Last week, Serena Williams taught us a thing or two about winning off the court. Even though she beat her opponent in straight sets in the second round of the Australian Open, the very first question she fielded in her post-match press conference criticized her play. What happened next was a master class in how to shut down haters.
Here are three tips we can learn from the way Williams successfully handled being unfairly criticized at work:
Command the respect you deserve.
People will treat you in the way that you allow yourself to be treated. There’s nothing wrong with setting boundaries at work around what you’re willing to accept and how you would like to be spoken to.
Williams could have let the question slide. Or she could have defended herself. But instead, she called the reporter out and told him he should apologize (reinforcing another lesson: you can’t get what you don’t ask for).
Control your own narrative.
Many of us do a poor job of tooting our own horns. But the problem with not championing your own achievements—or with not having a sponsor to do so when you’re not around—is that it creates a vacuum where others can define your performance.
And in this era of “alternative facts,” it doesn’t take much for someone else’s perception to become your reality. Not only do you need to speak up when others are painting an inaccurate picture of you, but you need to set the record straight—just like Williams, who followed her request for an apology with, “It was a great performance. I played well.”
Do it with grace.
The headlines would have been much different had Serena raised her voice, whined, or complained about the unfair questioning, or thrown a temper tantrum. Just because someone has mistreated you, doesn’t give you license to behave badly as well. If you want to know how to shut down haters, it’s all in the response.
Williams never lost her poise, and she even thanked the reporter for his apology. As Michelle Obama famously said, “When they go low, we go high.” Stand strong, yes. But stay calm, cool, and collected if you want to come out on top.