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Not returning anger

I love the game of tennis. There have been some great players as well as personalities. I like the idea of hitting a ball with such ferocity and velocity. And, I most certainly appreciate the mix of intuition and strategy. Many years I ago I wrote about how tennis has some psychological lessons for the workplace– particularly as it pertains to angry co-workers.

In watching Naomi Osaka rally to win the US Open, I got to thinking again about tennis and life lessons. I started thinking about the phrase “return of serve”. Arguably, returning a serve is one of the most important – if not the most important- shot in tennis. It shows your power, sets a possible tone of dominance, and can be either be used defensively or put you on the offense. If one wants to play tennis well, one must return serve well. Period.

As I watched the matches this week, I thought specifically about returning serve. Or in real, day-to-day life how one returns the “serves” of others. How do you handle when other’s serve you anger or happiness? Specifically, how do you return anger? One can handle it deftly. One can return it just as ferociously? One can return it softly into a corner. Drive it elsewhere. At times, it pays off mentally to just return it in such a way to take the speed off of it. Just to mix in another metaphor. Don’t feed it.

7 replies »

  1. Omg! Tennis!
    i Played For
    Over A Decade
    Secret to Winning
    Was i Never Cared
    About Winning
    Just Fun
    To Play!
    In Fact
    Why i Almost
    Never Get Angry!
    i only Compete
    Against me
    The Whole
    Trump Other
    Way Sucks People
    Who Worry About
    Sport A Sour Frown
    Play For The Win Easy💰


  2. Well, in returning a serve you only have two options – a forehand or a backhand and if you watch your opponent’s racquet head you should be setting up for either before the ball crosses the net.

    Very rare to see a pro hit a winner off a good first serve.

    Of course some serves are so good that they are essentially unplayable- but at least you should have been moving in the right direction.

    But unforced errors returning serve could be caused by tiredness, poor condition or lacking self-belief – you may have already decided that the opponent is clearly too powerful, skilful or intimidating. In other words you didn’t really give it red hot go. To be fair, getting flogged is rather demoralising.

    I turned the tennis off in the first set when Serena was belting the fur off the ball on Azarenka’s weak second serves. Shocked to learn that Serena lost.


  3. Reflecting on the workplace return of serve, I learnt a marvellous way of taking the speed off an aggressive serve.

    I say “That’s interesting. Why would you say / ask that ?” Works best with bullies because it forces them off their game and into playing a shot that bullies are usually bad at – reflecting.

    They were counting on you not returning serve and when you did, their game is exposed and turns to custard. They never had a plan B.

    This return of serve can have long lasting effect.

    Game, set and match !


  4. Here are eight tips for de-escalating conflict:
    Don’t Avoid Conflict.
    Avoid Being Defensive.
    Avoid Over generalizations.
    Work to See Both Sides.
    Avoid Playing the Blame Game.
    Avoid the Need to Be Right.
    Don’t Attack Someone’s Character.
    Don’t Stonewall.


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