EQ: The Serena saga

The whole world is talking about Serena Williams at the U.S. Open. And Chair umpire Carlos Ramos. The rage continues from all sides.

How you look at this high-profile and explosive incident is a matter of perspective. What actually happened might be a matter of emotional intelligence, or EQ.

Let’s talk Williams first. Then Ramos. Then 20-year-old Naomi Osaka.

We know Serena freaked out and, while it’s no excuse, she had a helluva lot at stake—including making history for women’s sport by beating Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles.

Had Serena been able to inject a mega dose of EQ into her body during the altercation, however, she may well have won the match by not being docked a game for verbal abuse, receiving a point penalty for smashing her racquet and being hit with a code violation for coaching.

Now look at Ramos. As Sally Jenkins, a columnist with The Washington Post reported, champions get heated—it’s their nature to burn. ‘All good umpires in every sport understand that the heart of their job is to help temper the moment, to turn the dial down, not up, and to be quiet stewards of the event rather than to let their own temper play a role in determining the outcome,’ writes Jenkins.

Even though the International Tennis Federation has defended his actions, it’s important to consider what could have happened had Ramos been able to inject a mega dose of EQ into his body during the altercation. It might have avoided turning what began as a relatively minor infraction into what Jenkins says is ‘… one of the nastiest and most emotional controversies in the history of tennis, all because he couldn’t take a woman speaking to him …’

Now look at Osaka. She was standing right by Williams and Ramos when the altercation began but then graciously walked away to stand at a distance until the match renewed, no doubt drawing on her EQ to keep calm in one of the biggest games of her life.

After it was all over, it was podium time. As a true pro, Williams drew on her EQ and inner strength quickly at the end of the match, to demand that the crowd stop booing, put her arm around Osaka to comfort her, and tell those on the podium it wasn’t the time for her to answer questions about the court drama but rather time to focus on Osaka’s amazing first U.S. Open win and Japan’s first U.S. Open win for any athlete, male or female.

As The Washington Post reported, ‘… we will never know whether young Osaka really won the 2018 U.S. Open or had it handed to her by a man who was going to make Serena Williams feel his power.’

The issue for us all, whether at home, in sport, at work or as leaders, is to understand EQ and its power. We can take time to do so and use it to live better lives and be better people. Or we can ignore it and let our emotions play havoc with who we are and where we get in life.

Dr. Kim Vella is running an EQ Skills for Leaders course, enabling new and aspiring leaders to reach great heights. This two-day course, to be held 26 and 27 February, will build your understanding of EQ and sharpen your skills around self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills. Book today and enjoy an early bird special.


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