody enjoys being around a whiner.

If you are as much a competitor as I am, some of these points will require self-control and some serious self-talk.  I must admit that most of these lessons I learned the hard way.

The next time you find yourself in the middle of a competition, remember it’s how you compete that will leave a lasting impression, not whether you win or lose.

Great competitors earn respect, both in the way they compete and in how they handle themselves after their victories and defeats.

Which of the above traits do you think most people struggle with? What are the things others do that bother you?  Please post your thoughts in the comment section below this post.

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About the Author:

Todd Smith is a successful entrepreneur of 34 years and founder of Little Things Matter. To receive Todd’s lessons, subscribe here. All Todd’s lessons are also available on iTunes as downloadable podcasts.


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